With Book Expo America and the Backspace Writers Conference both coming up in May, one thing is clear: writers conference season is upon us. Over the next few months, tens of thousands of writers will flock to hotels and conference centers all over North America to mingle with other writers, attend workshops, and—if they’re lucky—connect with the agent of their dreams.
If you’re scared off by the steep registration fees or travel expenses associated with writers conferences, you still don’t have to miss out—I have just the conference for you. It’s free, it’s online, and it features many of the same speakers and events that participants of in-person writers conferences pay big bucks to attend. With all this going for it, WriteOnCon 2011 is the one writers conference you have no excuse for missing.
WriteOnCon was founded by seven writers united by a vision of giving something back to the writing community. Last year, the free online conference attracted over 11,000 attendees from around the world. Just like a regular writers conference, WriteOn features live panel discussions and Q&A sessions with top agents and editors, pitch sessions, query and first chapter critiques, and plenty of opportunities to network with other writers.
But instead of milling around a crowded ballroom or jockeying for front-row seats at a popular event, you can attend WriteOnCon in your pajamas, from the comfort of your own home. Best of all, full transcripts of every event are available online—so no matter which live events you choose to attend, you won’t miss a single word of any of the discussions.
While the actual conference will take place from August 16th to 18th this year, there are several live events happening each month leading up to the conference. This month, don’t miss the live chat with literary agent Natalie Fischer happening on April 13th (visit the WriteOnCon website for details). She’ll be doing rapid-fire responses to query letters and answering questions from participants. This is an excellent opportunity to see what goes through an agent’s mind as she leafs through the day’s submissions. To see the transcripts of past live query events, look here and here.
Can an online writers conference be as valuable to writers as an in-person one? Mary Kole, a literary agent who participated in last year’s conference, says yes. She told Publishers Weekly: “Here I was able to pay more attention to individual attendees, which is not to say that I don’t usually do that, but this made it easier to control the situation. Authors and agents got to connect on a more personal level, which is ironic since the contact wasn’t made in person.”
Connecting online means agents and writers can focus on the writing itself—without the sweaty hands, mumbling, and general nervousness that a face-to-face pitch session can bring on. And yes, several WriteOnCon workshops last year led to requests for pages.
If you’re interested in participating in any of the live pitching or critiquing events, it’s a good idea to come prepared with a query, synopsis, and the first few chapters of your work in progress. You might also want to come up with a list of questions for the agents and editors who will be participating in the panel discussions. While it’s entirely possible to be an invisible lurker at the conference, you’ll get much more out of it if you put yourself out there. Sitting at home in your pajamas is no excuse not to network—after all, no one can see your bad hair day online.
Here are the details of the conference again:
Dates: August 16th-18th 2011; check website for lead-up events
Cost to attend: Free!
I hope to see you—er, chat you—there!