Monday, June 23, 2014


A special writer mentoring event.
Australian writers and Wombat
publisher, Rochelle Manners.  
It’s that time of year again when several major writers’ conferences are offering great times of fellowship to writers. In many countries there are different half day or one day events as well as full weekend conferences for writers. Although perhaps some conferences and events are more popular than others, obviously the ones that continue faithfully each year and build up a good reputation are well supported.

Any new writers reading this post? Any beginner writers wondering if they should really spend their time and money attending at least one get together of writers a year? Whether you are considering an event relatively close to where you live, or even an Aussie like me who would have to brave that exhausting twenty plus hour flight across that Big Pond to America again, that question applies to us all.

I was living in rural New South Wales when I first started writing. This was in those years well before there were even computers, and certainly no internet. Except comments from tutors through a correspondence writers’ course, for years I had no contact at all with other writers. Having had so much time writing in isolation, and now being a member of perhaps too many writer groups, I do know about the benefits as well as any reasons not to attend writer workshops or weekend conferences.

Don’t mistake me for a moment. I absolutely love writers conferences.
Since 1991 I’ve attended as many as possible and learnt so much about how to try and improve my writing. They keep us informed about the changing world of publishers’ requirements and promotion needs. I’ve met so many lovely, established authors who so generously share their expertise and experiences.

At a Queensland Christian Writers Conference
CALEB finalists
Be warned. Conferences can almost become an addiction so I’d like to share a few things to consider.

Does the overall programme seem to meet your needs as a writer?

Who are the speakers and presenters of workshops? Are they experienced writers, even published themselves in the kind of book you want to write? Will professionals in the industry like agents, editors, publishers be there to meet and hear from?

2009 in Denver with Loree Lough
For example, romance writers need to hear from experienced, published writers in that genre. However, there are many sub-genres so if the conference only deals with specific ones like fantasy, historical, inspirational etc, etc that you do not want to write, should you choose to go? Ones that try to cover also many general aspects of novel writing as well as the expectations of your genre readers have real value for beginners. Anyone targeting the romance genre should seriously consider attending events organised by organisations like RWA. Of course for Christian writers, whether targeting the Christian market or general market, our own ACFW kind of conference is excellent value for all fiction writers.

Remember that as well as “How to” information, even best-selling, multi-published writers at times simply need encouragement, be challenged by inspirational talks from writers and other professionals in the publishing industry. Or there may be times like I do when you just love to meet old friends again, need face to face “writer talk” over and above contact only on the internet.

So, you’ve found a great conference or event you know could help you. However, does the full cost of travel, accommodation etc and fees risk being too much of a financial burden for the perceived value?

This has to be the best use of your time and money available. Many years ago at one of the first great two day Romance Writers of Australia, I will never forget the words I overheard from an excited, very enthusiastic young woman. It went something like this: “I was absolutely determined to come this year,” she told some other writers. “My husband really didn’t want me to, said he was too busy to mind the kids and we couldn’t afford it. I told him I was going no matter what he said. And here I am!”

I’d had my first books published and she was a complete stranger, but I was very disturbed and my heart feared for that mother and wife. I uttered one of those quick prayers, asking that if the Lord wanted me to speak to her to give me an opportunity to do so privately. A few minutes later, we were the only two left in that bathroom so I warned her she must always put her own romance first before anything else. Nothing was worth more than her husband and family. The poor dear did gape at this bold, older woman and walked away but the next day sought me out, said she realised how foolish she had been and actually thanked me for caring enough to warn her. I never did know her name but have often wondered if at the right time for her she has become published.

The most important consideration:
As a Christian, are you sure this is where God wants you to go? Is this the right time for you to go?

If you are sure this is one of God’s appointed times then be prepared for an out-pouring of HIS blessings on you. As well as learning more about this crazy writing business, He will have other writers and professionals there HE wants you to meet. It may not necessarily be to advance your writing career but simply to share with other writers, enjoy Christian fellowship with like-minded folk and make friends that you can mutually share with down over the years. This has been my greatest delight and blessing.

