Pages Navigation Menu

Author Life: Conferences

“Should I spend time and money on a writers conference?”

This is a question heard over and over, and a common topic for discussion among authors. As a writer, time at a writing conference is time spent NOT writing and away from your family obligations. Should you spend money on ads or travel to a writers’ conference? While it is a personal choice, I wanted to share my experience with one writers group in particular that has opened many doors for me.

The main reason to attend a writers conference is to learn story craft. You’re not the same writer you were last year, and you won’t be the same writer by this time next year. You have to continue to grow and improve your craft. I believe that hanging around other writers is one of the ways you can achieve that.

Conference first-timer Katy, along with Denise McAllister, me, Chris Mullen, Janie Botkin (WWA V.P.), and Rhonda Hammons.
Western Writers of America 2023, Great Falls, South Dakota.

Another good reason (and my favorite) is to network with professionals who work in the bizz. It’s what YOU make of those connections that can propel you and your writing. I make an effort to talk to as many people as I can and I try to sit next to someone I’ve never met before. What are they working on? How do they manage their writing time? Where are they submitting? Do they know of an editor actively looking for original content? All of this information can be gold. If a conference seems to be a waste of time, that’s on you. I am a member of several organizations, and one of the most beneficial to me has proven to be the Western Writers of America. Keep in mind, this is a long-term journey. These kinds of working relationships don’t happen overnight.

WWA has a mentor program. This year I was assigned to Candace Van Dam, first-time con attendee and winner of TWO SPUR awards for her book PROVING HER CLAIM. Candace wrote this book many, many years ago, found the courage to bring it back out and sent it to a contest. It is a very scary feeling to put your heart and soul out into the world. Kudos to Candace!
I love talking to authors about their journeys to publication.

A Tale of Networking

Once upon a time, a long time ago, two men batted around the idea to start a publishing company. One of them is an incredible storyteller and the other a passionate business whiz. Wolfpack Publishing was born, and just recently named by INC Magazine as America’s fastest growing independent publisher. This highly successful venture started with two long-time friends, Mike Bray and Larry Martin, having a conversation at a writer’s conference.

In Lubbock 2015, again at Western Writers of America, I met editor and writer Denise F. McAllister. It was the first conference for both of us and we didn’t know that many people so we stood in the far corner together. I asked her to edit several of my children’s books, which she did. She invited me to speak to her Georgia writing group, which I did. That friendship led to an idea for a book.

Editors are very approachable. Take advantage of their knowledge about the publishing industry and ask them a question. I am with my co-author Denise F. McAllister and Wolfpack editor Paul Bishop. Panel for Western Writers of America in Rapid City, SD.

That next year, Denise and I were in line waiting to get on a bus for a field trip with the Western Writers of America bunch, when an editor with Wolfpack Publishing overheard our conversation. “A Georgia girl inherits a Texas ranch”: Lauren loved the premise and asked to see the manuscript when we were done. That one moment in time resulted in 9 books which has resulted in an Amazon #1 Bestseller,  newsletters, bookmarks, podcasts, blogs, and countless events. The Wild Cow Ranch Series is not the only project I’ve done through connections at WWA. I have since published two cookbooks and numerous articles and blogs.

I participated on a panel about collaboration moderated by Richard Prosch, waving at back.
Front row, Johnny Boggs, Micki Furhman, me, Denise F. McAllister, Paul Bishop.
Western Writers of America 2023, Rapid City, SD

Fast forward to 2023, where Denise and I were asked to participate in a speaker’s panel about collaboration at, you guessed it, another Western Writers of America conference. It was also at this meeting that Wolfpack Publishing celebrated 10 years. Mike Bray has assembled a team of award winning authors and industry professionals, including his son Jake. They continue to make strides in the western genre which benefits writers and readers. While westerns continue to rule their list, Wolfpack now includes several imprints; Wise Wolf for YA titles, CKN Christian Publishing for clean fiction, and Rough Edges Press featuring mystery, suspense and thrillers.

My Wolfpack Editor, Patience Bramlett.

Here’s the thing about writing conferences: you never know how your words of encouragement will feed me or become the spark that another writer has needed. You never know how the collaboration between two friends and the publishing company they founded can impact so many writers and readers. It’s a fascinating business and I am truly fortunate to be a part of it.

An obviously excited and surprised Larry Martin holds up his belt buckle in celebration of a a highly successful ten year venture. A gift from Wolfpack CEO Mike Bray. Larry’s wife Kat Martin looks on.

Best Quotes from WWA 2023

  • “We get paid to learn.” David Lauterborn, Editor Wild West Magazine
  • “Our biggest competitor continues to be Louis L ‘Amour.” Gary Goldstein, Kensington. [L ‘Amour published his first book in 1951.]
  • “Micro wins can build into something bigger.” Krista Soukoup, Owner Blue Cottage Agency.
  • “They will not search for it. You have to throw it in their face.” Mike Bray, CEO Wolfpack Publishing.
  • “Use common sense. Get rid of unnecessary words.” Purple Prose Panel.
  • “Let’s continually preserve something from the Old West,” and he does this through publishing several quality newsletters and writing books. Doug Hocking, author.
  • “I used fresh greenery for the centerpieces, compliments of the trees outside.” Micki Furhman, Author, Songwriter, Singer, and calmest head in a crises.
  • Someone quoted Win Blevins on how to begin a story: “The trouble started when…”
  • “Wal-Mart is the major outlet for paperback westerns” Gary Goldstein, Kensington.
  • “We have a distinctive respect for indigenous cultures and we want to disclose a connection to our own lives.” Andrew Dunehoo, Director of The Indian Museums of North America at Crazy Horse Memorial.
  • “Don’t over explain what you wrote.” Purple Prose Panel.
  • “You’re spending too much time in the past. Move on and start something new.” Paul Bishop, Editor Wolfpack Publishing. (I definitely needed to hear this one!)
  • “Be part of something good. Leave something good behind.” Joseph Marshall III, Oglala/Sicangu Lakota author of fiction and nonfiction, and the 2023 Owen Wister Award recipient.
  • “Make a friend. Cook up a dream.” Micki Furhman, Award Winning Author and Musician.

Writing Groups

There are so many special memories from my time in Rapid City. Wish I could post all the pictures here, but you can check out my Facebook page Natalie Cline Bright and my Instagram @natsgrams to see more. Start saving your money now! Get out and be inspired.

Find another author to share expenses. This is my road warrior pal who did a lot of the driving too, Randi Samuelson-Brown. We drove through Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, on our way to Rapid City, South Dakota for the WWA conference.

I am a member of several writing groups that offer regular monthly meetings and writing conferences. The annual dues are a minimal investment in your writing career. The contacts and inspiration are invaluable. And most offer free online access to talks and writing workshops. Click on the name for links to websites.

Click above for a link to the WWW Website
This group of ladies had to wait on me for the picture, and I’m so glad they did! (Apologies.) Members of Women Writing the West at WWA 2023 in Great Falls.
Writers conferences provide opportunity, inspiration, and life-long friendships.

The book that started it all from CKN/Wolfpack Publishing: MAVERICK HEART by Natalie Bright and Denise F. McAllister is available in eBook, print, and audio formats. Read it Now: Click Here.

Natalie Cline Bright is an blogger, speaker, and author of fiction and nonfiction books for kids and adults. She writes romance with co-author Denise F. McAllister for CKN/Wolfpack Publishing, and historical fiction chapter books for kids ages 8-10. From TwoDot, KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN‘ features authentic recipes and history of the cattle trail era along with ranch photographyComing April 1, 2024, her book END OF TRAIL EATS will feature the food and history of Cowtowns.