We writers are a little bit weird. We spend hours a day working on computers, talking to ourselves, figuring out the best ways to harass, maim, and annoy our beloved characters. Some of us our blessed enough to have people in our lives who encourage us, though they may not necessarily understand us. The only people who truly “get” writers are other writers.
That’s why conferences are such wonderful things – dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of like-minded people in one place understanding, encouraging, and supporting each other.
The problem, however, is that conferences cost money. You have to register, get a hotel room, get yourself there, feed yourself, and it’s almost impossible to pass up the book store. If you want to go to one of the larger conference you can expect to dish out over $2,000.
Even if you can afford the expense, you can’t ignore life. The first year I wanted to attend my husband started chemotherapy. Then there are babies, moves, breakdowns – dozens of possible hindrances.
That’s why I started the “Un”-Conference for the Midwest Unattending. Every year hundreds of ACFW members get on the main email loop and go on and on and on and on and on about the conference this and the conference that. While it’s fun and inspiring for everyone going to the conference, it’s just plain annoying for those who are stuck at home. Instead of whining (which I do very well) I decided to create a fun event for myself (yes, others got to participate, but my motivation was purely self-centered).
I wasn’t able to schedule any meetings with editors or agents, but I found it quite easy to offer people a variety of educational opportunities. Here’s how it works:
During the annual ACFW Conference, I created a schedule of workshops. Writers volunteered to write up lessons on various topics. I posted a couple each day (one in the morning, one in the afternoon) on the Midwest loop. Some of the posts were interactive, so we were able to answer questions or practice techniques.
Not only did this give those homebound members eight great classes, but it gave many writers the chance to create a workshop (an experience that, in and of itself, taught me a lot). We learned from each other, and we taught ourselves.
The other thing I tried to incorporate each year was a fiction writing exercise. The first year we did a progressive story – someone started it, then we emailed it around to anyone who wanted to participate. That didn’t work so well…I’m still not sure what happened to that story. The next year we did something different. I gave everyone the same opening line and we each wrote a story about it. I like how that one worked out. Not everyone participated, but it gave everyone the chance to get creative.
I hosted The Unattending for two years, but managed to attend last year’s conference, so I let it fade away. Earlier this year, however, it received a special mention on The Barn Door. That made me remember how much fun it was to sit at home in my jammies and “attend” class whenever it was convenient. By the comments that I read, it looks like some others might be interested in seeing The Unattending make an appearance again this year.
I’m still planning on going to the ACFW Conference in St. Louis this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help revive the “Un”-Conference.
So what do you think? Is this something you’d like to do? What would you like to see happen?