One final word!
A few minutes ago just as I was about to copy and paste this to Blogger, I saw that Allen Arnold had a post on Novel Rocket blog.

ACFW 2009 with Karen Ball,
Allen Arnold and Debbie Macomber
I was so privileged to meet him at the ACFW conference in 2009 when he was a senior editor at Thomas Nelson. His sessions with Karen Ball were wonderful blessings. Although this is already a long post, I have taken the liberty of copying one of his paragraphs that is essential when considering attending conferences.

He wrote:
We get so busy doing that we can forget how to be still and approach our art as holy ground. Maybe that’s why some Christian speakers, books, and conferences end up focusing almost all of their time teaching writers about craft and how to get published – and so little time on how to actually create with God.

This is just a taste! Do read his whole, excellent blog, STAY WITH GOD at 

Would love to have comments about why you go to writer events - whether small or large ones.

A Queensland farmer’s daughter, then a registered nurse, the wife of a minister, mother of three children and now a grandmother, Mary Hawkins has always made time to read, write and go to writer events! After enjoying years of planting churches, three short term mission trips to Africa and two years ministering in England with her husband, Raymond, also a published author, they now live in Tasmania, Australia. Mary is a best-selling, international author and delighted her Barbour Heartsong Presents inspirational romance books are now released again as e-books. She also enjoys speaking and presenting workshops at writer events to try and help other writers not make all the mistakes she has over the years. 

She is on Facebook, irregularly on Goodreads, and has a website which does need updating when she can somehow crowd it into her busy days.


  1. Thank you Mary for that caring, down-to-earth advice. Yes, there are so many things we need to weigh up about attending a conference. I have no doubt if we ask the Lord about the right time, He will open the doors. I speak as an Aussie, because attending opportunities like this overseas is a big expense for us Down Under.

    I also like your advice about studying the workshops. If they don't cover your need then it's wise to wait for the next one. And I'm waiting for an open door, right now.

  2. We are now so fortunate in Australia these last few years to be able to attend conferences like the CALEB ones in Queensland and now also the one organised this coming October in Victoria. These all try to cater for many different kinds of fiction writing but also for non-fiction too. And I should have included the details for this event here also. I am presenting a workshop there. Registrations are now open.

  3. All really sensible advice, Mary--thank you. Various seminars and workshops run by the NSW Writers' Centre helped me in my early days of writing and the Christian writers' conferences here in Australia have also been great times of encouragement and learning. I agree we do have to be wise, however, re the timing and the cost of the conferences we choose to go to.

    Also loved the Allen Arnold quote and his whole blog, in fact. I think I will quote him in the current non-fiction book I am writing!

    1. God always provided for my needs too over the years in many and varied ways through writer get togethers, but living out of the larger city areas was always a big disadvantage to try and make time to attend events there where most were held..

  4. Mary, great post! Thanks for sharing your wise and honest thoughts.

    Before I was contracted and receiving advance money, I had a budget of one conference/event per year. The financial aspect can't be ignored. We can't attend every writing conference and event for both time and financial reasons. Sometimes the decision making process can be difficult, and we could accidentally offend people with our choices.

    I'm blessed to have a husband who has always supported my writing career, but I know that's not always the case.

    1. There are many reasons each year why some can't attend events and conferences. I've been so thankful for those over the years I have had the green light from the Lord to go to. Always had some special reason for me to be there I had not anticipated.

  5. Hi Mary,
    I think the story about that young wife and mother is well worth taking to heart. I've found that family commitments and budgets don't allow me to go to all of them, and have never made it overseas. Maybe one day though.

    1. If anyone had told me during those 13 years of 13 rejections on my first novel that one day it would be possible for me to attend conferences overseas I would have thought they were crazy. Always, these blessings should only come into our lives when God knows we need them and says 'the time is right' and provides. We all have those "no" times, Paula - and though not easy sometimes, we must obey them!