Tag Archives: Writers Conferences

The business side of the business: budgeting for in-person sales events #amwriting

Spring and summer are conference and convention seasons. Regardless of your publishing path, indie or traditional, you must budget for certain things. You can’t expect your royalties to pay for them early in your career. And just so you know, many award-winning authors must still work their day jobs to pay their bills long after becoming bestsellers.

Its a BusinessAt first, getting your books in front of readers is a challenge. The in-person sales event is one way to get eyes on your books. This could be at a venue as small as a local bookstore allowing you to set up a table on their premises.

Or it could be as large as a table at a regional conference or convention.

Signings at writers’ conferences are usually a bit pricy for the number of books you might sell, but they are great ways to network.

What are the minimum costs for working a table at a signing event?

The bare minimum expenses:

You must have a stock of books on hand. You can’t sell books that you haven’t ordered. I order well in advance, as it can take three weeks for an order to arrive via the least expensive shipping method. Paying for overnight shipping of fifteen to twenty books is well out of my price range.


Coins, Microsoft content creators

We must consider the table fee. A bookstore might not charge you anything for the table, but they may take a small cut if they run your sales through their cash registers.

However, large conferences and conventions will charge table fees ranging from $70.00 to as high as $300.00 or more. This varies with the size and type of conference, the venue where the convention is being held, and the vendors you will be competing with.

Sci-fi and Fantasy fan conventions can be quite pricy. You will be in an immense, crowded room, competing with big-name RPG game franchises and movie franchises, plus all the vendors of memorabilia and collectibles that are available in the vendors’ alley.

If you are able to get a table at a major fan convention, you must pay for transportation, food, and lodging. These costs could be gas, parking, airfare, hotel, etc., if you don’t have friends or family in that area. If you are planning to stay in a hotel, take simple foods that can be prepared without a stove. Being vegan, I tend to be an accomplished hotel-room chef, as most coffee bars don’t offer many plant-based options. While that bias is changing, I still go prepared.

Bring at least one pen for signing your books. I bring four or five because sometimes the pens don’t work as advertised.

Square Card Reader 1The final thing you will need is a way of accepting money. I have a metal cash box, but you only need something to hold cash and some bills to make change with. A way to accept credit cards, something like Square, is a good option. You will find a lot of vendors use Square, but there are other options out there.

These things are the bare minimum you will need to provide. At many shows, you’ll be given a table with skirting and a sign attached to the front with your name in block letters. You can get by with this if you’re on a tight budget. New vendors manage with this minimal setup all the time. This option lets you squeak by on little more than the cost of your books. Your setup and teardown time will be short, and you’ll have little to transport—always a positive, in my opinion.

My good friend, Lee French, is a pro when it comes to selling at conventions. She co-wrote the book, Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions with Jeffrey Cook. She tells us that to really succeed, you’ll need to invest a bit more.

It helps to have some kind of promotional handout. I find bookmarks and business cards are the most affordable option. I know a few authors who have all sorts of little buttons and promotional trinkets relating to their books made. They give them out to everyone who passes their table, buyers or not.

However, most of my friends agree that business cards and bookmarks are the best bang for the buck in promotional material. They are less expensive when purchased in bulk, so I get as many as my budget allows.

You will need a business license to sell books at most conventions. Each state in the US has different requirements for getting these, so do the research and get whatever business license your local government requires. This allows you to get a reseller’s permit, enabling you to buy copies of your own books without paying sales tax. If your state doesn’t assess sales tax, you don’t need this, but you’ll still need the business license.

If you live in a state like Washington State, be smart and set aside the money collected as sales tax. It is not yours and shouldn’t be considered part of your income.

Investing in some large promotional graphic, such as a retractable banner, is a good idea. A large banner is a great visual to put behind your chair. A second banner for the front of the table looks professional, but they do require some fiddling with pins.

Lee French suggests getting a custom-printed tablecloth that drops over the front of the table, acting as a banner. It looks more professional, and the books will hold it down, so you don’t have to mess with pins. You can find a wide variety of sizes and shapes of banners and graphic promotional props on the internet.

