If the trend is to start these threads a year in advance, then let me suggest Wordcrafters. I just went the to the 2014 Wordcrafters a few weeks ago. It was the very first Wordcrafters Conference ever, and I didn’t know what to expect. I signed up for it mostly because it was being held in the town that I live in (no travel or hotel!), and I knew that they’d have Eric Witchey presenting – he’s an old-timer from my critique group, and I was completely blown away by a talk I saw him give last spring.
Wordcrafters turned out to be three straight days of thinking about, talking about, and analyzing writing. There weren’t any publishers or agents – just writers – so, the focus was entirely on the craft of writing and how we could all improve our writing to be the best that it could be. I mostly attended panels on character development, because I’ve recently realized that I’m more of a plot-driven writer, and when it comes to character development, I don’t always know what I’m doing. My instincts have carried me pretty far, but if I get stuck… I don’t have the tools that I’d like to have for figuring out solutions. That’s what this conference was about – developing skills and tools.
One of the really neat things they did was give everyone a fifteen minute “craft lab” appointment with one of the presenters. These were assigned randomly, so I wasn’t sure how useful it was going to be. A friend of mine and I were assigned craft labs at the same time but with different writers. As we were waiting for our appointments, we talked about how neither of us knew what to do with fifteen minutes with a random professional writer. And, yet, fifteen minutes later, I came out of my craft lab, stunned that the writer I’d been paired with had taken me from, “Hi, I don’t really know what to do with this time” to “Wow, you’re right, that is why I’m having trouble making progress on Otters In Space 3 – I hadn’t even realized I was stuck!” And my friend had a similar experience. So, I think they may really have something with the craft lab sessions.
Overall, it was a really enjoyable conference, and I came away from it having learned a lot. I plan to go back next year.
Edit: I forgot to give the link – http://wordcraftersineugene.org/conference/2015-conference/