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Writing Conferences: Benefit or Risk?

When I first realized that it was going to be next to impossible to get my books published I suddenly found it very difficult to walk through a bookstore. Even passing the book aisle in Target would send quakes of longing reverberating to my very core. How I yearned to be published, to see my novels sitting on the shelf along with all the others.

I’ve since reconciled with my grief and you’ll be happy to know that I am, once again, able to peruse the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble with no emotional trauma whatsoever.

The other day a published friend of mine suggested that I might want to attend a local writers conference so I could meet other writers, agents and editors.

Immediately I was reminded of a response to a query I received after sending my work to a literary agency in San Francisco. They gave me the standard, your work isn’t right for our agency, only somehow edged with a subtle air of smugness. On the back of the letter was a poorly photocopied flyer for the agency’s sponsored writing conference. Maybe they thought with a little instruction my writing would improve to their standards . . . although they didn’t indicate as such in the letter. In other words, my work was objectionable, but my money, perfectly acceptable.

Shyster was not the first expletive that came to mind.

Disregarding the cost, I’m just not sure that I want to spend the day with hundreds of other people just like me who are desperately yearning for the same unrealized dream. To look into their eyes and see the desperate hunger for something they have been unjustly, or justly, denied . . . over and over.

And do I really want to be reminded of how many people are out there, just like me, trying to get their writing noticed? Not to mention that the conference I would be attending is probably only one of the many. No doubt countless other conferences are being held, filled with an immeasurable number of would-be writers, all over the country.

Frankly, I’m surprised more writer suicide attempts don’t take place in direct correlation to these events.

Additionally, what good would it do to meet an agent or publisher? Do I bring a sample of my work to show them? How pathetic would that make me feel, holding out an excerpt of my manuscript like Oliver Twist asking for more porridge?

Or do these professionals simply have a sixth sense about who can write and who cannot, like possibly good authors have a certain look about them? And if so, how do I pull off that “look”? Maybe I would be expected to show them I know how to tell a good story by preparing a short vignette that may start out something like . . .

“A funny thing happened on my way to this conference . . .”

(Cliché I know but you get what I mean.)

I can’t seem to decide if the possibility of meeting someone who could further my writing career is worth the potential trauma I could suffer at being reminded of just how dismal my prospects really are. I would hate to be thrust back to days of avoiding the book aisles.