I have an inexpensive black tablecloth for under my books, but you can get one in the color of your choice. Venues will often provide a white tablecloth, so buying one isn’t necessary, but it makes your display look more professional. Most shows offer a 6×3 table.

steampunk had holding pen smallI suggest buying book stands of some sort. Recipe stands work, as do plate and picture stands. Whether they’re fancy or cheap, be sure you know how to use them properly so they aren’t falling over when someone bumps the table. I use folding plate stands as they store well in the rolling suitcase I use for my supplies.

This brings us to storage and shifting goods. We must move our gear between the table and our vehicle, and sometimes we’re forced to park in inconvenient places. Many people use wheeled bins or fold-up handcarts. Luggage carts are a great, lightweight option when you only have a few books. I use a large wheeled suitcase, as I travel pretty light.

I have a plastic container with a good lid for storing pens, bookmarks/cards, book stands, and other whatnot.

I suggest you keep it simple because the more you add to your display, the longer setup and teardown will take. The shows and conferences I have attended offered plenty of time for this, but I’ve heard that some require you to be in or out in two hours or less.

Aside from the table fee and transportation, Lee French says it will cost about $400 for your stock of books, banners, bookmarks, and odds & ends. The way inflation is going, it may take more than that.

Shop the internet for sales on banners and similar items. You will need to replace bookmarks, business cards, and book stock, but most larger promotional items won’t need to be repurchased for a year or two.

working the tableIf you plan to get a table at a large conference this year, I highly recommend Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions by YA authors Lee French and Jeffrey Cook. This book has all the tips and tricks you will need to successfully navigate the wild seas of selling your books at conventions.

And if you choose to embark on the in-person event circuit, I wish you good luck and many happy sales.


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The Vegan on the Road – Conferences #amwriting

The month of October is upon us, and I am prepping for November’s writing rumble, NaNoWriMo. This month, my column will be devoted to NaNo Prep. I’ll be sharing my tricks for creating the characters I hope to write, building their world, and creating the structure of the plot that complicates their lives.

the vegan on the road - LIRF10022022As we progress into November, we will make that prep work into a coherent book.

For me, September is conference month. This year, my two regular conferences were in-person rather than virtual. I confess to feeling wary about large public gatherings and the possibility of catching a virus. In years prior to the pandemic, I regularly spent much of October and November suffering from severe respiratory illnesses. But I went, masked, and keeping my distance.

So far, I haven’t come down with anything other than my usual autumn allergies. While most attendees went unmasked, I wasn’t the only masked bandit at the ball.

The first conference of the month was the Southwest Washington Writers’ Conference, which I blogged on several weeks ago. I was on a panel there, and also had the chance to sit in on several fantastic seminars on creativity offered by sci-fi/fantasy author Jeff Wheeler.

Last week I attended the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association’s annual conference. That was an intensive three-day dive into the craft of writing. I focused my limited attention span on two brilliant multi-part seminars, offered by two vastly different presenters.

better you go homeThree-Part Point of View Seminar was offered by Scott Driscoll, author of Better You Go Home. Scott took a deep dive into the various aspects of narrative point of view (as opposed to character POV.). First, he asked us to consider “to whom do the words belong?” And second, he asked, “From what distance are they speaking?”

Besides writing gripping fiction, Scott teaches the craft of writing fiction at the University of Washington. He showed that even within a piece appearing to have a specific narrative voice (such as close third-person or omniscient), there will be viewpoint texture—it will be subtle, but it will be there. Within one paragraph, the immediate point of view can briefly draw us out or move us in closer, yet still remain consistent overall.

In parts two and three he looked at psychic distance, and then at narrative distance. He offered examples of each to illustrate how they operate independently of each other. I liked that he offered good examples demonstrating how the point-of view choices we make (even the tiny phrasing choices within a paragraph) determine the angle from which the reader views the story.

One book Scott offers examples from is Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I mention this book because it’s relevant to future articles I’ve planned which detail several ways to structure a collection of short stories.

The information I am slowly absorbing from Scott Driscoll’s seminars and handouts will be an area of focus for me when I get to the revision stage, most likely in December or January. And lucky for us, he has kindly agreed to clarify questions I will surely have, ensuring the information I offer here will be correct.

The other multi-part seminar I attended was offered by none other than Damon Suede, romance author and also the author of Verbalize and Activate, two of my most well-used reference books. Damon’s Two-Part Trope Seminar was hilarious and educational, firing me with insights into the difference between tropes and cliches.

