Conversations & Connections: Practical Advice on Getting Published - Register Now!

by Susan Muaddi Darraj

In 2007, I attended a writer's conference and was manning the Baltimore Review table, meeting new and established writers and sharing information about our journal and the type of work we accepted. However, I remember distinctly feeling that the panels offered at the conference were not especially related to the types of questions people asked me: "What kind of work are you looking for?" or "What's the best way to approach a journal?" or "What are the latest trends in poetry that journal editors are interested in?" These were specific, practical questions, and the academic nature of the panels seemed disconnected from what people wanted to know.

Beside me was seated Dave Housley, one of the editors of a (then) new journal, Barrelhouse. We started chatting and soon our conversation turned to this topic.

"You know what?" one of us said (I seriously cannot remember which of us it was). "If I were organizing a conference, I would make it affordable. And I would be sure people got something for their money."

And so the idea formed, like a story idea, really: It had setting (the Writers' Center in Bethesda), conflict (how to make sure people left with something concrete), and characters (a host of literary editors, with whom attendees could speak directly).

We settled the "conflict" brilliantly, I thought: We decided that attendees should get to know the major literary journals and presses in the region. So a conference fee, which was modest to begin with, meant that people got to select a one-year subscription to a regional journal of their choice. Pretty cool, right?

It got better. We also decided that attendees should know the great writers in the region too. Therefore, we featured four local writers, and attendees got to meet them, chat with them, and take home a free copy of one of their books.

As a way of getting them to know the editors in their region, we had a final stroke of brilliance: Why not set up brief meetings between writers and editors? Like in a speed dating format? And so Speed Editing was born, a staple of our conference in which writers present two pages of writing and get to sit with an editor in their genre for ten minutes. They chat about the writing life, maybe how to improve the piece, what the editor looks for, etc. Not only do the writers love Speed Editing, but many editors have been happy too: Over the past few years, many have accepted work right on the spot.

Finally, like a story, our conference was given a title, generated at the 11th hour with the third member of our triumvirate, Julie Wakemann-Linn of The Potomac Review: Conversations & Connections: Practical Advice on Getting Published.

The first year, the line of people trying to register on-site snaked out of the front door of the Writer's Center, while we hurriedly stuffed more and more folders and conference packets. Our keynote speaker was Fiona McCrae, editor of Graywolf Press.

The second year, we had a more organized set-up: The Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing program and its director, David Everett, sponsored us and set us up in a snazzy location, the Hopkins campus on Massachusetts Avenue in DC, right off DuPont Circle. Our keynote was Mary Gaitskill, who blew us all away with her personal story of trying for years to not only break into print but to believe in her ability and vision as a writer.

Speakers in the years since have included Steve Almond, who encouraged writers, in his humorous style, to ignore their own "little opera of self-doubt" and take a chance on their talent.

This year, our speaker is Sam Lipsyte. You'll love him, we promise. And you'll love our conference: We're proud to say that we have kept the price affordable, the location is still great, and you will still leave with a subscription, a book, and a Speed Editing session -- and also a re-invigorated determination to finish that manuscript.

Best of all, once you're finished, you'll know what to do next.

This conference sells out every year since our first - so register NOW! www.writersconnectconference.com