Writing Conference Season (and you thought it was simply spring!)

From April 5 to May 5, I taught at three writing conferences, hosted the 4th Anniversary of the Books and Beer book club, and led a writing workshop for a total of twelve “event” days. Frankly, I’m a little tired, but I’m also grateful and rather excited to edit my work in progress and start a new project. Here’s why . . .

Writing conferences, workshops, and bookish events are always a good idea for writers, no matter your experience level. You get to chum around with other writers (sometimes rather famous ones), make new friends, and remind yourself that even if you spend most of your days in front of your computer in your pjs (guilty), you ARE part of a bigger network. These folks are your PEOPLE! (And for the readers in the group, they also write awesome books . . . simply click on any of the cover images below to learn more about a particular title.)

Where I Was, Who I Met, What I Learned, and Why it Matters!


Write Touch Conference 2019 - WisRWA recap from author Valerie BielWisconsin Romance Writers Association Write Touch Conference – April 5 to 7

I was honored to be part of the Wisconsin Romance Writers Association Write Touch Conference which takes place every other year. I presented a morning-long workshop on independent publishing. When I wasn’t presenting, even though my books are not in the romance category, I attended best-selling author Maya Rodale’s session “Write the Right Book Fast.” It was full of useful advice on reverse engineering your story by writing a mini-synopsis first along with details on how to make sure you can properly categorize your book for easy findability by readers.

Award-winning author, Angie Stanton, presented a thorough approach to producing an audiobook. Stanton, along with her agent, successfully negotiated the return of her audiobook rights and went on to produce her own with ACX on a royalty share with the narrator. Also very valuable information to have as I take on that project this year.

Along with all of this knowledge acquisition, there was plenty of time to meet other presenting authors Lisa Cron (Story Genius), Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (authors of the Writing Thesaurus series), and Amy Reichert (A Coincidence of Coconut Cake, The Optimists Guide to Letting Go). I also caught up with Sara Dahmen (author of the Flats Junction series) and made too many new friends to count.

This event was heavily publicized in Writer’s Digest and Milwaukee Magazine (as the event was held in Milwaukee.) Our swag bags were full of free books, too. Could you ask for more? I think not! Here I am on our final night with authors Janice Laird (left) and Angie Stanton (right).

Write Touch Conference - Wisconsin Romance Writers of America






Columbus Public Library – Creative Writing Workshop

Closer to home, I led a free writing workshop for area writers at my local library. We are grateful to have a library that sponsors these types of programs! With 12 writers in attendance, we were a varied group of published and unpublished/fiction and nonfiction authors bonding over writing exercises, point-of-view discussions, and plotting techniques. We’ll hold another of these on Tuesday, October 22. If you don’t live close enough to Columbus, Wisconsin to attend, check out your local library for their offerings for writers!

Books & Beer – 4th Anniversary Celebration and Author Talk with Anne Davidson Keller

Our Books and Beer book club in Columbus is a different kind of book club where attendees get the chance to discuss a book directly with the author. When this book club started four years ago, we weren’t sure we’d have enough interested authors to keep it going this long—but here we are. We’ve met nearly every month for the past four years with an author from the Midwest who was willing to join us to discuss their story. Anne Davidson Keller author of Empty Chairs was our guest for our 4th Anniversary. Empty Chairs is a lovely family saga that I highly recommend. (Watch for a full review at the beginning of June.) If you're interested in attending, you can learn all about our group and upcoming events on our Facebook Page: Books and Beer Columbus. Our next gathering is with author Susan Gloss on May 23 as we discuss her novel The Curiosities. 

Untitled Book and Author Festival 2019 - A RecapUntitled Town Book & Author Festival

Then I headed to Green Bay for the third Untitled Town Book and Author Festival. This unique festival brings in national level speakers and many regional authors and does it without charging ticket prices for the attendees. I participated in three different panel discussions, two on writing for the children’s market, including one on the taboo topics in children’s writing, and one on the Art of Editing your manuscript. I love how encouraging this conference is to aspiring writers.

It was fun to catch up with authors Kelly Risser, Sandy Goldsworthy, Silvia Acevedo, Nick Chiarkas, Angie Stanton, and Amanda Zieba, who introduced me to her good friend and author Christy Wopat.  (Christy and Amanda wrote a fun recap of Untitled Town together for their respective blogs which you can read HERE.)

This was also a star-studded weekend, and I was grateful for the chance to meet Nickolas Butler and Rebecca Makkai. Butler is a best-selling, award-winning author from Wisconsin, and Makkai’s novel The Great Believers was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist amongst its many accolades. (Her other books are lovely, too.)

PHEW! Are you tired yet??

SCBWI's Marvelous Midwest Conference 2019 - Why You Need Writing ConferencesThe Marvelous Midwest SCBWI Conference

I took my vitamins, successfully avoided my husband’s cold, did some laundry, and repacked for this past weekend at The Marvelous Midwest Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) Conference in Naperville, IL. This event officially plays host to attendees from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa—but attendees hail from many other states as well.

I was again on the faculty at this conference, but I would have attended even if I hadn’t been. I was honored to be on a panel discussion with the marvelously talented Silvia Acevedo (our panel moderator), Keith Allen, and Christine Mapondera-Talley. 

Indie Publishing Panel with Silvia Acevedo, Keith Allen, Valerie Biel, and Christine Mapondera-Talley - SCBWI ROCKS!

Keith’s books are the most delightfully engineered pop-up books I’ve ever seen. Christine creates enticing stories with an international flair that makes the world smaller and more accessible for young readers. And Silvia’s smartly written Roman-mythology-inspired series will keep you entranced and amused until the last page.  (Buy these books—you will not be disappointed!)

The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind of sessions presented by nationally-recognized authors, agents, and editors. Literary agent Clelia Gore’s half-day intensive about nonfiction writing in the children’s market was just what I needed as I ponder a series concept. (Who knew I’d have such fun with NONFICTION!) I was grateful for the chance to hear from author Julie Berry on secondary character development, agent Stephen Fraser on presenting a loving world to our readers, and agent Allison Remcheck on developing high concept ideas. 

I met many, many new writer and illustrator friends from other states, reconnected with old friends, went on a humorous balloon retrieval run with Silvia Acevedo and Andrea Skyberg (who knew there’s a helium shortage?), and finally got to meet the fabulously talented illustrator Jacqueline Alcantara in person.  (See her mini-interview from my review of The Field HERE.)

So . . . now I’m home (and planning to stay put for a little while.)

Why does all of this even matter?

Going to conferences reminds me that . . . 

You should always be learning something new:

This year marks 10 years since I made the shift to writing professionally for the children’s market, and I still learn something new at every conference I go to. (I’ll bet the same is true for the rest of you.)

In a largely solo work environment, we need to connect with other creative people:

The sense of community you get from being amongst people who understand the frustrations and elusive triumphs of the publishing industry is incredibly healthy. You need people who 'get' this crazy world.

Professional connections are essential to success:

The relationships you forge at conferences can not only help you reach your own dreams, but also challenge you to expand your horizons with collaborations that wouldn’t have even occurred to you on your own. That may be considered serendipity—but sometimes you’ve got to put yourself out there to catch the next wave of cosmic goodwill.

So, where have you been lately and what has it taught YOU?


For more about conferences, you can read what last year was like in my post entitled "Sprinter 2018" or read Kristin Oakley’s guest post on "Why You Should Attend Writing Conferences."





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