We will be talking about this distinction off and on over the next month as we begin laying the groundwork for a new novel (or short story).

Scott Driscoll and Damon Suede both offered an incredible amount of information in the brief time they had. Their styles of delivery are radically different.

Scott is the quintessential Northwesterner, with a relaxed style of teaching. He is entertaining and delivers a lot of information in a thought-provoking way. I have learned much of what I know about literary structure from Scott.

Now I’m working on finetuning voice in one of my nearly finished projects. Fortunately, Scott makes handouts available to his students, so that is really good for the way I learn.

activateDamon Suede, on the other hand, is fireworks. If you aren’t prepared for it, the amount of information he delivers can be overwhelming. His handouts are thorough and closely follow the content of his classes, which is essential for me as I have trouble learning without visual aids.

I enjoy both virtual and in-person conferences because I learn something new about my own writing with every seminar I attend. I can’t stress this enough—don’t ignore the importance of continuing to self-educate if you are committed to writing.

Read in multiple genres and dissect those books. What did you love? What did you hate? Was there a section where the prose stirred the secret poet in you?

What emotions did you experience along with the characters? Conversely, why did it leave you flat?

When you want to go deeper into the craft of writing, a good writer’s conference can inspire you to look at your own work with a slightly different eye. The speakers and authors giving seminars will make or break a conference. One positive you will always take away is this: you will gain strength and meet other writers in your area. Those connections are gold.

One last point about attending conferences—at large Regional conferences like PNWA you can get appointments to pitch your work to agents. Pitching is a good learning experience even if you intend to go indie. It never hurts to know the market you are writing for and pitching to an agent is a good way to find out what the big publishers are looking for.

So how do conferences work if you are vegan or have dietary allergies? It all depends on who is catering the event.

The Southwest Washington Writers’ Conference in Centralia offered a wonderful vegan/gluten free meal, for both days of the event. Not only that, but I was also able to commute and sleep at home which is always a bonus.

For me, conferences where I must stay in a hotel do have one downside—the food.

Hotel banquet catering rarely offers a nice vegan option. Usually they lump gluten-free and vegan into one unpalatable punishment meal, and the banquet at this year’s PNWA conference was no exception.

I wasn’t surprised by that, despite discovering that the restaurant at the Hyatt Regency in Renton offered a beautifully prepared grilled cauliflower meal. In my heart, I feared the banquet would be awful for any vegan or gluten-free people.

It was.

A pile of pasty lumps of something claiming to be gnocchi with a spicy-but-otherwise-tasteless tomato sauce had been hastily plopped into the center of a plate. Adding insult to the injury (love that cliché) they scattered a few stems of woody chickweed over it for decoration.

The day after I arrived home, the hotel made the mistake of emailing a survey, asking me how I felt about my overall experience there.

Aside from the banquet and the dessert night, it was great.

food and drinkUnfortunately (for them) on that survey, there was a box where we could write detailed opinions about the catering. I’m a writer, so I took advantage of that opportunity.

Will my treatise help the next poor starving vegan/gluten-free person who is subjected to that kind of biased and indifferent treatment?

I don’t know, but I enjoyed writing it as much as I enjoyed the conference overall.

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The Business Side of the Business: conferences and conventions #amwriting

If you are a regular here at Life in the Realm of Fantasy, you may have seen my two-part series on the business side of being an author. If not, and if you are interested, I will put the links to those articles at the bottom of this post.

Its a BusinessRegardless of your publishing path, you must budget for certain things. You can’t expect your royalties to pay for them early in your career – and many award-winning authors must still work at their day jobs to pay their bills.

But conferences and conventions are one way to meet agents and editors. Also, if you have a table at sci-fi and fantasy fan conventions (or whatever your genre), you will meet readers and create a fanbase for your work.

No author, indie or traditionally published, can live on their royalties at first, so attending conferences requires planning, possibly up to a year in advance. I suggest you work with your budget and set aside the money for conventions and seminars.

I do have some ways to keep your costs down.

First: Join the association offering the conference, as members get reduced conference fees and many other perks all year long. Take advantage of the early-bird discount if you can. I belong to three writers’ associations, and each one offers something I can use all year long.

