A question came up during an intense discussion among pre-published and published authors at Midsouth SCBWI conference (see blog for all the good stuff) in Nashville: Does a writer ever outgrow writing conferences?
My answer is YES.
But that's not to say a writer ever stops learning. Just that once you've broken into the industry, you have all sorts of other avenues to feed that growth.
Writing conferences open the door, but over a writer's lifetime, I don't think writing conferences have the power to sustain. Ultimately, writing conferences serve beginners best. And even though every writing organization I've been associated with strives to keep writers coming back, I think that energy is really misplaced. We should be courting the beginners and pushing the more accomplished out the nest. Tiers like SCBWI's PAL membership only serve to divide the membership, when the whole point is to support and educate budding careers.
Also, there is something to be said for the the turnover of power in these organizations. The fastest way for a group to become stale and useless is to maintain the same leadership over the course of many years. We need new voices, new ideas, new energy. Which means the more established writers should of course make themselves available as mentors, but should also move out and on.
I got much of my education on craft and industry through attending writing conferences, so I continue to be wildly grateful for their existence. But I realized this weekend that the best thing for me to do now is to offer my chair to someone else.
Take it. It's yours. And if you need any help... give me a holler. And to my dear writing friends who have also outgrown conferences, two words: WRITING RETREAT. I am so there!!