We talk about throwing a party a lot, but today I’d like to write just a bit about what it takes to throw a conference. Our Critique group decided over ten years ago that we might like to have an all-day conference and make it free. We’d heard so many people coming into our group saying they could not afford conference prices, plus a motel and eats and gas. So we decided to take the conference price out of the equation.
Could we pull it off? That would depend on whether we could get good speakers willing to give their time free to help us teach. We decided right away we would need about three speakers, then the two of us who had lots of experience in giving workshops, and guest speaking at conferences could fill up the afternoon. Right away we obtained the speakers, generous writers, editors and people in other facets of the business stepped up to share their knowledge. And we have been able, over the years, to find a place to hold our conferences without charge. The past seven or eight years, Ozarks Electric in Fayetteville, AR has given us a room well equipped and large enough for our needs.
Sometimes I think there are no people more generous than writers. Most will help newbies, mentor writers struggling with their first novels, short stories and the like, or help edit manuscripts, often without cost. Dusty Richards and I have been mentoring writers for thirty years, which goes back to us not knowing much more than anyone else just starting in the business. But we attended conferences, returned to our group to share handouts and our own notes with those who couldn’t go.
This past Saturday we held what we’re sure is our 11th or 12th free conference. Yeah, we didn’t keep records. Hey, we’re writers not secretaries or CPAs or the like. Each year we’ve hosted anywhere from 35 to 75 attendees. We provide tables for any authors with books to sell, and more recently have had two small publishers represented for writers to talk to.
It’s been a lot of fun, we’ve met so many people, and we hope we have helped struggling writers in some small way. Our critique group is Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop and we’ve been around since the early 1980s, meeting weekly to help emerging writers. Check our website for a list of our membership and other information, or our Facebook page Northwest Arkansas writers workshop for more information. Anyone in need of professional speakers for special events may contact us as well.