Second: Does your library system offer occasional seminars by local authors? If it is a public library, these will likely be free.

Third: Use the internet – google “writers’ conferences in my area.” If you can find a local one, you can eat food that fits your dietary needs and sleep at home, which means you only pay for the conference itself.

Fourth: If you are planning to attend a large convention or conference where you will need to stay in a hotel, take simple foods that can be prepared without a stove, and which are filling. Being vegan, I tend to be an accomplished hotel-room chef, as most coffee bars don’t offer many plant-based options. While that bias is changing, I still go prepared.

road tripConferences are an extension of the self-education process. I have discovered so much about the craft of writing, the genres I write in, and the publishing industry as a whole—things I could only learn from other authors. I gained an extended professional network by joining The Pacific Northwest Writers Association in 2011 and going to their annual conferences.

This last weekend, I attended the first of three conferences I have budgeted for 2022. The Science-fiction & Fantasy Author’s Association held the 2022 Nebula Conference this last weekend. It was a virtual conference again this year, so my only cost was the conference fee itself. That cost was quite reasonable because I took advantage of both my membership discount and the early bird discount.

The Nebula Conference is normally held in Southern California, and I am not a happy flyer, so a virtual conference was optimal for me. I may not attend in person again. However, since SFWA is a global association of professional science fiction and fantasy authors, their conferences will also be available in virtual form from here on out.

The following two conferences I have scheduled will be in September and are in-person events. The first, Southwest Washington Writers Conference (SWWC), is local enough that I can commute from my home. The last one for this year is Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) in the Seattle area. It’s a 70-mile commute, so I will stay in the hotel. September is the start of virus season, so I expect many people (like me) will wear masks at both events.

Me working in a starbucks, through the fishbowl, copyright Dan Riffero 2013

Me writing in a Seattle Starbucks, taken through a fish tank. I was the big fish in that tank! Photo by Dan Riffero.

As a small fish in a very big ocean, attending these two local conferences puts me in contact with other authors and industry professionals. The attending authors are people I don’t usually come into contact with as they hail from all over Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia.

I always attend as many panels and workshops as I can fit into my schedule. I do this because the seminars offered at each of the three conferences have taught me as much about the craft as about the business of writing.

This weekend at the Nebula Conference, I attended many outstanding panel discussions by famous authors. All the authors on the panels were people who have achieved success, and they shared their insights on current trends in the publishing industry.

My favorite seminar out of all those stellar panels was the one discussing Speculative Fiction Poetry, which was held on Sunday morning. I have always written poetry and love reading it. Many spec fic poets are experimenting with sestinas, which (thanks to the pandemic) became my new favorite poetic form to write in during lockdown. Trying to adhere to a strict structural form challenges my creativity and forces me to grow in all areas of writing craft.

ICountMyself-FriendsSometimes I am invited to participate in panels or offer a workshop, and I can share my experiences with others. Either way, I learn things. In September, I will be on a panel with Lee French, Johanna Flynn, and Ellen King Rice at SWWC, talking about what we wished we had known when we first began writing professionally.

I feel honored (and a bit intimidated) to be a part of this group as they are award-winning writers. But more than that, they are women whose work I enjoy and respect. But facing your fear of public speaking is part of what growing your career entails – putting yourself out there, learning what you can, and sharing what you know.

Two previous posts on the Business side of the Business:

The Business Sequence for Writers, guest post by Ellen King Rice #writerlife | Life in the Realm of Fantasy (conniejjasperson.com)

The Business Side of the Business, part 2: Inventory #writerlife | Life in the Realm of Fantasy (conniejjasperson.com)


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Navigating the different ways in which we learn #amwriting

I went to school in a small town in Washington State and graduated in 1971. I don’t exactly know how that happened, as I was the most undereducated and socially ignorant student ever given a diploma from Tumwater High School.

While I didn’t thrive in school, I was a boomer, so I suppose they passed me along to make room for the next year’s students.

For the most part, I didn’t like school. Everything happened so fast and moved so quickly that I rarely understood what was going on, or what we were doing. I was the odd duck in the pond, never quite aware of the proper social cues, and always out of step.

Teachers regularly pointed out that I was an underachiever.

