When we started out on this conference quest in 2007, our reasons were simple. The DFW Metroplex was full of talented writers, but being located far from either coast, those writers didn’t have enough opportunities to mingle in person with the gatekeepers of the publishing industry. Writers’ conferences were few and far between — there were excellent events for romance writers, and there was the renowned Mayborn if you were into creative nonfiction, and then there was Fencon, which attracts a lot of writers but is not, strictly speaking, a writers’ conference.
But there was no large, multi-genre writers’ conference that brought in significant numbers of agents from around the country to meet writers. (I’m sure some readers will quibble with that statement, but key words here: large and multi-genre.)
Writers from this area actually had to drive several hours, either north or south, to a smaller city to attend that kind of conference. That made NO sense. Dallas-Fort Worth was far too large a population center not to have one of its own. So the DFW Writers’ Workshop decided to fix that.
It took a lot of hard work from a lot of people who were generous with their time and energy and courageous in the face of naysayers, but the first DFW Writers’ Conference took place in February 2008. We had four agents and four exhibitors. We had 110 attendees, not counting agents, speakers, or volunteers, and it was a monumental task getting those 110. But the conference went off remarkably smoothly. The highest praise: one of the agents told us it was the most organized writers’ conference she had ever seen.
It’s been incredible watching the conference grow so rapidly from that beginning, thanks to so many talented volunteers and so many dedicated writers who are serious enough about mastering the craft and business of writing to invest in a weekend of learning and networking. We’ve had writers attend from across the country and even from as far away as England and New Zealand.
By 2010, we were up to 10 agents, and we sold out two months early and had to cut off registrations because of the convention center’s capacity limit. In 2011 we moved to a larger facility, and in 2012 we moved to one even more spacious. By then the conference had grown to nearly 350 attendees and 18 literary agents.
We’re bringing the publishing industry from across the country to DFW to meet with you. They want to know what you’re working on. Take advantage of the opportunity, introduce yourself and talk to them. That’s why they’re coming.
It can be very nerve-wracking talking to an agent or editor that first time — OK, the first 10 times. But the more you talk to, the more you realize they are people with a job to do, just like you are. After a while, it becomes a pleasant, relaxed business conversation. But the only way to get to that point is to practice, by doing it over and over again. And now, you’ve got the chance to do that without having to travel hundreds of miles or more.
We look forward to seeing you at this year’s conference!
Stephen Manning is a former president of the DFW Writers’ Workshop. He was the director of the first DFW Writers’ Conference in 2008 and has been part of the conference team ever since. This article was originally published in February 2011 and updated in December 2012.