Today and tomorrow I will attend the Fourth Annual American Christian Writers Conference in Memphis, TN. Although I will be a GF (General Flunkie) at this year’s conference, I’ll still get to be in a creative environment and am betting I’ll be chomping at the bits to get to my keyboard. So, it seemed like the perfect time to reflect on Conferences, Conventions and workshops.
One of the things I’ve had to learn to do is tell the difference in Conferences, Conventions and Workshops. In the comic industry, just about everything professionals attend is called a “convention,” or “con” for short. For instance, the Mid-South Con is a comic/science fiction gathering in Memphis. Generally, it’s a place where fans and readers can go to meet their favorite authors and artists, have their books signed by them, chat with them, and sit in on panel discussions with them. Game designers and publishers are also often found at “cons.” Mid-South Con even has a Writer’s Conference scheduled to take place at the same time. That part of the Mid-South Con will be devoted to workshops with writers and such, although that’s a bit of a rarity in science-fiction and comic conventions. Not a rarity at these kinds of shows is usually a pretty large “dealer’s room” where fans can buy up all sorts of collectible goodies.
A Writer’s Conference is only slightly different. Generally they are geared specifically to writers, or more specifically, to wannabe writers. The guest list at a conference usually includes well known authors, editors and agents. Wannabe writers then vie for their attention to show them they’re the next greatest thing since white bread. Often, it’s the one place where writers can actually meet editors and agents face to face…that is, if they’re not hiding out. Writer conferences usually have a wide variety of sessions intended to help the fledgling writers improve their craft. They often cover such basic things as plot and character, and they also get into more developed ideas such as police procedural in fiction. I sat in on one of the latter ones which was led/taught by a policeman who also happened to be a writer. And no, I’ve never seen a session on comic storytelling or scripting. And yes, I’ve offered to lead them here and there. Most of the responses have been the organizers don’t see a “need” for that kind of session. They may be right…but I’d still like to lead one.
Workshops are geared to the very specific development of writers. Essentially, “workshops” is the writing industry’s way of saying “class,” because that’s essentially what the sessions are. And they run the gamut, too, from very short 50 minute sessions to all day sessions, to those that take place over longer periods.
A writers retreat is also a slightly different beast. These are intended to get the writer away from all the disturbances of the regular work environment and isolate them in such a way that their main focus is simply…to write! After all, that’s what writers should be doing…writing!