Music was my refuge, my guaranteed A. When it came to reading, English, and literature, I was ahead of the class. Because social studies/history and science were so reading-intensive, I managed to get decent grades in those classes too.

I was funneled down the college path by my parents, despite the fact I didn’t have a clue about algebra. Proficiency in advanced mathematics was a requirement for admission into any college or university.

No amount of private tutoring could do more than barely keep me from failing. Getting a “D” was the best I could do in that subject. But I did understand bookkeeping math, and because I could see why everything added up, I liked it. I was a bookkeeper for most of my working life.

In 1993, the company I worked for finally bought a computer. All the Microsoft products in those days came with a large book, but I needed to move my files from paper to Excel as quickly as possible. Out of desperation, I brought my then-fourteen-year-old son in on a Saturday, and he showed me how to transfer my handwritten spreadsheets to Excel.

Once Daniel began showing me how it worked, it was as if a supernova had gone off in my mind. All those wacky algebra equations I had never understood suddenly made sense.

In Excel, I had a visual system before me that showed me how it worked. A workbook has several spreadsheets in it, each made of rows and columns of cells. You must use the right language, such as =sum(A1+A2). But once I learned the language, the bookkeeping world was my oyster.

Best of all, if I changed the values in cells A1 and A2, the sum in A3 automatically updated.

And I could link cells between spreadsheets in the same workbook!

Hallelujah! The Income & Expense report automatically updated every time an entry was made in the check register, accounts receivable, or accounts payable.

No more poring over a 32-column spreadsheet with a yardstick and calculator for half a day only to be 3 pennies off at the end. Mistakes were easily and quickly dealt with, saving an incredible amount of time.

As an adult, I discovered that I am a visual learner. In other words, I don’t do abstract well at all. In 1997, I was diagnosed with a learning disability that no one ever thought about in my era. But it is actually pretty common: attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity (ADD).

So, I was not a lazy student, as my report cards all said. I really was working hard, trying to keep my head above water.

I was just unable to see the shore I was swimming toward.

And what does all that mean? I don’t see it as a disability, because for me, it can be worked around.

I just have a different way of learning that didn’t lend itself to the way traditional public school systems taught during the time I was growing up.

College was easier for me to navigate in some ways. As an adult, in classroom situations, I get confused easily when hearing verbal instructions.

However, college-level textbooks aren’t as ambiguous as those we had in elementary school. If I am given handouts with the high points written out in plain English, I can take the time I need to research and absorb the information.

Despite my less than happy years in public schools, I love learning. All my adult life, I have been educating myself, sometimes formally, but mostly via the internet. Being able to learn at my pace and not have to wonder what I missed is sheer heaven.

This is why writer’s conferences are good for me. Yes, most lectures are delivered verbally, but they are short, and the presenters are willing to answer questions. Also, having a laptop gives me the ability to take readable notes as the presentation goes along. And most presenters give useful handouts or direct you to books that illustrate their subject.

I did enjoy the PNWA virtual conference this last weekend and was able to sit in on many excellent seminars. Much of what I heard reinforced previous knowledge.

However, every new concept I was exposed to is still fermenting, rolling around in my mind, and will probably emerge in a blogpost. I heard several different ways of looking at one aspect of writing craft or another, but I still need to think about them.

Yes, even virtual conferences are a test of my endurance.

I still feel confused as I sit in a Zoom meeting, taking notes and trying to understand the finer distinctions between simple things that everyone else grasps right away.

But that no longer paralyzes me.

I now know how to navigate the way I learn. I go back to my notes to see what I want to investigate further. Then I go out to the internet and seek information from more than one source. By having several differently phrased explanations, something I didn’t quite understand will be made clear.

I absorb and remember information in a different way than the majority of people do, but I no longer panic over it. You may learn in yet another way.

None of us fit into that box in the center of the learning spectrum, the one labeled “normal.” The key is to relax and absorb the information in the way you feel most comfortable.

Being diagnosed with a learning disability at the age of 44 was a surprise, but it explained so much. I’d gone through life feeling like the lone puzzle piece from a jigsaw puzzle with a similar but different picture that had been put into the wrong box. And now I knew why I didn’t fit.

