Publishing Industry

First Ever Writing Conference | Allyson West Lewis


I read a blog post on attending writers’ conferences and how they are super-helpful to writers, especially new writers which apparently extends to unpublished writers (my category). One can meet fellow writers, make life-long writerey (is this really a word?) friends, pitch to agents, learn what agents are looking for (you’re supposed to learn this bit before you pitch to them), build a platform (doesn’t the deck in my backyard count?), get a head shot and, bonus, be in a beautiful location.

Spanish-moss-draped tree in front of a lake with a small dock.

 So…I decided not to go. I wondered how to get my money back, terrified to mingle with all those fabulous writers and authors. I wondered how I can possibly cram into my day all the preparation and follow-up I should be doing before and after!

P.S. I figured out I have writing platform-phobia. I’m sure there’s counseling for this?

One week prior

Allyson West Lewis and Lindsey Brackett at the Florida Christian Writers Conference in 2019.
Allyson West Lewis and Lindsey Brackett at the Florida Christian Writers Conference.

Super-mentor, Lindsey Brackett, who also happens to be on staff at the Florida Christian Writers Conference that I’m dreading – I mean attending – informs me that when I get to the conference next Wednesday, she will be the boss of me, telling me where to go, what to do, whom to meet, and what sessions to attend. Praise the LORD! So, maybe I will go after all.

P.S. I’m awarding myself points for the longest run-on sentence. Surely, that would impress an agent?

Post Conference

I love My First Ever Writer’s Conference! I learned so many things and made many writerey friends. I’m allowed to say that because I now actually have writerey friends now. (Super-mentor Lindsey Brackett and Conference Staff has slid over to the friends’ column! Ok, at least for me – not that I’m insecure or anything.)

One of the most important things I learned is I need to bullet point topics! And, now….for my debut as a bullet-pointer:

10 Thoughts for A First-Time Writing Conference Attendee

Be Strong and Courageous, Joshua 1:9 NIV

  • Paranoia: It’s helpful if your sister or other BFF answers the phone every time you call because you’re feeling a little paranoid. (I am way too ‘mature’ to go to a conference!)
  • Feeling Shy: Look at all these people who know each other.

“Oh, Hello. Thank you for asking. I would love to sit with you at lunch/dinner/breakfast.”

  • Appointments: What was I thinking? I made an appointment with a New York Times bestselling author, Rachel Hauck. I kept wanting to cancel. Enter Lindsey Brackett, super-mentor: “You’ll learn a lot talking to her. Just go for it.” And, it was truly amazing!
  • Ummm….can’t think of anything in the ‘strong category’ yet. I’ll get back to you further down in the post.

She asked what my book was about. Then she asked for my One Page. My glib reply? “What’s that?” Despite that, she warmly invited to sit with her at dinner.

  • One Page: It’s one page (no flowery description here!) that has either a picture of you or of your character or both; a brief ‘back of the book’ description of your book and a short author biography. Apparently, these are important to have at a conference, especially for people in the non-published category. Me! I got professional help from the incomparable Kathy Bruins.
  • Pay for a professional Critique! I was privileged to have Edie Melson for this. Edie Melson has the most amazing blog, The Write Conversation (I read it faithfully every day!). I was a bit star-struck to spend a whole thirty minutes with her. She was lovely, amazing, encouraging and extremely helpful in her critique.
  • Check the Weather: I checked the weather forecast one week prior. It snapped ten degrees colder than originally forecast. I froze for the first few days till the real forecast began!
  • Classes: The classes were varied and amazing. I only wish I could have taken more!
  • Key Note Speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs spoke multiple times over the course of the conference. She encouraged us, shared biblical down-to-earth messages and had everyone laughing. What a treasure!

Some of my favorite things: the encouragement, the attendees were strong believers and the doors that opened that I hadn’t realized were shut.

Take-away: GO to a writer’s conference! It’s life changing and life affirming!

Allyson West Lewis

Allyson West Lewis is an award-winning author specializing in speculative fiction. After an extensive career as a corporate senior executive, she’s written a fantasy novel, a dystopian science fiction book and has published short stories and articles in literary magazines and anthologies. She adores her husband and wonderful family. Allyson writes from North Georgia with two Golden Retrievers and one irascible Airedale Terrier sprawled at her feet.

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