Blogging/Social Media

The Digital Age of The Writer: Review of WANACon


'Speaking', courtesy chiarapassa, Creative Commons

‘Speaking’, courtesy chiarapassa, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Last weekend I attended the first all-digital writing conference WANACon, produced by Kristen Lamb and her WANA International group. If you’re not familiar with WANA, it stands for We Are Not Alone, and refers to an attitude of service and support among writers while making career choices for success. Check out either of Kristen’s books We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide To Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer for more insight into the WANA way.

I wanted to give a review of this conference, as it was history-making event. If you want a technical overview with screen shots, check out Kristen’s post:

All You Ever Wanted To Know About The Writing Conference of the Future – WANACon

screen-shot-2013-02-05-at-11-43-46-am

It started with a simple click to PayPal to pay and register. Then I was notified by email of the passwords needed to ‘enter’ the conference. Another click on the link, enter the password, and there I was, socializing with my fellow conference attendees in the ‘lobby’ while still at home relaxing in my sweats. We got to know one another through a group IM chat. Attendees came from all parts of the U.S. and the world. How often does this Okie girl get to hang out with people in Australia and Saudi Arabia? That was kind of cool.

The conference started on a Thursday evening and ran each day through Sunday. At the scheduled times, we ‘entered’ the virtual classrooms. There were two classrooms: one for classes and one for agent pitches. Yes, just like at live writing conferences, you could sign up to pitch to an agent. You had the ability to IM chat, ask questions with audio, or show everyone your lovely face with video.

During a workshop if you had a question, a click of a button let you ‘raise your hand’. After a class ended, we herded back out into the ‘lobby’ to schmooze until the next one. The classes covered all the information you’d expect to find at a writing conference: writing craft, publishing trends, social media platforms, e-books.

Just like a live writing conference, I soaked in information until it oozed out of my brain. The top epiphanies swirling around in my head right now:

“What is your business model?” (Yes, authors, you are a business.)

“Sell the hook, not the book.”

“Always be a professional.”

“Define your dreams.”

“Agents ARE looking at your social media platform.”

“Invest in cover art: we do judge a book by its cover.”

“What do you want social media to do for you? Figure it out, then you can make it happen.”

“A villain is the hero of his own journey.”

“Do the research. If you don’t, others will and slam you for it.”

“What’s my word cloud?”

Lest you think it was all business and no fun, hilarity abounded in the comments, and Sunday was ‘Pajama Day’ and those brave enough showed up on their video cameras or snapped a photo and entered the ‘PajamaCon’ contest. I learned a lot, made some friends, and felt I got my money’s worth. All from the comfort of my own house. Being able to attend from my own home is a special help to me right now, as I continue to go through physical therapy, and travel is not good for my condition at all.

To sum up, here are my pros and cons for a digital writing conference:

Pros:

  • Save on travel costs
  • Schedule availability
  • Can continue with everyday life (I didn’t have to get a cat sitter)
  • Advantage for those with physical disabilities or other special health needs
  • Save money on restaurants, bars, cabs, and the like
  • No rubber chicken dinners (unless you cook rubber chickens like I do)
  • No box lunches
  • Pajamas!
  • Won’t mess up your diet (unless you want to)
  • Easier to engage in in-depth conversations with others that can be hard for introverts to initiate
  • Already on your computer so you can follow along and put into practice what you learn about social media
  • Can take important calls or emails if you need to
  • No worries about long bathroom lines
  • Pajamas!
  • No need to cancel attendance for weather reasons
  • Don’t have to sit in airports
  • No DUIs (Friendly PSA: NEVER Drink and Drive)
  • If you miss a session, there’s a recording for that
  • Pajamas!

Cons:

  • Occassional audio issues, but nothing that wasn’t quickly fixed by TechGuy extraordinaire Jay
  • Conversations in the IM chat box during a presentation can be distracting if you’re easily distracted (like me) – all those conversations wouldn’t be happening in a live event without lots of stink eyes being thrown around – but an easy fix of closing the chat box can help you regain focus
  • If presenters are a little less tech-savvy, they can miss questions from the audience, but a good moderator makes it all seamless. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Jami Gold. You rocked it!)