That diagnosis in 1997 gave me the tools I needed to educate myself. It also gave me the confidence to accept how I am different and be a little more outgoing. I still lack certain social skills, but I’m improving there too.

And one final update on the PNWA conference: my dear friend and fellow member of the Tuesday Morning Rebel Writers, Johanna Flynn won the Nancy Pearl award for her book, Hidden Pictures. This is so meaningful, beyond the cash prize, as it is an award that is voted on by librarians.

So, keep writing, and keep submitting your work. Educate yourself in the way you feel most comfortable and have faith in yourself. We never know what lies just around the corner.


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Virtual Conferences #amwriting

We are now entering the virtual convention season. PNWA (the Pacific Northwest Writers’  Association Conference) kicks off on Thursday the 24th. This will be the first year they’ve been virtual.

I will miss the people I usually see there and hope that next year we can meet in person.

However, while the in-person conference was a lot of fun, this is much gentler on the budget. I don’t have to rent a room for three nights, and I can prepare my own food as I normally do, which is not an easy thing for a vegan on the road.

I’m really looking forward to the awards night, as my good friend, author Johanna Flynn is up for the prestigious Nancy Pearl Award for her book, Hidden Pictures—and that is a big deal.

I was a reader in the short story category, and one of the stories I read is up for an award—this makes me happy. I love it when I come across a brilliant piece of writing, and some of the entries I read this year just shone.

The Nebulas were a virtual conference this last May, and I enjoyed how easy it was to navigate the whole thing. I wouldn’t have attended the Nebulas had it not been virtual, as the total cost for air-fare and rooms and dining would have been prohibitive. It was a real joy to be involved, even if only on a virtual level.

The reason I love conferences is simple. You meet people and make connections, and sometimes you forge friendships. If anything is missing from a virtual conference, it is that little touch of humanity.

However, much can be gained, even in these challenging times. This year, Brit Bennett, New York Times best-selling author of The Vanishing Half and The Mothers,  will be giving the keynote speech. I’m looking forward to an inspiring evening.

The master’s classes are included in the basic fee this year since it is a virtual conference. I’ve always enjoyed these classes when I had the extra money, but there were years when I couldn’t afford them. Many people have wanted to attend master’s classes but couldn’t find the extra money, so this year they will have that chance.

I am interested in writing craft seminars (of course). Still, I will be attending workshops on negotiating the rough waters of the business side of writing. Sunday will focus on screenwriting.

PNWA is offering both 20 minute and 1-hour seminars, which allows folks the chance to walk around and stretch their legs. I think a shorter meeting will encourage people to remain at their computers and engaged.

I hope to have a lot of new ideas for posts on craft and the business of writing in general. Some years I come home fired up about specific topics that were covered, in both craft and business. I hope to end this conference with new viewpoints on what sometimes feels like old dogmas.

I love learning. Discovering fresh ideas, seeing new ways of looking at things we take for granted—these are the reasons I attend writers’ conferences.


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#PNWA2019 Conference Ramblings #amwriting

Those of you who regularly follow my ramblings may have noticed you received a “bonus” post yesterday. I was in the process of scheduling the post for today but hit the publish button before I set the calendar.


Anyway, for those of you who are just happening by, the post is called Employing Polarity, and it deals with Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica.

Or not. What I was riffing on yesterday is the use of opposites and contrast in your narrative. Check it out if you’re in the mood for writing craft.

So why was I so punch-drunk I misposted my post? The blurry photo at the top left shows my little piece of turf, and I wish I had thought to show my neighbor’s booths. They were amazing compared to my offering.

I just spent four jam-packed days in Seattle at the PNWA Writers’ Conference. My goodness, what a fun, educational experience it was.

I also had the honor of being the moderator for award-winning narrator, Brian Callanan’s seminar, Audiobooks: A New Chapter for Writers. Wow! Did I learn some stuff about the process or what!

Cat Rambo had some excellent words on world-building, of course, in her seminar The Realistic Fantastic. That woman has a real way with words, and trust me – if you get a chance to attend one of her seminars, you are in for a treat.

An author I was unfamiliar with prior to the conference, but who is now on my “Never Miss This Show” list is Romance author Damon Suede. What he had to say about Verbs was not only extremely hilarious, it was a look at action words from an angle I hadn’t considered—that of a person who writes screenplays.

