Three years ago, I went to my very first writers’ conference that wasn’t work related. I didn’t know a soul. It was a “suck it up, Buttercup” moment. If I was going to pursue writing and talk to people about my novel, then I had to do it.
Then I met Nicole Grabner. We looked for each other often to gather encouragement. I met several other writers who were new to DFWCon. We took a lot of comfort in our newbie-ness. Running into my grad-school friend, Liza Caruthers, was the best surprise ever. It was even better when Liza and Nicole became friends and the three of us decided to start an online critique group.
What did I do? I found a dark corner and thought about how I’d reached my limit of being around a crowd of strangers. I met Melinda VanLone in that corner. She was doing the same thing that I was. We propped each other up and sent ourselves back into the fray.
My second DFWCon was fun, because I got to meet so many of my online writing and blogging pals that I can’t list them all. But they gave me courage. Oh, yes. No hiding in the dark corner, not even with Melinda (who shared all these mutual friends with me). Yes, I’m quite aware that I was hiding among my friends. They helped me feel brave.
Nicole and I shared a hotel room so we could take Les Edgerton‘s pre-conference workshop Friday morning without the rush hour drive to get there. He’s presented at WANACon before, and I love his craft book, Hooked. I fangirled a little when he signed my copy. He’s a great guy and a fabulous teacher.
However, one thing that I’m overwhelmed by, no, grateful for is that I didn’t hide in the dark corners. I didn’t hide at all. This is huge for me. I met so many amazing people—writers, teachers, agents. I hate labeling myself as an introvert, because I have extrovert tendencies in the right circumstances.
The people. All the people!
I loved seeing familiar faces and catching up with friends from previous years. Spending extra time with WANA Mama Kristen Lamb is always fun and educational (if not a little irreverent sometimes). Listening to Les and Kristen tell stories… I have no words, just laughter. And, no, I can’t repeat most of those tales. (A chicken and kool-aid and snakes may or may not have to be involved first.)
This time, I refused to hide. I introduced myself, traded business cards, and chatted with people—even the ones I’d never met before. A few of them even recognized Mermaids Don’t Do Windows. How cool is that?
In the query letter critique session I attended, I met middle grade writers who live within 25 minutes of me. They’ve been there this whole time and I didn’t know it. What?! A local critique group is in the works now. (I may have to herd cats to get us all together. Just so you know, I’m the cat that requires herding.)
Liza, Nicole, and I met Laura. We decided that she must have been separated from us at birth. Now our online writing group has a fourth.
How NOT to hide in a corner
- Have your business cards handy. Make sure you have more than you think you’ll need, so you don’t run out.
- Greet people with a smile and ask them about their work. Get them talking about themselves, and you won’t have to talk at all. 😉
- Allow yourself to recharge in bursts. If you happen to have friends with you, use their life sources. 🙂 (Totally kidding, Roomie! Maybe.)
- Go to the unofficial, pre-conference mixer, if there is one. That’s where we met Laura (and JD, Sean, Sarah, Michele, Don, Tanya, and many others). Familiar faces keep you out of dark corners.
- Stay under shiny, sparkly lights. Dark shadows do not look good on anyone.
- Have fun!
Would you rather hide in dark corners or sit under the sparkly lights? Do you like going to conferences (writing or otherwise)? Tell me stories!