We have been looking at ways of Investing in a Writing Career. Today is the last post in this series.
I am pleased to post this interview with Lin Johnson, the owner and director of the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, Illinois. If you are ready to invest in your writing career by attending a conference, I highly recommend Write-to-Publish. I first attended the conference about 14 years ago. I had not published a book or an article. Every year, by meeting with editors and learning from the speakers, I am challenged to take my writing to the next level. I am honored to be the author of six books, now, as well as numerous other types of writing.
I asked Lin Johnson questions from the perspective of someone who might be considering taking the next step in investing in a writing career by attending a conference.
Welcome, Lin Johnson!
How long has this conference been in existence? What is its history?
Write-to-Publish (WTP) started in 1971 as a two-week, summer school class at Moody Bible Institute. It changed formats several times, and I worked as assistant director in the 80s and early 90s. When Moody decided to cancel many of its conferences in 1993, including WTP, I asked for the rights to the name. Someone else sponsored it in 1994, and I held one-day workshops the following year since I didn’t have the upfront money for a conference format.
But I couldn’t let the conference go. My pastor suggested I tell about my burden and the need for upfront money during the sharing time in a worship service. People loaned me enough interest-free money to start up again, and the first conference was held in 1996 at Wheaton College. I made enough money to pay back everyone and have start-up money for the next year. It’s been there ever since.
What will we do at the conference?
We start with a keynote speaker, Larry Wilson, and end with a banquet speaker, Jane Rubietta. We have panels (except Wednesday when the panel is after lunch) and continuing classes in the mornings and electives in the afternoons. Evenings are devoted to worship and an inspirational speaker. This year’s speaker is Carol Kent of Speak Up Ministries.
Fifteen-minute appointments with faculty members run all day. During these you may pitch ideas and manuscripts and ask questions. Critique groups for getting feedback on your manuscripts meet Thursday and Friday afternoons and evenings after the general sessions.
Before the conference, you may send a manuscript for a free evaluation by a faculty member. You may also send a second one for $25.
What makes this conference unique?
Other conferences that have editorial panels run several at the same time. But panels at WTP (magazines, websites, and newsletters; specialty and independent markets; and books) are general sessions, so you can hear what all the editors are looking for and get acquainted with their companies. Plus we have the freelancers panel on Saturday, which is also a general session.
Normally, we offer college credit through Taylor University. But since Dr. Dennis Hensley, Taylor professor, can’t be on faculty this year, we can’t offer it.
My priority for faculty members is editors and agents, so I try to have as many as I can get.
Is the conference geared to beginning, mid-career, or advanced authors?
We cater to writers in all three groups, plus people who aren’t sure God is calling them to be writers.
Do authors attend this conference multiple years?
About 50 percent of conferees are alumni. That tells me writers gain enough from the conference and it is different enough that people want to come back.
What kinds of opportunities will I have to meet with editors and agents?
Appointments with faculty members, which run all day, provide the main opportunities to meet editors and agents. You may also meet with them at lunches and dinners, and some of them will lead the critique groups.
How should I prepare for the conference?
Use the links on the website faculty page to get acquainted with periodicals and publishing houses that will be represented and read the interviews with faculty members that will be posted on a blog. (See our Facebook page for links.) Doing so will help you know who to talk with when you come.
Study the schedule for classes that will help you wherever you are in your writing career. Plus choose a couple classes in areas you never considered writing to see if you may want to pursue something new.
Pray. Ask God to show you what He wants you to do in the field of writing and publishing and to connect you with the right people, both conferees and faculty members.
Above all, go with an open heart and mind. God may have other plans than you do. If you’re focused solely on selling a book or signing with an agent, you may be disappointed if that doesn’t happen—and you’ll miss God’s best.
What things should I take with me?
Take lots of business cards, a notebook for notes, a shopping bag for freebies, money to buy writing books and CDs and books by conferees and faculty members, and walking shoes.
Is there any special support for first-time attendees?
We have a Paul & Timothy mentor program in which the chaplain pairs you with an alumnus before the conference starts, so you can ask questions and have someone to eat lunch with the first day. A first-timers orientation session on Wednesday morning offers tips for the week.
Is it okay if I want to just sit back and take in all in the first time around?
Absolutely! Many first-timers do this and leave with direction and improved writing and marketing skills.
Where can I find the nuts and bolts information such as location, cost, meals, and lodging?
Is financial support available?
Sorry, we don’t have scholarships anymore. If people who register give scholarship money, there will be some available but not enough to pay for the entire conference.
How can I contact someone if I have further questions?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, Lin, for sharing with our readers about the Write-to-Publish Conference!