by Julie Carpenter
The Writer’s Hotel, a conference I’ve been to several times, is still accepting submissions for 2019. I highly recommend this experience for writers, both those who have no prior published works, and those trying to reach the next level. There’s a lot to love from the detailed pre-conference readings that allow you to go into your workshop with confidence to the solidarity of the reading nights. My own personal experience was transformative.
image: Scott Branks del Llano reads at the KGB
This may seem counterintuitive, because I love to write, but it scares me too. I wrote secret little stories for years and never did anything with them because they were like illegitimate children, born in love, but with such an uncertain reception in the world that I was afraid to bring them into the light. A few good writer friends, like Jeff Weddle and Susan Harris Dorsey, helped me decide that maybe I could do it and I published a few, tentatively.
And then, in a fit of unlikely bravery, I applied to The Writer’s Hotel. I submitted Father Dingle, Some Mice, and the Portal to Hell and when it was accepted, I sent in my entire manuscript with some trepidation. I had no idea what to expect. Would my intentions come through? Would my writing be enhanced or would I feel that I needed to start over?
When I received my edits, detailed and thorough, I knew that I had made the right choice. The edits didn’t change the stories, they helped them become more as I imagined them to be in the first place. The workshops were the same. I’d heard other writing conferences described as brutal, but the comments from other writers were helpful and on point, and while I didn’t and couldn’t address all of the comments in my edits, just having fresh, skilled eyes on the writing helped immensely.
One of the activities I did not pay attention to until after I’d signed up was the reading. All of the writers were assigned a reading time and venue where we were going to read a selection of our work in front of an audience. My first thought was just to figure out how to get through it without passing out or falling off stage, but this too transformed me. Writing out loud brings a sense of reality to your words. As I practiced, the piece I brought became stronger, leaner, more concise. And the actual reading was…fun!
Beyond getting through a couple of my biggest writing fears, and coming out feeling more skilled and confident, the conference offers a couple other huge advantages.
One is the day that writers meet agents. Most of the time, at least a few agents ask to see a portion of your work. While this is important, I found that the main reward of this activity was how it demystified the publishing industry. Talking to an agent for a few minutes can clarify where your idea stands in the publishing world and offer some good ideas for how to pitch your work as time goes on. As my friend and fellow TWH writer, Diane Oatley, said“Pitching to agents brings the publishing world into your world; regardless of whether or not one succeeds in selling one’s ideas, the act of meeting and talking with industry professionals helped me to clarify my sense of what and why I was writing, and where and how it might have a niche in the world, primarily because I had to explain this to strangers who are also passionate about books and writing.”
Probably the best part of the conference was feeling like part of a group of writers, making life-long friends you can count on to read for you, to support you and sometimes just to be part of your life. A fellow attendee of mine expressed the following “The TWH conference experience exceeded all my expectations, so much so that I have attended the conference twice and on both occasions went away feeling like I had found and nurtured nothing less than a writing family: a solid group of inspired and inspiring professionals, mentors and colleagues alike, who were as generous with their creative spirits as they were with their knowledge.”
So that’s why I’m taking a minute to pitch the Writer’s Hotel to you. The deadline is coming up! Time to submit to a life-changing week in Manhattan.
Julie Carpenter is the creator of the Sacred Chickens website. She is dedicated to telling stories and making sure that indie writers and publishers have a way to be heard. She uses narrative, her own and others’, to help interpret the world. She has a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Memphis, with an emphasis in Composition Theory. She wants to bend reality one story at a time. Julie’s work has appeared in Fiction on the Web and will be included The New Guard. She is currently working on a novel.