Ann Marie Stewart

February 12, 2016

Your Writers Conference: A Reason to Go instead of Say No (a guest blog from Ann Stewart)

by Ann Marie Stewart

ConferenceFor years I balked at the idea of going to a writers conference. I had a lot of really great excuses: It’s not a good time. Kids are too little. It’s too far away. Our family can’t afford it right now. But when my youngest daughter was heading off to Kindergarten, I knew I needed to head off to a writers conference. Looking at location, staffing, and courses, I selected Write-to-Publish in Chicago. Now would my little adventure pay off?

Of all the writers conference perks, making friends turned out to be the most valuable. I proposed a study to AMG’s Rick Steele and Dan Penwell. I met a wonderful editor named Nick Harrison, who read my short story and was positive and encouraging. And I also met this witty, sarcastic fellow named Chip MacGregor who enjoyed the first page of my short story enough to say, “I’m not an agent right now but if I were, I’d be interested in this piece.” (At the time he was a publisher with Time Warner.)

After the conference, I immediately signed a book contract with AMG for Preparing My Heart for Advent which led to additional Preparing My Heart books. Later I developed the short story into a novel. When I thought the novel was almost ready (note: almost is not good enough), I went back to now-agent Chip MacGregor who was interested—almost, but not quite enough. So I spent more time revising, editing, and polishing. I then contacted editor Nick Harrison, who, though it wasn’t a fit for Harvest House, read the full manuscript and asked if he could bring it to the attention of a great agent. Trouble was, the agent was Chip MacGregor who had already seen the piece at almost ready. Thankfully, through Nick’s recommendation, Chip gave it another read and Chip and I talked about the novel at Blue Ridge Writers Conference. Chip provided direction for the novel as well as another book, later became my agent, and within a year, had three houses interested in Stars in the Grass which will be published this November 2016.

These two conferences provided the needed direction and contacts for many projects and years of work. The price of not attending a writers conference would have been costly. And besides, the price tag of the first writers conference was recouped in my advance. Don’t let excuses hold you back; 2016 may be your year for a writers conference. Here are some lists to get you started:

 A list of conferences at New Pages

A list of conferences from Shaw Guides

A list of conferences from Writers Digest

A list of Christian writing conferences

A list of conferences from Poets & Writers

A list of conferences from good buddy Chuck Sambuchino


Ann Marie Stewart is the originator of AMG’s “Preparing My Heart” series, columnist for The Country Register and Mentoring Moments, and author of Stars in the Grass (Barbour Publishing, November 2016). When Ann’s not writing, she’s waving her arms conducting musicals, and hanging out with her husband, raising two lovely daughters and a whole flock of fuzzy sheep on Skye Moor Farm, in Virginia.

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