Writers conferences are just excuses for people to sleep around.
False. Oh if only. No doubt there is some carousing going on somewhere, but it’s not as flagrant as it was in the “Bed Loaf” days of yore. Flirting abounds, but so do pictures of toddlers passed hand to hand.
Writers conferences are just excuses to get drunk, smoke cigarettes and act like teenagers.
I should request the biggest name at the conference.
False. Some big names are excellent teachers. Others are mediocre. Still others are abysmal.
I should request my favorite writer.
False. Think how you’d feel if the writer whose work you’d admired for years barely made eye contact with you, or gave your work a superficial reading. It could happen.
My advice would be to read the work of all the teachers at a conference. Choose the one whose work contains what you’d like to see in your own writing. Then search for comments by former students. If what you find gives you pause, choose your second favorite writer. You’re hiring a teacher, not a writer.
I won a scholarship/fellowship. I should go.
I did not win a scholarship or fellowship. I should go anyway, as a vacation.
False. Consider Paris or Venice. Take out your calculator and compare the per diem. Don’t forget to add in the cost of buying books by faculty and fellows. You could get the same books for a fraction of the cost online, but that practice is frowned upon at conferences.
While any vacation can go bad, so can any writers conference. My application to Sewanee was way past deadline, and this conference was the first time I’ve ever paid full freight. I met some wonderful people and, I hope, made some lasting friendships, but the conference is winding down now, and I have to admit I regret my decision.
On a bad vacation you may endure rude waiters, lost luggage, pickpockets and a close personal relationship with a toilet. But you’ll forget all that in a week or two. A bad conference might throw you into a creative tailspin that could last months. Or years. Not insurmountable, but why pay sticker price for the privilege?