Attending a Writers’ Conference, by Thomas Clark

As writing “rooms” go, mine isn’t bad. Bookcases cordon off a corner of the basement, while cheap carpet and a small heater help make the space livable—or workable, as the case might be. The room’s focal point is a roll-top desk—a family heirloom from the moment my wife bought it for me—but my attention is most often focused on the computer that sits just a swivel to the right.

Your writing area may be different in every detail, save one: It’s lonely in there. True, we’ve each sought out our space—perhaps even fended off spouses, children and pets who covet it. But working in it is still solitary confinement.

Which is exactly what a writers’ conference is not.

When you search our conference listings on, you’ll find information on hundreds of gatherings devoted to writing and writers. At each, you’ll have the opportunity to meet successful authors, editors and agents and pick up tips that can improve the quality and saleability of your manuscripts.

Conference participants dissect the acts of putting words on paper, of selling those words, and of surviving long enough to set down more. Tips are offered, contacts made, questions asked, business cards exchanged, drinks bought, critiques given, gripes aired. For most of us, a writers’ conference may represent the most intensive period we will ever spend dealing with our craft.

A writers’ conference is no vacation—not even a working one. You may spend an hour nursing a beer in the cocktail lounge watching baseball on the tube, but if the guy on the next stool is an acquisition editor at HarperCollins, you’ll only pass a few minutes trading views on what happened to the Mets. Pretty soon you’ll be asking if he edits baseball books, and what distinguishes one proposal from another, and what the market might be for a World Series retrospective.

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