University Can't Teach
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The Lessons a University Can’t Teach

I hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

You might wonder what that has to do with writing. Well, not much. All I can say is that the 20 years I spent in nursing gave me plenty of fodder for stories.

That’s why when I started my writing career I felt intimidated. I expected my writing mentor, Kathryn Fanning, to suggest that I go back to college. After all, she had a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees related to writing.

Instead, she told all of her writing students that we not only had to attend writer’s conferences, we had to make that a lifelong habit.


I told her that I’d expected her to tell me to go back to college. She shrugged. “You can if you want to,” she said. “Even if you do, you’ll still need to attend writer’s conferences for the rest of your career.”

I might have looked like a cow staring at a new gate.

“Look,” she said, “I have three degrees under my belt. I learned a lot with each of them and loved the experience. If you want to go back to college, by all means do it. Colleges and universities are equipped to teach you craft, and they do it well.

“Let me explain what they don’t teach. They don’t teach you how to sell. They don’t teach you what editors and agents are looking for now. They don’t teach you how to negotiate a contract. They don’t teach you about sliding scale royalties. In other words, they don’t teach the business of writing.

“Writing conferences are where you learn all that. It’s where you’ll meet editors, agents and authors. They’ll teach you how to pitch your idea. They’ll teach you what is hot on the market and what is not. They’ll teach you the legal aspects of the business, and they’ll teach craft.”

She was right.

Even if you have multiple degrees in English or creative writing, to succeed you have to recognize that it’s a business. You have to learn to operate your career as a business. Writer’s conferences are designed to teach you how to do that.

Kathryn Fanning told me the truth when I started my writing career. It’s not just a creative process. It’s my business. It’s been 33 years, and I still need writer’s conferences to keep me abreast of changes in the industry.

While attending one writer’s conference, I met an editor at Howard Publishing. We visited, and I gave her my card. Imagine my surprise a week later when she called.

“How would you like to write the next book in our series?”

I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

Just before Howard Publishing was bought by Simon and Schuster, they contracted to write a biography for a high profile figure. That’s how I got one of my highest paying books with Simon and Schuster.

All because I met an  editor at a writer’s conference.

If you’re serious about writing, you also need writer’s conferences. I urge you to look at the fabulous lineup of speakers we have this year at WriterCon. Join us at the gorgeous Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City September 3-5, with an optional day of master classes.

Ready to register? Click here.

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