Getting the most out of WOTS

Gebbenby Claire Gebben
Author and 2015 WOTS Presenter

The Write on the Sound (WOTS) 2016 Conference Schedule was announced last week, and as I pore over the terrific list of options to be offered Sept. 30-Oct. 2, I’m tantalized and excited. What a great line-up!

Keynote John Moe, writer and, for five years, the radio-show host of American Public Radio’s Wits will address writing about humor, and the dark side, of our human natures. Friday’s Pre-conference in-depth sessions feature choices on editing and fresh language, the writing craft and the personal essay. Saturday and Sunday feature nine different time slots on everything from writing with emotion to scene plotting to memoir to villains and vixens to publishing platforms and the business of writing. There are sessions for every genre, from nonfiction to science fiction, writing for children and young adults, novels, poetry, and freelancing.

With so much to choose from, how do we get the most out of WOTS? Ten years of attending writer’s conferences has brought me these tried and true pointers:

  1. Don’t try to do it all. It’s a jam-packed conference, but you don’t have to do absolutely everything. Tripping from one session to another without pause can diminish the experience and your ability to recall what you’ve been learning. Factor in a break once in a while. Plan to go for coffee with a writer friend, or take an hour stroll in charming downtown Edmonds.
  2. With nine time slots Saturday and Sunday, ease the pressure a bit by picking just two or three must-do sessions, classes that hit the sweet spot regarding your work. You’ll feel more relaxed if you’re confident you’ve planned properly to make the conference worthwhile.
  3. Choose at least one session about a topic outside your area of expertise. I added this pointer to my list based on a mistake – I went to a short story class at a conference, only it turned out to be a class on how to assemble and submit a short story collection. I picked up all kinds of information in that session. Going outside your comfort zone can bring you some of your best ideas.
  4. Go to the author signings on Saturday evening. There are published authors there willing and able to talk with you. They’re a wealth of resources. Ask them about their publishing experiences, what worked for them, what they didn’t know going in that they wish they’d known. And remember, that will be you one day. Watch how they present themselves, pick up dos and don’ts for future reference. (Plus, the appetizer buffet is truly delectable.)
  5. Talk to other conference attendees. WOTS is one of the friendliest writing conferences I’ve attended, a perfect opportunity to meet and share industry tips and draw support from other writers.
  6. Relax and have fun. Writing can be a lonely profession. This is your chance to get out and meet people, celebrate writing and other writers.

–Claire Gebben


Presenter at WOTS in 2015 on writing family stories, Claire Gebben’s novel The Last of the Blacksmiths (Coffeetown Press, 2014) is based on the true story of her German blacksmith ancestor, who immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio in 1857 to pursue the American dream.

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