New writer? No money? How you can get something out of writers conferences without attending.

Since making a commitment to writing last fall, I have been longing to attend a writers conference or take classes but as this is a tight year financially for my husband and me, our budget will not allow it. Even so, I’ve been searching for local conferences in Southern California so I can plan to attend in the future.

Weeks ago I discovered the OC Christian Writers Conference in Irvine, California, going on this weekend. I’m feeling bummed I can’t be there. But this week I’ve had an epiphany. I can get something out of conferences even if I cannot attend.  I can:

Get acquainted with who’s who in Christian publishing

The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton WrightThis is my favorite discovery. The fiction workshop leader and one of the keynote speakers is Vinita Hampton Wright. This week I purchased the recommended reading for the workshop: The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life by – you guessed it –Vinita Hampton Wright. The author of three novels, she is a senior editor at Loyola Press and has been editing books for nineteen years.

So if I cannot attend her workshop, at least I can read her book. I’m halfway through it and it is like balsam to the soul. I’ve read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, but it is refreshing to read a Christian author who, while she is not limiting her audience to Christians, speaks unapologetically from the belief system I share: faith in Jesus Christ – but without the over-the-top Christianese clichés and cultural references.

Thin Places: The Lost Chapter by Mary DemuthThe memoir workshop will be lead by a guest blogger I’ve seen on literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog: Mary Demuth.  I will definitely be checking out her memoir Thin Places: The Lost Chapter.

It’s a small world, and I’m loving the synchronicity of it all. Each discovery is cumulative, and none of it is wasted. I love this writing stuff. : )

Even though I couldn’t attend the conference, I can learn some logistical details so I can plan for next year:

Plan for dates

This year: April 28-29, 2011
Next year:  May 18-19, 2012

Plan for the location

As this conference is in Orange County, I won’t need to stay in a hotel as I live about forty miles from the venue. Since it’s called the OC Christian Writers Conference, I can be fairly certain the location will remain pretty much the same. : )

Plan for costs

  • The Friday night / all day Saturday conference costs $190 until several days prior; $225 at the door. Scholarships are available.
  • On Friday, two intensive daylong workshops were offered in memoir writing and fiction writing for $295 each.  Scholarships are not available.

Plan to have your writing ready for review
The conference offers a first-page critique for no additional cost by literary agent, Carol Johnson, the agent who discovered author Janette Oke. Submissions have to be made four days before the conference.

As with most conferences, you can also schedule 15-minute consults with literary agents, book editors, authors and freelancers. I plan to have my fiction manuscript in hand in preparation for such a meeting. There are lots of articles to help writers prepare for these one-on-one sessions; I’ll need to read up before I attend.

Contest winners are also announced during the conference. Deadlines appear to be about a month before the conference. Categories: book proposals, devotionals, fiction, memoir and aspiring writers.

Further resources

For a complete listing of all 2011 Christian writers conferences, see Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide.