Growing up as a writer in Grand Cayman was a challenge, especially after leaving high school. Other than an English class at college, writing workshops or book fairs didn’t exist in the traditional sense. Published authors were minimal and I couldn’t go knocking on Dick Francis’s door when he moved to the island.
If I wanted to attend a writing workshop or conferences, I had to jump on a plane. With the cost of the ticket, conference and workshop fees, and spending money, one trip would cost me CI$1600 dollars or more. Not easy money to come by.
When I got access to the internet (yes, I’m that old), I signed up for writing workshops and my life was never the same. Some were more expensive than others, but worth every penny since they helped me grow as a writer and connected me with other writers online, many of whom I’m still friends with years later. Those connections lead me to join Facebook Groups and connect with published writers who supplied an endless well of publishing and writing resources. Need a cover artist? Ask the group. Whatever your questions, someone in the group knew the answer. The group convinced me to start a Facebook page, despite being unpublished. I also started a blog, and connected with readers and more writers.
In 2010 I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA), a conference on my radar for a long time. The amount and diversity of writers blew me away. They included newbies like me, twenty year olds with 2-3 books under their belt, making me feel like a slacker, and seasoned published authors. I got to met authors I’d worshiped for years and thankfully didn’t break into tears or fall at their feet saying, “I’m not worthy!”. I found my soulmates in the acceptance and friendliness of fellow writers who understood me and my dreams.
The conference included workshops, meetings with editors from big publishing houses, social events, panels, and a slew of other features. I left with my head ready to explode from information overload, but insanely content, and fired up to get back to writing, knowing publishing my book was real and possible!
In December 2012, Crimson Romance published my first book FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ . This milestone happened because of the online workshops I attended, the conferences that provided me with resources on how to pitch an editor my story, write a query letter and synopsis, and the connections with other writers who shared their knowledge.
Publishing my book enriched my life as much as having my children (something only writers can understand). I wanted writers in Cayman to experience the same accomplishment and joy, so I started the writing group CayWriters in 2013 with a handful of people, all friends and family. Today, the group is filled with a variety of writers from poets, to non-fiction, fantasy, and more, all of whom are making friendships and connections I hope will benefit their career the way it did mine.
I founded the annual Cayman Islands Book Fair because of the number of writers in Cayman and to bring them the same experiences. Without those conferences and workshops, I’d still be scribbling my stories in a journal, praying and hoping they’d be published, with enough rejection letters from publishers to wallpaper my bedroom walls.
Still not convinced? Here are four ways workshops and conferences can change your writing career.
Whether online or in person, attending writing workshops and conferences is a great way to meet like-minded people, share their experiences and realize you’re not alone in your quest to become a published writer. Other writers provide great resources related to publishing: editors, cover artists, etc. so you aren’t burned by a company or person who didn’t deliver what they promised, taking your money with them.
2. Valuable Education
Workshops help with developing writing skills and provide education about technology and the publishing industry itself. Many authors are knowledgeable about writing, but few are well-informed about the process of publishing.
3. Make Connections
People who attend the workshops and conferences aren’t just writers, they’re business people and part of organizations who may be interested in your book’s message, or you might connect with an author with a similar message to cross-market your books with, or collaborate on a new book. The possibilities are endless if you keep an open mind and look for opportunities.
4. Get Fired Up
Being around writers who are excited about writing and publishing their books is a great way to get fired up so you keep going. Writing is lonely and your spouse and friends get sick of hearing about your story for the 100th time or they don’t feel your enthusiasm about writing. Only fellow writers understand the pain, struggle, and triumph of pursuing a writing career or wanting to get your book published.
If you live in the Cayman Islands and are ready to take your writing career to the next level click on the link below.