Do you want to go to a Writers’ Festival or a Writers’ Conference? How do you decide? How are they different? What should you expect? Are you a reader? Are you a writer? Are you both? A festival is about writers talking to readers and promoting their books. A conference is about writers talking to writers. Both are great experiences. Readers probably prefer the festival. Writers benefit from both.
I recently attended the Rancho Mirage Writers’ Festival held in Rancho Mirage, California. Twenty-one authors participated. Writers of fiction, non-fiction, and essay. They talked about their books, how the books came about, their process, and their backgrounds.
Each session was followed by Q & A. Between sessions the authors mingled and were accessible. Books were available for purchase through Barnes and Noble. It was an event rich in information.
As a writer, I was especially interested in an author’s thinking process that said, “Aha, an idea,” and how they pursued that idea into a total book concept. I was also interested in their different presentation styles. From quasi-reading their talks to using Power Point to being conversational. Some read short excerpts from their work. How they presented themselves and their books, and the speaking techniques were good to observe and learn from.
The event ran three days: five sessions each day and two at night. Great venue. (Participating authors listed at end of post.)
A writers’ conference is different. You’re there to write. One I enjoyed in the recent past was the Hassayampa Institute for Creative Writing held in Prescott, Arizona. At a conference like this, a writer works his craft in seminar and solo. True, you hear a significant author or two speak during the venue, but primarily you are there to write and learn and interact with writers.
I chose a workshop led by Terese Svoboda, a poet and writer. I took a story to be “workshopped” which means it was read and critiqued. We had writing projects to work on during session and at night.
I started a story through one of the activities Svoboda gave. She had us partner with another writer and give each other a character to write a story about. My partner gave me this character: a man who is employed by Con Edison and works on the construction of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Say what? The story was eventually published under the title “Parallel Worlds.”
Festivals and conferences such as these can be like mini-Master classes or graduate seminars. Some will be better than others, but usually they’re worth the money and time commitment.
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Participating authors at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival: David Abrams, A. Scott Berg, Sean B. Carroll, Michael Childers, Linda Fairstein, Alice Kessler-Harris, Karen Elliott House, Geoffrey Kabaservice, Joseph Kanon, Kevin P. Keating, G. Bruce Knecht, Laurence Luckinbill, Andrew Neiderman, Chris Pavone, Arthur Phillips, Richard Rodriguez, Lisa See, Maggie Shipstead, Kevin Starr, David L. Ulin, Joseph Wambaugh.
Sadly, the Hassayampa Conference is no longer being held.