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Conferences Role in the Writer’s Life

I attended my first writers’ conference this past weekend. I had planned to write this blog post yesterday, but I was too exhausted. I needed a full day to rest and process before I set pen to paper (or, more accurately, fingers to keys).

Unlike many writers, I have never suffered from imposter syndrome. When I started writing seriously about 6 years ago, it felt like coming home. I’ve never doubted my ability, but as an emerging writer with no MFA, I acknowledge I have (lots of) room for improvement! Enter the Annual Creative Nonfiction Collective (CNFC) Conference.

I had never heard of them before they announced their 2023 conference in Halifax, with a keynote by Atlantic Canada’s patron saint of literature, Donna Morrissey! I registered immediately and later learned about their important place in CanLit. Created in 2004, they exist to promote innovation in Canadian creative nonfiction writing by providing professional development, collaboration, and exploration opportunities for writers.

The formidable Donna Morrissey had a medical emergency and tragically couldn’t join us—but Tracey Erin Smith filled the enormous gap marvelously. It’s not an exaggeration to say that her Masterclass changed my writing trajectory. Her session on SOULO Theatre and Story Alchemy was an interactive and engaging program that helped transform raw material from our lives into vivid, moving, and entertaining writing—all in three hours!

In short, I loved the conference. And here are some of the reasons I think you should fork over your cold hard cash (likely made from a day job that’s not writing) to attend a writing conference too!

  • To reenergize your writing practice

Often, writing is routine. I get up at 5:30, make my pour over coffee, solve the Wordle, and settle in for a couple of hours of tippy tapping before my morning oatmeal. It can get a little, how should I say, bland. Meeting other writers and bonding over the trials and tribulations of the writing life can help you bring new energy to the keyboard. Which brings me to my next point!

  • To meet (so many!!!) amazing writers

I knew I would meet people. But the number of people and the depths of connection astounded me. My only problem now, is that my TBR list has quadrupled! I’m especially looking forward to reading Virginia Boudreau, Jane Doucet, Lana Hall, Donna Besel, and Catherine Gourdier—and I’m also sure there are others I am missing!

  • To learn and reflect

So often in the business of day-to-day life, we don’t have the time and space to deeply learn and reflect. Attending a conference forces you to do that important, difficult work and apply the new skills in a safe space.

  • To discover new potential directions

I’d never considered writing a children’s book, or a one-woman show before, but now I am! Meeting new people, learning new skills, and hearing new stories lights up new parts of your brain, and unveils new memories, ideas, and underlying truths.

Thanks for the opportunity, Creative Nonfiction Collective! And congrats on a phenomenal event. It might be my first conference, but it won’t be my last!

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Unknown member
May 30, 2023

Goodness I'm jealous that you could make it in person and live your best writer's life with so many fabulously passionate and wonderful people! Thank you for taking me there with your words and letting me experience it through your first experience feelings! Bravo! Can't wait to see you at some conferences in the future! Sarah Butland

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