Anyone who has ever heard Chris (C.C.) Humphreys speak knows what a hilarious and informative speaker he is. I’ve never enjoyed gagging down terrible food so much in my life as I did that final buffet breakfast on Sunday morning.

And last of all, thanks to the kind intervention of Indie author Ellen King Rice, who had a spare Square device that would fit my new phone, Grandma sold a few books.

I met a lot of old friends, made a great many more new friends, and on Sunday afternoon, after four days of partying like a rock star, Grandma was too tired to be scheduling blogposts.

Live and Learn!

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The Writers’ Toolbox: Seminars, workshops, and conferences

via buzzfeed

via buzzfeed

One basic tool every author needs in his/her toolbox is the Writers’ Seminar. These are workshops offered by people who have mastered certain aspects of the craft, and are your way to gain more knowledge of the craft.

They are classes, focusing on every aspect of writing, from the story arc to character development. You can also get classes in how to court agents and editors, if the traditional route is your choice, or conversely, advice on negotiating the rough seas of indie publishing. In this craft, there is never an end to the learning process.

But what if you are housebound and can’t get to a conference? Three excellent resources for an intensive online 3 part seminar are Scott Driscoll’s courses through The Writer’s Workshop ($500.00 each, plus textbook, see the website for more information. Length- and quality-wise these classes are the equivalent of a college course–where else will you get this kind of education for the cost of an average 4 day seminar?)

What about actually finding and physically attending seminars and events? That is where you will meet authors, both famous and infamous, known and not yet known.  You will meet people in the industry who will enlighten you and also help you up the ladder to success.

I love writers’ seminars, and attend every one I can afford to get to–and cost is an issue. But there are many budget-friendly seminars out there, many offered by your local library system.

via buzzfeed

via buzzfeed

For me, it’s about being in a community of authors who are all seeking the same thing–a little more knowledge about the craft. Everyone who attends a writers’ conference, seminar or workshop is serious about the craft, and just in conversation with other attendees you can find great inspiration to help fuel your own creative muse.

How does one find these things? Google (or Bing) is your friend here:

A short list of Seminars, Workshops, and Conferences in Western Washington—check websites for the next seminars offered:

  • Hugo House ($60.00 to join-cost per event may vary)
  • PNWA Writers Conference ($65.00 to join PNWA + cost of 4-day conference–can be pricey. With early registration 2015 conference was $425.00 + the cost of room. Continental breakfasts and two dinners were included, and being vegan I brought my own food. Altogether I spent nearly $1000.00, but was able to do so in 2 chunks.)
  • Southwest Washington Writers Conference ($60.00 early registration, 1 day conference) VERY GOOD INVESTMENT!
  • Port Townsend Writers Conference (10 day conference, Tuition ranges from $150.00 for one or two classes to $900 for the full 10-days, includes room with meals==$90.00 per day–a steal!)
  • Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (costs of individual events vary, average seminar under $200.00) (Terry Persun is giving a seminar most indies could benefit from on taming the beast that is Amazon there August 22, 2015 from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm–get to it if you can!)
  • Clarion West Writers Workshop (Specializing in speculative fiction,  offering everything from seminars to a highly respected 6-week workshop for $3,800.00.  Costs vary, average one-day event $130.00)
via buzzfeed

via buzzfeed

But what if you have little or no $$ to spare for food much less a conferences? For the love of Tolstoy, check out your local library! They are an unbelievably great, free or exceedingly low-cost resource.

For example, the Tumwater, Washington branch of the Timberland Regional Library system has several upcoming seminars offered by author and writing coach Lindsay Schopfer, at no cost to the attendee– the library has hired him as a bonus for the aspiring authors among their patrons. These seminars are not fluff–Lindsay gives good, solid, technical classes for serious authors, so if you are in this area check out the schedule and try to attend.

via buzzfeed

via buzzfeed

Check out your local library, and see what is available for the starving author!

Now that you know what is available in my area, check your own area and see what you can find. You will be amazed at the wide variety of good one-day conferences, multi-day events, and continuing education courses that are available. While most have some cost attached to them, the author who is determined to improve within the craft and who has little or no money can find something that will fit his budget just by doing a little research at the local library.


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