WANA International will be offering more online conferences in the future. Will online conferences take the place of the traditional writing conference? I don’t think so, and we should continue to support them. With information in the publishing business changing as fast as you can say Jeff Bezos, online conferences may be a good way to supplement in person conferences to keep abreast of what’s happening.

I’ll be attending an in-person writing conference in Oklahoma this year, but I’ll be looking forward to the next WANACon as well.

Find out what other participants thought of WANACon:

My sincere thanks to all involved with WANACon. It was great. I’ll be back.

Do you like writing conferences? What are your pro/con list for an in-person writing conference? Would you consider attending an online writing conference?

22 replies »

  1. Great post! *Love* your summary of the pros and cons of a digital conference. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve updated the WANACon blog Storify with a link to this post. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Hi Kristin, great summary and thanks for the kind words! I’m so happy you enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    For the next one, I’ll make it easy for people to be logged into the lobby and the classroom simultaneously to lessen the non-relevant chat and will have instructions for how to have private conversations within the lobby software.

    -Jay
    @jaytechdad

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  3. I looove this idea of the online conference but sadly I didn’t find out about this one until after it was done and dusted. Is it something that is recorded for later – in case something comes up and you are unable to attend? With two young children and a part time job I find it hard to schedule time to be in front of my computer (this makes writing difficult). I am often sitting down for short bursts at strange times of the day.
    I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for the next one!

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    • For those who registered, they sent out recordings of all the sessions, so if you might have to miss one, you can still hear the teaching, just minus your live interaction. I think that’s a great deal. Hope to ‘see’ you at the next one! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. I read this with huge interest and thank you for sharing. You mentioned presenters being “a little less tech-savy.” What if potential conference attendees (like me) are not tech-savy? I didn’t even know what some of the terms you used mean. What is IM, for example? And, what if your available Internet connection is not high speed? When I listen (no pictures possible) to online talks, there are often blank spaces (dead air) when the connection is — do they call it “buffering?” Anyway, catching up. In that case I miss some of whatever the presentation is. I have always assumed a conference like this was off limits for me.

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    • Radine,I can only speak about WANACon, but they had assistants available at all times to help anyone who needed it. You could ask at registration if your internet speed will affect your reception. ‘IM’ stands for instant message, which is chatting by typing the words into a text box on the computer live between two or more people. You might have used it on Facebook, and it was the main way the attendees communicated at the conference.

      Interesting thing about the technology that WANACon used, it was originally designed for homeschooling students, so it was designed to be simple. I found it fairly easy to adapt to, but when I had a small problem wonderful TechGuy Jay was right there to help me. I would encourage you to consider the possibility. Great questions! Thanks so much for stopping by and contributing to the conversation. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Hi Radine!
      We had a couple options for people with slower Internet links. First, almost all the sessions were recorded so you could listen (watch) later at your and your network connection’s leisure. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Second, we had phone-in numbers so you’d hear fewer audio glitches due to buffering or other internet issues.

      -Jay
      @jaytechdad

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  5. I liked the concept when I read a previous post by you describing it, but being (much) less than tech-savvy it sounded a little daunting. Thanks for breaking down the process – it sounds doable!

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    • Hi Shel!

      One of Kristen’s brilliant ideas was for us to have a “Meet & Greet” event the night before – I’m totally stealing the idea for other events we host. It gave people a chance to meet some of the presenters and other attendees and us the chance to help everyone get comfy with the tech. So long as you have high-speed Internet and a fairly modern computer, you’d have been fine. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      -Jay
      @jaytechdad

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  6. As others have said, great write up Kristin and thank you for taking the time to do that. I am on the fence about sidebar chats during a presentation. Often they can really add value (and links and back story) yet of course can also be distracting – and – disrespectful to the speaker too.

    They actually do happen IRL though, if the speaker or conference is using hashtags and there are people using Twitter during the event. In many ways it is hardest on the speaker who is not privy to the conversation, for better or for worse. Again, it can go both ways!

    Living in Hawaii, a virtual conference of this type is very appealing to me!

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