Terry Pratchett and A Good Reason to Go To Conferences

Welcome to April and our new mentor:

Terry Pratchett!!!!

Now, I don’t know where you guys are in the world, but I live in Colorado Springs and the last weekend of April is always the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Unfortunately, I’m not attending this year (I have no money, though they do offer scholarships if you’re interested!).

I know a lot of people go to conferences because there’s generally the incredible opportunity to meet agents and editors – and writers are always interested in what they can do to further their careers.

But there are other reasons to go to a conference, and Terry Pratchett reminded me of that reason. I came across an interview he did with the BBC. Pratchett was talking about attending science fiction conventions – similar enough to conferences in my opinion.

The reason?


I know agents and editors are cool people. I had the great pleasure to hear Dan Lazar of Writer’s House and Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary give workshops on querying and pitching and all that good stuff. They were professional, had awesome advice, and generally seemed like a couple folks I wouldn’t mind having a beer with.

That being said…I was also surrounded by writers and their stories. I listened in on critique sessions. I attended a writing exercise workshop led by my buddy Bret. I heard Jim Butcher and Robert Crais talk. A conference is like a weekend-long mentorship. There’re so many people to meet, so many things to do, and – most important – so many things to learn.

In the interview (you can watch it below, it’s only a couple minutes) Pratchett talks about meeting Arthur C. Clarke and Moorcock. He says that these guys seemed like ‘normal guys’ and he was a ‘normal guy’ so…maybe he could do this for real too. When I attended the conference I thought something very similar: these bestselling authors are approachable, fun, and smart. They work hard. But they’re regular Joes. My actual thought was something like: “I’m on the playing field!” (Sure, I’m on the bench at the moment, learning from the experts…but I’m not in the stands! I’m a player!)

And just to prove my point that ‘normal people’ can do this: I attended that conference with my friend Fleur. She was also going around, listening to the same talks, going to the same workshops. She’s fun, approachable, smart, and she works hard. And guess what? Her book is coming out in October.

(Shameless plug – and there will be more – if you have a child in elementary school, or if you are a librarian for an elementary/middle school you should know that her book is Double Vision by F.T. Bradley and it’s awesome. More info forthcoming.)

Has anyone had a similar experience at a conference? Have you ever just gotten that energetic boost from being around other talented people?

3 thoughts on “Terry Pratchett and A Good Reason to Go To Conferences

  1. You are too kind with your shameless plug of this writerly friend 🙂 Thank you…

    To answer your question: yes. I'm always nervous about meeting new people, but then come away all energized. I think these conferences affirm our dream to be an author, and for us with books (or book contracts) in hand, they give us confidence to keep on truckin'.

    At a recent conference I went to, a keynote called it conference fairy dust–that happy writer feeling you have for days and sometimes weeks after.

    I'm not going to PPWC this year either, sadly (too many other expensive events this year). But they do a good job creating a very positive mood for writers at any level, which is nice.

  2. I think it's probably the best reason to go to a conference. My favorite PPWC was the year 4 of us shared a room. I felt like I knew everyone there. I felt the most at ease I ever had with the agents and editors. I was truly surrounded by my own tribe.

    My other favorite year? The first time I went, when I knew no one. It was major scary, but so exciting. I met writers from all over the country. I slipped in and out of workshops–because it's so hard to tell from the description which one will be THE RIGHT ONE and didn't worry about offending anyone, because they had no idea who I was. I made myself talk with the other people at meals. I was so afraid to make a fool of myself and dreaded the “So, what's your book about?” But then people reacted positively. And I thought maybe I might just possibly have something here.

    And, oh yeah, the fairy dust. But I can get that from just hanging out with youse guys. 😉

  3. I went to Comic-Con San Diego back when it was in the old Civic Center. It was small enough you could talk to Stan Lee and get advice on Japanese movies at the same time you were buying the latest Usagi Yojimbo from the artist.
    Now you can't even find the floor through the crowds half the time.

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