Why Bother With Writing Contests and Conferences?
There is little doubt that breaking into the world of freelance writing can be quite tough. It is an extremely competitive, time-consuming and demanding profession. Indeed, the job does not just involve writing. That is the easy part! As a freelancer you have to job search, research, write, proofread, design and market. In fact, the tasks are virtually endless. If someone is lacking in organizational skills and willpower, they can easily turn a ten-minute marketing session on Twitter into a full day experience. Considering all of this, when a good opportunity comes along which makes the entire job easier, you should jump on it like a duck takes to water! Writing contests and conferences are experiences which can absolutely help new and experienced writers alike in a variety of ways. Why bother with writing contests and conferences? Let me count the ways!
The truth of the matter is I did spend a lot of time researching writing contests and conferences. All the information did not magically appear on one neat little page. In fact, I actually decided to spend a good portion of the day researching writing contests and conferences as a result of watching Carol Tice on a YouTube interview. In the conversation she mentioned that a great place for beginning freelance writers to start would be to check out writing contests and places to network in person with other writers and editors. So, despite being unquestionably anxious to actually just write, I delved into the land of writing contests and conferences instead.
As I researched the subject, I once again found there to be no shortage of information. Google may be our friend, but it also brings back a vast amount of information which is often conflicting and difficult to filter. Nevertheless, as I began to sift through the overwhelming reams of information, I soon narrowed it down to a more manageable collection. I essentially wanted to have two questions which were preying on my mind answered:
- Why bother with writing contests and conferences at all?
- Which contests should I enter and what conferences would be the best to attend?
I must admit, even though writing contests and conferences were suggested by some very reputable people, I still had my doubts. By their very nature contests are difficult to win. Could spending considerable time entering contests and creating written submissions actually be worth it? Despite the obvious time investment, I discovered that they actually are quite valuable. As Suzannah Windsor Freeman points out in her article, The Pros and Cons of Entering Writing Contests, the advantages clearly outweigh the negatives. Not only is there a potential to earn money with contests, but they are a great way to build a portfolio, meet influential people in the industry, and push oneself to meet pressing deadlines. There is no room for procrastination if you are planning on entering writing contests. In truth, as long as no entry fees exist, there is little to lose by entering writing contests and a considerable amount to gain.
As for writing conferences, meeting and networking with other writers, editors and influencers in person has clear benefits. People will always remember personal contacts and prefer to put a face to a name. With a natural introvert like myself, this is a huge learning curve but as the saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained!
In regards to actually finding decent writing contests and conferences, a little more work and filtering was required. The following are the best sources of information I was able to obtain (bear in mind however that I am Canadian and as such am particularly interested in those which are somewhat local).
- The Writer’s Market 2017
- The Write Life, 30 Fantastic Writer’s Conferences for Authors, Bloggers and Freelancers
- Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs
- Thebpc.ca, Writing Conferences
- Canadian Authors, Contest Page
- Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions
See the following Youtube video for some more excellent choices for the best writing contests:
By the end of the day, I signed up for 3 writing contests and have already begun working on my submissions. I am also planning on attending the Ontario Writers’ conference later this year and must admit I am quite excited about the opportunity. Whatever your experience level, attending writing conferences or entering writing contests can be an invaluable source of experience while at the same time allowing you to make significant networking connections. This is something all newbies and veterans alike should not pass up. Why bother with writing contests and conferences? There is simply too much to lose and too much to gain to pass up on the opportunity.