Managing Expectations at a Writers’ Conference

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Wordsowers Writers Conference 2016After soaking up the atmosphere at my first writers’ conference in 1998, I was ready to sell something at my next conference. Since I was spending so much money to attend, I believed I needed to sell at least one article to justify the expense.

I sent a query letter to a magazine editor ahead of time and he sought me out the first day of the conference to discuss the idea further. The article was titled “Judge Not?” (exploring the topic of when, if ever, it was biblically acceptable to judge someone). I proposed a 300-word section about proper hermeneutical techniques and planned to refer to those techniques throughout the article.

The editor was gentle in pointing out that his readers already understood proper hermeneutical techniques, and that he was looking for a more personal piece with a powerful takeaway. He wanted it to be less theoretical and more practical, but I didn’t have a firm grasp on what any of this meant, so I left the conference somewhat disillusioned.

I don’t want that to happen to you.

If this is your first conference, or your second, come without any expectations. Instead, come with an attitude that is willing to be shaped and molded as God directs.

The same year I blew it with the judgment article, I attended another writers’ conference to get a better feel for the industry, thinking maybe I should focus more on books. I met an editor of a sports magazine there and we hit it off. Before I met him, I had never even considered becoming a sportswriter. But after the conference, he emailed me about the possibility of working on assignment for his magazine and I gladly accepted.

I stumbled at first, but he helped me through the process and I went on to write eight or nine articles for him while he was there. When he took a new job with a newspaper, he called on me to write for that publication as well. He’s no longer there, but fourteen years later, I’m still writing for that newspaper. To date, I’ve written nearly a hundred articles about such varied topics as legislation, church planting, outreach, sports and politics. I’ve also so written numerous features.

This opened the door to other publications, like Baptist Press Sports, Yahoo! Sports, SB Nation and the U.S. Olympic Committee website.

I don’t know what you might stumble into at this conference, but God does. Put in the time to research the editors and publications who will be present. Have an elevator pitch reader for the projects you want to sell. And certainly pray before you arrive. But don’t stress about the results, or about what you think you should be writing.

Instead, just talk to editors, agents, and fellow writers while you are there and be confident that God will direct your steps.

Lee Warren PicLee Warren is an essayist, sportswriter and freelance editor. He has also written numerous devotional books. Check out his website for more information: While you are there, sign up for his free email list to receive a free copy of his “15 Ways to Revive Your Devotional Life” report.

2 thoughts on “Managing Expectations at a Writers’ Conference

  1. Thanks, Lee for sharing about the first conference expectations. In 2002 I sent three chapters of a best selling novel to Cec Murphey along with a few non-fiction ideas. I still laugh at the outcome. Never finished the novel. Cec suggested I work on the non-fiction and I did. Great advice. I also met other authors and editors at that conference who volunteered to coach me on different articles. Sandy Cathcart talked me into attending that 2002 conference in Oregon. In 2008 Sandy gave me a Christmas gift. She offered to edit my book, “Capsules of Hope: Survival Guide for Caregivers.” You never know what can happen at a writers conference. I always attend with expectations, maybe not selling something, but meeting others and walking away encouraged.

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