Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

September 30, 2012

The secret of writers’ conferences

Mineral Wells Index

By Gerald Warfield | Special to the Index

If you’ve written a story or a few poems or have a novel sitting in a drawer, you might want to consider going to a writers’ conference. They can provide inspiration, motivation, and lots of information. And don’t overlook camaraderie. Writing is a solitary process. Sometimes authors collaborate, but for the most part, writing is a long and lonely process.

The first thing to know about writers conferences is that there are different kinds, usually geared for a specific area or genre. There are conferences for romance writers such as The Lone Star Writer’s Conference, coming up Oct. 13 and sponsored by the Northwest Houston Romance Writers Association, and there’s a Fort Worth conference for Christian writers held in June at the Bethesda Community Church.

A writers’ conference that’s close to home and only one day long is Books ‘n Authors ‘n All That Jazz, held at Weatherford College. There’s entertainment, award presentations for poetry and short stories, seminars on writing and publishing, and a lot of vendors representing small presses and writers’ services.

I recently went to the annual FenCon convention held in Dallas. Its focus is speculative fiction, which is fantasy, science fiction and horror. The astronaut Stanley Love was on hand to talk to science fiction fans and writers. If you write about outer space, he said, you better get the facts right. Love demonstrated what would be involved in a manned space flight to Mars.  The 32-month mission would require a ship the size of the International Space Station to accommodate a crew of six. Six is the optimal number decided on by psychologists for a long trip in close quarters.

I asked him if there was any thought of using the current space station to go to Mars, and he said that they joked about that at NASA, but for now the station isn’t designed for such a flight. The solar panels, for instance, could not provide sufficient power at the increased distance from the sun.   

The conference, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, lasted for two-and-a-half days. Some people who came were fans, and for them there was everything from entertainment, rare movies, games, costumes to activities for kids. People stalked the halls in costumes, some quite elaborate.

There were panels like “Playing God with Controversial Science,” “Plans for Near-Asteroid Mining,” and even sessions on makeup, fairy tales and the future of comics.

I chaired a panel entitled “Alien Languages in Science Fiction and Fantasy.” One of our panelists was the renowned writer C.J. Cherryh, author of “The Cuckoo’s Egg” and 60(!) other books. If you like science fiction or fantasy, drop by the Book Satchel to see some of her books.

Writers say they come to conferences like FenCon to learn the ins and outs of writing and to network. But psychologists tell us that the most compelling reason people go to conferences is the desire to belong, to be one of the group. That’s the secret of writers’ conferences, and it rings true for me. So, if you want to be a writer, give a conference a try.

Gerald Warfield is an award-winning writer of fantasy and science fiction. See his website at www.geraldwarfield.com.