MAFWI 2015 PART 1 – Why Attend Writing Conferences

I always loved the idea of going to a conference or convention and this year I finally took the opportunity to attend the Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writing Institute’s annual conference, formerly known as the Nora Roberts Writing Institute at Hagerstown Community College.

Along with panel discussions, #MAFWI15 offered breakout sessions and workshops. These mini-events held themes ranging from how to write scenes that take place in the emergency room to tips for self-publishing. When I saw that a friend from my writing group was on one of the panels, I jumped at the chance to attend.

After treating my husband to his birthday lunch, I abandoned him and met up with members of our local writing group, The Mountain Scribes. The group, which is invitation only and limited to less than a dozen members, meets bi-weekly but this was the first time several of us would attend an event of this size.

#MAFWI15 Kickoff

I met up with Julie at the hotel. Like myself, Julie is also a professional blogger who dabbles in literary fiction. Soon after, we were joined by MK Rath, an urban fantasy author from our local, invitation-only writing group. 

After dinner and drinks, because nothing cures my anxiety like a frozen, salted margarita, we attended the meet-and-greet where we touched base with fellow Mountain Scribe Alicia Drumgoole (aka Agnes Jayne), who was a presenter at the conference. Alicia introduced us to her childhood friend and fellow author, Kendra Leigh Castle. The discussion was light and fun, and the perfect way to kick off the evening.

Attend All the Panel Discussions

From the meet and greet we transitioned into a banquet room for a panel discussion. If you have never attended one then I highly recommend it. Panel discussions offer multiple, sometimes diverse viewpoints on a topic. During one of the discussions a question I asked received four different answers, all of which had information I could use.

This particular panel discussion covered the topic of Getting Started and featured the following people:

Just like you can’t tell a book by its cover, you also can’t tell an author by their book jacket photo. No two authors in that panel answered any question exactly alike. If their answers were similar as to their process for writing their book, then they had different ways for getting inspired or editing.

Wrapping Up the Evening

Perhaps the best part of the night came after the panel. Alicia had given a shout out to The Mountain Scribes while boasting the merits of belonging to a writing group. Once the panel broke up, Julie, MK and I headed over to let Alicia know how much we enjoyed the discussion. Other writers hedged about, some being more talkative than others.

I’m not sure who said it during the evening, but they captured the feeling spot on with the comment: These are my people, my people who understand me and get it. The group eventually fizzled out and we returned to our respective hotel rooms with a 7:00 A.M. wake up call for the next day.

Tune in next week to read Part 2 of this article!

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