When to Bring Your Work to a Writing Conference

Two weeks ago several of the WIFYR staff ran a booth at the Life the Universe and Everything Conference in Provo, Utah. It was great to see so many faces, both new and familiar, as well as several people in costume (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a denim kilt before!)

While I was at the booth, two students stopped by. I told them about our morning workshops (the week-long critique group led by a published author). Hearing about it, one student said to the other, “it sounds fun, but there is NO WAY I’m showing my work to a published author!”

Do you ever feel that way? That showing your work to a published author—or even to other writers—is too intimidating?

I’ve felt that way plenty of times—maybe even all the time. It’s kind of like giving someone a love potion, only you don’t know if the potion will work. You dump all the ingredients into your pot—eye of newt, tail of coat, a piece of honeycomb harvested from a lone tree atop a craggy peak on a full moon in June (do not skip this part). You let it simmer for days, weeks, maybe even months. When it’s finally finished you add it to a glass of juice and hope he (or she) doesn’t notice that there’s a slight eye-of-newt aftertaste. Your paramour-to-be takes a giant swig… you wait… and watch…

“What?” he says.

“Do you feel… different?”

“Different?” he says. “Like how?”

Then he looks at the inside of his cup, and looks at you. You wonder if it worked. Even a little bit. Then your eyes meet… and then…

Well, the anticipation is enough to kill you (if harvesting that honeycomb atop a craggy peak didn’t already). You might wonder it’s even worth the trouble.

That’s how I feel when I share my writing. I want so much for my readers to love every word I put on the page, though I know it still tastes a bit eye-of-newty. There are things that could be better, but I’m so close to the words I can’t see what to change. Sometimes I’m so close to the words that it hurts to change them at all.

That’s where WIFYR can help. Our morning workshops give you the chance to have your writing read by writers who know how you feel, writers who want you to succeed. Each workshop is led by a published author, and these authors were chosen not just for their good credentials (they do have those), but also because they’re kind, dedicated mentors who want to help new writers, just as someone once helped them.

This year I’ll be assisting J Scott Savage in his middle grade workshop (he’s the author of the Farworld series and several others, including the first book in a new series: Case File 13: Zombie Kid).  He once gave this advice to already-published authors: “Be encouraging to [aspiring writers]. The last thing they want to hear is how hard it was for you and how little chance they have of ever succeeding. They want to hear how you overcame rejection and how they can do it too.”

Like J Scott Savage, all the writers and illustrators at WIFYR are invested in giving back to the community that gave them their success. And if you ever get intimidated, just remember: they were once just like you. So don’t be nervous—get your writing out there!

And in case you need a little more encouragement, here’s some feedback from our 2012 conference:

“It was a great environment to be in, especially since this was my first time at a workshop.”
“Having experienced authors makes a big difference. The manuscripts were well-written and the critiques were insightful.”
“My work was given personal attention, we had lots of fun, and I learned so much.”
“[The writing exercises] really inspired me, and the other students were the most talented writers I’ve ever worked with.”
“My teacher not only gave me the tools to revise my work, but also the confidence to see that I don’t need to be afraid of the blank page.”

Do you ever feel nervous sharing your writing? When were you the most nervous about someone’s feedback?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. beccabirkin

    It can feel scary to have your work critiqued. But people who are experienced at critiquing are generally very kind about it. We’ve all done it, all had that eye-of-newt aftertaste, and want to encourage rather than discourage. At least that’s a goal to strive for, right?

  2. Alison

    After reading this post, I’m pretty sure I’d like anything you wrote, eye-of-newty or not. And yes, I do still get nervous having people read what I’ve written.

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