I'm not counting on finding a great writer at the conference this week.
Don't get me wrong. I hope to find a great writer. And it won't surprise me if I do. It's happened at each of the conferences I've attended since joining the Hartline team. And that's generally been my experience since I began attending Christian writers conferences back in the late 1980s.
But finding writers is not my main reason to attend.
I'm going primarily because of the people—the unique opportunity at a writers conference to meet not only writers, but writing professionals: veteran writers, acquisitions editors, and agents. These are the people who've taught me much of what I know about writing and publishing.
And after more than thirty years in the publishing world, I still have a lot to learn.
At least I have an excuse: I'm aiming at an amazingly diverse, constantly changing target. And that change is coming faster than ever. If I hope to stay on track, I need all the information and advice I can get. So anytime conferees aren't trying to learn from me, I'll be trying to learn things from the other faculty members—and also from the conferees.
You never know when the person you meet at a conference will just happen to have information you really need. Like the two writers waiting in the lunch line, talking about their works in progress. One was saying she had a problem with her suspense novel, and she really needed a source in the FBI she could ask about a procedure. It turned out she was talking to the wife of an FBI agent.
I remember at my first conference meeting Les Stobbe, who was then with Here's Life Publishers. That was twenty-five years ago. Through various career moves we're still friends, and we continue to keep in touch about what's happening in the world of publishing.
In some ways, it's a small world. If you check the faculty roster of conferences held throughout the year, you'll see many of the same names. So for me, each conference presents an opportunity to renew old friendships, and cultivate new ones.
And if the rapport I develop with an acquisitions editor just happens to pave the way for my clients' proposals, I'm sure those clients won't begrudge me the time. Even if it's a future client I'll be meeting for the first time at that conference