Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How Early Should a Writer Attend a Writer's Conference? {+10 Christian Writing Conferences to Attend!}

I was sixteen when I told my parents that I wanted to attend a writing conference.

I knew writing was the career I wanted to pursue. I'd been writing since I could hold a pen at 3-years-old, and any time someone asked me that all-important question -- what do you want to be when you grow up? -- my answer was immediate: an author. There wasn't any doubt in my mind that it would happen, either. I don't know why, really -- I guess you can call it childlike faith. ;) I felt as though writing was woven into my being. I couldn't not pursue it.  

So, I decided to take it seriously when I was 15. Rather than only writing in my free time, I wanted to treat it as a priority. I took writing courses, read craft books, wrote the first version of Purple Moon, and began this blog. It's also during that time that I learned about writing conferences -- this magical place where writers could meet other writers, learn about the craft and industry, and pitch to professionals. I knew I had to find a way to attend one.

You can imagine my excited when I found a Christian writer's conference (BRMCWC) that was only an hour and a half drive from where I lived. =) Although my parents were (and still are) supportive of my writing, they weren't extremely convinced I should go, mainly because they didn't know anything about the industry at the time -- and, of course, conferences can be pretty pricey. But, to make a long story short, my mom's mind was changed during a sermon my pastor spoke one Sunday about seizing the moment. She felt a nudge. Needless to say, if it wasn't for that sermon, I wouldn't have attended that all-important first conference. (Thanks, Pastor Mark!)   

Now, I've heard other writers advise newbies to wait until they're mature in their writing before they attend a conference. I don't think this is an entirely bad idea. Again, conferences can get pricey, and you'll most likely receive more out of it when you have a project or two to pitch. 

But I am so very thankful my parents didn't hear that advice when I was 16. 

Every writer's journey is different. I know this. You may not have an opportunity to attend a conference any time soon. But please, at least consider it. Conferences are valuable -- not just to new writers either, but to writers who are on any stage of the writing journey. 

Since I attended that conference seven years ago (it feels like longer!), I've attended almost fifteen conference as a conferee. 

2010 -- Very first conference! With my special writer friend and fellow author, Katy Kauffman

2014 -- Award's banquet. Purple Moon was a Selah Award finalist in YA Fiction & Debut Novel! 

2015 -- At an appointment

2016 -- With my agent (and boss), Cyle Young, and my author friend, Caroline George.

2016 -- At the campus coffee shop, Clouds! 

Let's see how different my career would look if I hadn't invested in these conferences...

  • My debut novel, PURPLE MOON, wouldn't have been published by LPC Books. 
  • I wouldn't have signed with my agent. 
  • I wouldn't be a Jr. Agent for Hartline Literary Agency. 
  • I wouldn't be a YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA
  • I wouldn't have several of the writer friends I have today. 
  • I wouldn't know half as much about the craft/industry as I do now. 
  • I wouldn't have the opportunity to be on faculty of 5 conferences this year.
  • My blog wouldn't have placed 2nd in the blog category in the BRMCWC contest in 2013.
  • I wouldn't be a columnist for Broken But Priceless Magazine.
  • Most importantly, I wouldn't have the special conference memories that I've made over the years.

Conferences aren't just about contracts. 

They're also about divine connections.
Making new writer friends. 
Learning about the craft and industry. 
New opportunities.
Gaining education and experience.
And receiving inspiration, encouragement, and motivation to continue the journey.

Conferences are the college for today's aspiring author, and that's why I recommend them to every aspiring author I meet. 

So if you're on the fence, struggling to decide whether or not to attend a conference this year -- take it from someone who has jumpstarted their writing career thanks to conferences: It's worth it. 

Of course, spend time in prayer before you make the move. But if you do feel peace about registering for one, here is a list of Christian writing conferences that take place throughout the US:


This is only a handful of Christian writing conferences; I recommend doing research to see if you can find one near your area. Remember: There are conferences on a larger scale (about 3 - 7 days), then there are smaller ones that can last for a day or two. 

For more posts on writing conferences, {click here}.

Here's to hoping that we'll have a chance to meet over coffee at a conference someday!

Question for you...

Have you attended a conference? If so, in what way(s) did it impact your writing career? If not, when do you hope to attend one?


How Early Should a Writer Attend a Writer's Conference? {+10 Christian Writer's Conferences to Attend!} #writerslife

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  1. Hi Tessa! I'm in my very early teens, and I don't know much about the writing industry yet (besides what I've pickedup from your posts, of course.). I do know that I want to be an author.
    I'm working on my novel, Facility 52, right now. And I'm just wondering when would be a good time for ME to attend a conference. I'm thirteen, if that helps. Do you think that it's a good idea to go when I'm maybe fourteen or something? Earlier or later or what? I really just want to do what the Lord says and has directed me, and I believe this is His calling for my life. Writing (and mission work). What is your opinion on the age/conference thing?

    1. Hi Allie! To be honest, if you feel as though you’re called to write, I don’t think it’s possible to be too young to attend a conference. I would pray about it and ask your parents what they think. There are conferences that are on the smaller scale that you could consider as well. I’d also recommend finding a conference that offers a teen track (many of them do). Teens typically receive a conference discount. If you’d prefer to save up, then spend this year honing your craft and research which conference you can plan to attend next year (or whenever you decide to begin). Good luck! =)

  2. Also, do you know if you'll be assisting in any Northwestern conferences? I'd really like to be able to meet you!!!

    1. I’d love to meet you as well! I’m looking into attending the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference next year.

  3. Hi Tessa,

    I've been thinking very seriously about attending a writing conference this summer, so this was really helpful! Your pictures made me feel excited and encouraged about what seems a little daunting! I live in New York, so I guess I'm going to have to find some conferences around here to go to. Or maybe I'll look into the ACFW conference this year.

    1. Hi Stephanie! What part of NY do you live in? (You can email me privately if you’d prefer.) The reason I ask is because I visit NYC occasionally to visit my sister. It’d be cool to meet in person! =)

      I’m attending the Greater Philly conference in July. How close is that to you?

    2. Hi Tessa!

      Thanks for the info. I'll email you!

  4. (It wouldn't let me reply to your last comment, so I'm just writing it here)

    Eek! That sounds great!!! I'll talk to my parents about it!!! I REALLY hope you end up helping out there!!!

    Allie Taylor


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