by Eilis O’Neal
Our annual Conference for Readers and Writers is coming up on October 21st. It’s our biggest program of the year—and the one I get the most excited about. This will be my 17th Conference with Nimrod, and I thought I’d describe what attendees can expect and why it’s such a great day.
The Conference is an all-day event designed to help writers improve their writing. It’s practically focused—as in, our aim is to offer practical, concrete writing and craft advice. We bring in published authors from a variety of genres to act as workshop leaders and panelists—writers who are at the tops of their fields and love sharing their best advice about writing.
We start the day off with two panel choices, one that is entirely Q&A about editing and publishing (questions like “What does a literary agent do?”; “How do you know when you’re finished revising a story?”; and “What do publishers think of writers who have self-published some of their work?”) and one that focuses on a question of craft (this year panelists will talk about “Writing Through the Hard Parts,” whether that’s doing tough research, writing about a traumatic personal event, writing from the viewpoint of someone different from you, and more).
After the panels, participants have their choice of several workshops. Some of them focus on a particular genre and subject within that genre, and some of them focus on an aspect of the publishing industry. The workshops are just over an hour, and they range in size from 10-15 people to 40-50 people. The workshops can vary in style, but in general they feature a solid presentation on their topic, plenty of time for questions, and sometimes a writing exercise or two.
After the first round of workshops, we break for lunch, which is included in the cost of registration and which features programming in the latter half as we conduct the Awards Ceremony for our national Literary Awards and share the work of the winning writers.
After lunch, it’s time for another choice of workshops, and after those we have a reading by our guest authors and one-on-one editing sessions with our editors. Writers who want a one-on-one editing session send in a short selection of their work in beforehand, and we give it to one of our editors for review. At the Conference, the editors sit down with their writers for 15 minutes each and give them a personal critique, telling them what they’ve done well and what they can do to improve the piece. The day ends with a book signing with our guests.
So what makes everything I’ve described above so special? Here are a few of my favorite reasons.
- It’s inclusive. No matter who you are, there’s a place for you here. We have writers of all kinds at the Conference. High school students, college students, adults, senior citizens. Writers who have been to many conferences and published their work in multiple venues, and writers who have never attended a writing event before and have never shown their work to anyone. Writing can be a very solitary pursuit, and a writer’s career can have a lot of stages, so it’s gratifying to be around people who share your passion and can identify with your experiences.
- It’s customizable. At any given point at the Conference, you have a choice about what you want to do. Are you a genre writer? We’ve got classes in multiple genres, from mystery to young adult to fantasy to romance. Don’t want a one-on-one editing session? You don’t have to have one. It’s very much a case of “do what you love,” and we try to have a variety of choices to appeal to many different types of writers.
- It’s laid-back and friendly. Sometimes the word “conference” can sound intimidating, but ours is at heart a very chill, very laid-back day. We have a good crowd, but it’s not overwhelming. Our guest authors and editors are extremely giving and generous—they’re glad to be here and eager to interact with participants. We’ll be wearing jeans and sneakers. It’s a day for writers about writers—one where you can come as you are.
- It’s one of the only events of its kind in the area. We’re proud to be from Oklahoma, but there is a catch for those of us here in OK and the surrounding states: we don’t have as much access to writing/arts events as writers who live on the coasts or in larger cities. There are simply fewer events for us in drivable distance. One of the reasons we host the Conference is because we know how important and exciting it can be for writers to learn from authors they admire, who have lots of experience and advice to share. Being at a conference like this and getting guidance from published writers can be a watershed moment for your writing career and/or process, and we’re really glad that we can offer these kinds of opportunities for those of us in so-called “flyover states.”
- It’s individual. In addition to the group classes, we have our one-on-one editing sessions and, this year, one-on-one novel pitch critiques with an actual literary agent. This kind of individual attention isn’t offered at many conferences, but it’s something that we always include at ours.
- It’s affordable. Our regular registration fee is $60, far lower than the $100+ fees you’ll find at many conferences. And we offer scholarships that lower the cost to $10 for writers of all ages in need. It’s important to us that no writer be left out because of cost, so we do everything we can to keep the Conference affordable.
In short, the Conference is a unique opportunity for writers, one that can help writers at all stages hone their abilities. But most of all, it’s fun, a day where we can all get together and celebrate the creation of the books, stories, and poems that we love. If you’re a local writer, I hope that we’ll see you at this year’s Conference on October 21st. You can register online or by sending in a registration form from our website.
Eilis O’Neal is Nimrod’s Editor-in-Chief. She is also a writer of fantasy and the author of the young adult fantasy novel The False Princess.