Writing Events: Know What You’re Signing Up For

Attending a writing event is a great way for writers to learn, network, and make some friends. And with so many options offered, it’s easy to find something that suits your needs or wants. But before registering for a writing event – which may or may not involve a fee – I have one recommendation: know what you’re signing up for.

I learned this recently, when I attended a writer’s workshop that was led by a local author. While I was expecting a lengthy presentation on the topic, followed by some writing and discussion, I got a brief presentation, a bit of discussion, but mostly writers doing exercises, reading from their manuscripts, and critiquing each other’s work. Yes, workshop implies work – and in this case, lots of it.

No one can predict exactly what will go on during a writing event, not even the event coordinator (who, in my situation, led me a tad astray), but knowing something about the typical format in advance helps. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of writing events available and what you might expect to get from each one:

  • Conference – an organized, day or longer writing event that involves large-group presentations and smaller, breakout sessions. Keynote speakers, book signings, manuscript critiques, social hours, and meals are often included.
  • Workshop – a hands-on learning session where participants perform writing exercises, discuss writing issues, and share their work for feedback.
  • Round table – implies an open discussion, where everyone has an equal voice; there is no leader or “head” of the table.
  • Forum – a general term that refers to a place where writers congregate to discuss, ask questions, get information, or conference, online or in person; sometimes a presenter leads.
  • Critique group – a meeting with a group of writers to read and analyze each other’s work.
  • Class – a course of study on a particular aspect of writing, led by an instructor.
  • Presentation – a writing professional speaks to a group, sharing expertise on a topic or experience; often includes a question-and-answer period.
  • Reading – a published author reads from his or her work; may involve a short presentation.

If you’re still confused about the format of an event, contact the person or organization hosting the event and try to get answers to your questions. And be sure to find out if preregistration is necessary and whether a fee is involved. Writing events are great resources for writers, but to make them worth your time and money, do the research first.

(Image by Rick Audet)

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