Books, Travel, Uncategorized, Writing

Three Things I Discovered at My First Writers Conference

Mount Hood
Mt. Hood is always a lovely sight (and a good distraction as I’m trying to keep from stressing over Portland, OR, traffic. :))

Not so very long ago, in the days when travelling was allowed through the gorgeous, green Pacific Northwest, I had a small adventure. I attended my very first Writers Conference.

I’d spent years listing all of the reasons I couldn’t attend one.

  • All of the interesting-sounding ones were too far away.
  • They were too much of a time commitment, most lasting an entire weekend, plus travel. Who’d watch the kids?
  • They cost too much. I have a family of five to feed.
  • Many authors said they went to conferences to meet agents and publishers. I’d decided to publish independently…so was there a point?

Then, I received an e-mail detailing an upcoming one-day winter conference hosted by Oregon Christian Writers on February 22, 2020.

One day? A Saturday at that, when my husband could be home to watch the kids. The price was doable…and the key note speaker was Sarah Sundin! I’d reviewed one of her WWII novels on this site and read several others. I admire her storytelling and the level of research she puts into her writing–if I were going to try a conference, she was a speaker I’d be willing to put the effort into going to see.

Ah…but it was down in Eugene, OR. Which would mean driving through Portland. Alone. At rush hour.

Public speaking doesn’t really bother me. Snakes, insects–not a huge deal. Driving through an unfamiliar city, on the other hand, particularly with no navigator, is enough to make me decidedly squeamish.

This is the kind of road I grew up driving. We just had to watch out for deer.

I confided to a friend that I was considering trying the conference, but probably wouldn’t. She’s always encouraged my writing (she’s one of those wonderful souls who’s willing to read early, ugly book drafts) and simply asked, “What can I do so that you can go?”

In the end, we BOTH left our husbands with the kids for the weekend, and roadtripped down to Oregon together, meeting up with another friend who’d moved south a few years ago (and also meeting up with some of the local wildlife.)

That’s how I ended up heading through the doors of my first Writers Conference, taking deep breaths and trying to look professional and not like I was considering bolting back to hang out safely with those nice wooden bears.

By the end of Saturday, I was ready to go home, but I was so glad that I’d gone. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on some really wonderful discoveries.

Wait, You’re a Writer  Too?

buisness card
A couple of writer friends recommended getting a few buisness cards to pass out if the opportunity arose. I felt goofy ordering them and goofier handing them out, but it DID make for an easy way to pass along my info.

I have online writing friends who bemoan unsupportive spouses and uninterested friends. I have not had that experience. My husband, my family, my friends–they’ve been nothing but kind, encouraging, and willing to help.

However, in writing as in any other job, you can only talk “shop” for so long with someone who isn’t in your field before you start to feel like you’re probably boring them.

Here, I walked into a crowd of well over a hundred other people who were writers. Yes, I know, I know, that’s what a Writers Conference is, but I hadn’t experienced it. The opportunity to talk with other people who shared my interests and my passion was fantastic–and they were so friendly! It was a relief to remember that we were all there to network, to meet people and to talk shop.

As a bonus, when people heard I write about the Second World War they started sharing their stories–of fathers, grandfathers, uncles. I wish I’d had time to jot them all down!

Professional Growth With Professionals

sarah sundin
Me with Sarah Sundin- me trying not to look awkward :D. (She is a FANTASTIC speaker.)

As a teacher, I’ve been to probably a dozen conferences, hundreds of meetings, taken several post-college classes–professional growth is just part of the job.

As a writer, professional growth has still been important to me, but it’s taken different forms. I don’t have a principal, Board of Ed, or state licensure to worry about. I don’t even have a publisher to push me along!

That hasn’t particularly bothered me. I’ve always been willing to push myself to grow. Still, it’s easy to get a little complacent when the only yardstick you’re using to measure your progress is…your progress.

The conference was an excellent wake-up call. Here were dozens of authors with years–in some cases, decades–more experience than I, ready and willing to share resources. The speakers were encouraging, but the sessions were galvanizing, too–I was reminded of the need to keep growing and honing my writing, and given some new tools to do so.

New Books!

mount rainier book
Maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I couldn’t resist picking up my first novel by Karen Barnett at the conference when I saw the covers inspired by vintage National Park Service posters, especially as this one was about Mt. Rainer! (The book was a fun read, too :))


Besides the joy of visiting with other authors and opportunity for professional growth, the conference offered some new resources to me as a reader, too.

While I was running on a budget and controlled myself pretty well in the “shop” area where OCW members were selling their books, I came away with ideas for some new authors  to check out.

The sessions also gave me a great list of writing craft books that I intend to check out, someday, when our library is open again…

So, If You’re Considering Going to a Writing Conference…

I’d say, go for it! Of course, there are always considerations to keep in mind–my list of barriers to attending future conferences hasn’t gone away. However, if budget and timing and babysitting align again, I’d absolutely try another one.

Maybe I’ll even see you there!

vintage typewriter samantha-gades-745336-unsplash

Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today!

What about you? Have any of you attended Writers Conferences? If so, how was your experience?

While I deliberately chose to mainly avoid the topics that are blazing across all of the headlines these days, (I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m getting enough of all of that) I WOULD like to hear how all of you are doing.

Are you all healthy? Staying sane if you’re confined to home just now?

The Clare family is well, and mostly sane. All of this “extra time” I hear people talking about hasn’t really happened for us–we’re thankful for it though, because it means that my husband is still able to do his job, and my kids are still getting school, though it’s via three different screens set up in three different rooms of our house. I’m still teaching, too, also via a screen, leaving my eyes so tired by the end of the day that I’ll admit, I’ve been having a hard time turning the computer back on, even to write! I’m hoping that we can get ourselves into some kind of routine and I can turn that around.

I’m keeping all of you in my prayers for good health and peace of mind.








10 thoughts on “Three Things I Discovered at My First Writers Conference”

  1. I’ve been… so loath to go to writer’s conferences. Part of it is the timing; they’re always on weekends, which doesn’t work for me as a pastor. (I don’t get many weekends off!) Part of it is… honestly, I’m scared I’ll find out I’m NOT a writer. I think it’s that whole impostor syndrome thing…

    I’m glad you got a lot out of it, though! It’s encouraging! Maybe I will look into it… I’ve been branching out and trying to meet other authors, so it’s a start!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are a writer, Jon, and a gifted one. So there! But I wasn’t kidding about the nerves- it was a little scary. And one day is a good place to start. By the end, I was ready to be done “peopling.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Huzzah to you! And how cool you got to transform this conference into an adventure with friends, too. Absolutely wonderful! Madison hosted a writer’s conference at UW earlier this year, but UFFDAH the cost. 😦 You’ve reminded me I need to scope out other regional writer groups to see when they meet. I bet it’d be a lot less stuffy–or costly! 🙂 Stay healthy, stay safe! xxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have not been to a writer’s conference as yet (actually for a lot of the same reasons you mentioned. Also driving through big cities is a nightmare). But I do hope to go to one someday! Mingling with other writers and being able to “talk shop” would be such a fun and inspiring thing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. City driving is the worst! Mercifully, we only took one wrong exit in Portland 😂.

      The conference really was fun- I think the one day format was a good way to start (for me at least.)
      I hope that you get a chance to check one out, and that it is a good experience!

      Liked by 1 person

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