By Julie Wright
Cons are writer's conferences or conventions. They usually cost money. Some cost a lot of money. Many a leery writer looks at these conferences askance as though they don't need it.
Au Contraire my scribbling friend. We all need writer's conferences. It is a time to recharge creative batteries, a time to learn the craft, and a time to network. It's mostly a time to network. I wouldn't be anywhere in my career without my fellow writers.
By making the friendships I have at writer's conferences throughout the state (and several, I've traveled the country to attend), I have learned what an ellipses is and how to use it accurately. I've been introduced to agents and publishers; I've learned about the pitfalls of crummy contracts, and I've learned that James Dashner has terrible riddle making skills. All of the above are vastly important (well, James' lack of skills aren't important, but you get what I mean.)
I know we all imagine writers to be solitary folks who labor in sweat intensive creativity while holed up in some room that has a window overlooking a mountain, or an ocean, or some other large imposing bit of nature. But the truth remains that you need other writers if you're going to be a writer.
I remember once when a friend pointed out to me how odd and coincidental she thought it was for CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein, and Charles Williams to be friends. Then she said that now that she was a writer and traveling in circles of other writers, she understood how easily it would be for them to be such good friends. They were in a writer's group called Inklings (which is a cute as heck name). They networked and changed the face of literature by helping eachother edit manuscripts like the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.
The people I have helping me edit my manuscripts are people I've met from attending writer's workshops and those pesky sometimes inconvenient, sometimes expensive Cons. Even the one conference that was a total absurdity because the presenters knew less than I did was worth going to if only to prove to me I was more competent than I'd ever imagined. If those clowns could be successful, I was going to rock the literary foundations of the world.
It's a great place to meet agents and editors and to hear first hand what they have to say.
What I'm saying here is that you should make a goal to attend a writer's conference at least twice a year. I go to about six a year. I don't really go to hone the craft anymore. Oh sure . . . I'll take in the occasional class and workshop. But mostly, I go to network--to shake hands, exchange cards, and make friends.
And when people call it coincidence that some of my best friends are some of the greatest literary minds of our day, I smile and know that it was no coincidence at all. I just knew that the pros were found at cons and I went where they were.