My fellow blogger and good friend Kathy of Well Placed Words mentioned in her last entry about using what she had learned at Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel workshop. Hers is an excellent example of what you can gain from attending workshops and conferences.
Given that it is possible to attend more than one workshop or conference on any given weekend and that the majority of us do not have the money, time or energy to attend year round (and when would you write?) which one to pick?
A few tips:
1. What would you want to get out of anything you attended? Be as specific as possible. Do you want to meet other authors? Agents? Editors? A community? Or are you searching for new tools to improve your writing? If so, in general or one particular problem, or if you are a genre writer, writing for your genre? Or both?
2. When you've narrowed down what you want, now is the time for research. Finding workshops or conferences is easy. Find ones that suit your specific needs then research those. Visit the web pages, the blogs and the MySpace that many of these events have. Talk to other writers about their experiences with a particular conference or workshop. If a workshop has "texts" that go along with it (Donald Maass has Writing the Breakout Novel for example) read those and see how you respond. Google the conference and read the comments (with a grain of salt, of course).
3. And finally, RELAX. The quality of workshops and conferences, perhaps because of the intense competition, is extremely high. Although I haven't attended tons of these, without fail, every one I've attended has been excellent, useful and fun.
So, what has your experience been? Or have you taken the plunge into the vast writing support pool? If not, what would you like to do? Where would you like to go? And why?