In 2020, for the first time in 15 years, the Northern Colorado Writers Conference staff had to cancel their two-day event because of the coronavirus pandemic. Director Amy Rivers wants to make sure that never happens again.
“We’re going to offer a hybrid conference, in person and virtual, for 2021,” she says. “We have our in-person location in Fort Collins booked. If things get to the point where we’re not allowed to have a large gathering in our state, we’ll have a robust virtual conference along with interactive networking opportunities for people who can’t or don’t want to attend in person.”
The conference has, in the past, been a small, intimate event that caters to both emerging and established writers, and provides numerous opportunities for personal interaction with other attendees. That said, Rivers is excited about launching a hybrid model in 2021. “We’ll be able to provide that in-person support that people are looking for, but we’ll also be able to extend our events to populations within and outside our state that we haven’t historically been able to reach,” she explains.
What you’ll learn
Tracks include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting. Participants can also take workshops on marketing, productivity, and the publishing industry. Past masterclasses include instruction on how to fulfill one’s creative dreams while staying mindful of the business of being an author, how to self-edit one’s work and work with critique groups and beta readers, and how to build a writing career.
Participants can pitch their work to a variety of agents and editors. They can also attend an agent/editor panel luncheon to learn more about what individuals are looking for when they evaluate submissions. “It’s not just going to be informational,” Rivers says. “People will be invited to bring their laptops and get some really good writing done, not based on random prompts but on taking a look at a work in progress with an eye for applying what they’ve learned to improve the manuscript.”
Over the past 14 years, conference presenters have included authors Chuck Wendig, Laura Resau, Steven Dunn, Cynthia Swanson, and Laura Pritchett, among others. Several bestselling regional authors will present in 2021, including Grant Blackwood, author of the Briggs Tanner international spy thriller series.
Steven James is the author of the Bowers Files psychological thriller series as well as the book Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules. He’ll teach a workshop that shows writers how to move away from formulaic writing and embrace the emotional heart of one’s story.
Other presenters will be announced closer to the event date. “We’re reaching out to New York Times bestselling authors in our region as well as to people across the country to teach at the conference,” Rivers says. “Our mission is to be as inclusive as possible, and we’ll have numerous voices represented in 2021.”
Advice for first-time attendees
All attendees should bring business cards and, if working on a book, a pitch that’s whittled down to a couple of pithy sentences to deliver when fellow conference-goers ask, “What is your book about?”
Rivers believes that attendees will enjoy the conference much more if they take the time to research the various workshops and panels and presenters before the event itself. “Learn as much as you can from the conference organizers about what’s happening each day,” she suggests. “We all like to say that as writers, we’re introverts, but knowing ahead of time what to expect each day allows you to be as engaged and interactive as possible.”
Once attendees register, they’re able to join a private conference page on Facebook, where they can meet fellow attendees and ask questions well ahead of the event. Participants can also sign up to volunteer – a good way to meet other writers and interact with presenters.
Participants can attend a class for first-time attendees on the first morning of the conference. “They get a feel for how to reach out to other writers and to presenters, and how to approach agents and editors without any major faux pas,” Rivers says. “We tell people what not to do; for instance, do not pass your manuscript to an agent under the bathroom stall door,” she quips.
Staff offer scholarships to those who might otherwise not be able to attend. “We want to make sure people can come,” Rivers says. “Especially when you’re an aspiring writer in the early stage of your career, it’s phenomenally helpful to be among your peers and to see that you’re not alone in this crazy game.”
Northern Colorado Writers Conference at a glance
Conference: Northern Colorado Writers Conference
Dates: April 29-May 1, 2021
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado, and online
Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the author of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Sasquatch, 2019). Twitter/Instagram @WildMelissaHart