Reflections on WriteOnCon, A Jam-Packed Online Conference for Kidlit Writers
Several years ago, I heard about an online writing conference specifically geared toward kidlit authors called WriteOnCon. Every year since then, I've eagerly signed up for the conference and counted down the days until mid-February to attend the live workshops, panels, and Q&As, as well as soak in the wisdom from the various blogs, podcasts, and vlogs the conference sets up.
For those who haven't heard of it, WriteOnCon is a three-day conference that starts at 9 a.m. on Friday and goes until around 10 p.m. on Sunday. Every hour there are multiple events, including a live discussion of some sort as well as posts that become accessible on the hour or half-hour.
There is...so much content to parse through. This is the first year that I've actually come anywhere close to being able to "attend" (thanks to my graveyard shift schedule the other years), and even with the whole weekend off and a few weeks since to go through the materials, I still wasn't able to go through everything (yet).
Fortunately, the conference leaves all the material online for a full week after it ends; and for people who pay a bit more, access is available for a month after the conference ends.
Thanks to this, I've been able to take my time to read and watch several sessions, and I have some thoughts I'd love to share about the experience.
The first thought is simple: WriteOnCon is overwhelming. It's an incredible concept, the idea of a fully-online kidlit conference (back before fully-online conferences were the norm as they are now); it brings in authors, agents, and other publishing professionals to share their wisdom with conference-goers, and it can do so on a super broad scale because no one even needs to leave their home, much less book a flight and a hotel room and prepare for an in-person appearance.
At the same time, the sheer number of events available, and the limited time frame in which they become accessible and remain available, makes for a somewhat formidable undertaking if you want to soak in all that great content. So I do have a piece of advice for anyone who wants to attend next year's conference: scope out the schedule beforehand, settle on a few events, and don't try to do it all at once.
I started at a deficit, having to work all day the Friday of WriteOnCon, so when I logged onto the site at 8 p.m. I already had a few dozen options to check out.
I'm really happy I ultimately started with Get Inspired By Your Favorite Published Books, a talk given by Katya de Becerra which was chock-full of interesting information about finding inspiration in existing works.
One key piece of advice Becerra gave was to read voraciously, something that sounds simple (isn't it the most common piece of advice given to aspiring authors?) but in her hands turned into an admonition to read voraciously within and without your desired genre. To read books like the ones you want to write and books entirely other, ones you may never have dreamed of reading on your own.
I also loved that she shared a snipped of an essay about fog in Venice and encouraged participants to look to the quote and try to think of their own new spin on fog. I have yet to sit down with my laptop and fulfill the prompt, but it's high on my list of priorities.
At the end of the session, and every live session I attended, there was time for questions, which was super helpful.
The next live session I attended was a panel on rom-coms which was comprised of three rom-com authors at varying stages of their careers: Gabriela Martins, Sophie Gonzales, and Hannah Reynolds. That was such a fun one to observe because I loved the interactions between the authors on the panel and they made some great points. I have yet to successfully write a rom-com of my own (I keep making the characters not end up together, which is kind of against the grain for what a good romance should be...) but when I finally do sit down to write one, I'll be better able to do so because I have these authors' suggestions in mind.
In addition to the live panels and vlogs, the conference also hosts podcasts, often in the form of interviews with authors, and blog posts. Those are super great to read and listen to, and I'm definitely planning on delving further into the conference's content over the next few weeks.
I haven't had a chance to attend every session I wanted to yet, because, again: so much content! But I'm confident that what I find will be illuminating and helpful, and I'm excited to get there.
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