You’ve decided this is it, the year to attend a writer’s conference. Forms are filled, hotel and plane tickets are booked, and a satisfied warmth fills you at pulling the trigger on this writing milestone.
But as the day approaches, your brain buzzes. What to wear? What to bring? You look in your closet and suddenly forget what looks good together, what fits, and what shoes work with which pants. The jeans you love seem too run down. That skirt you wanted to bring is too dressy. Or is it? Maybe you could wear it to the pitch you scheduled. And then it hits: FULL BLOWN PANIC. You forgot about the pitch you booked while high on the glow of finally taking the leap.
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Your inner introvert kicks into overdrive. What have you done? it asks. What were you thinking? Pitching to agents? Navigating roomfuls of people, some editors and authors that you’re dying to meet? What if you spill wine on someone? Or open your mouth to tell an author how you loved their book and FORGET THE FREAKING TITLE?
How to Tuck Panic Back In the Closet
(Right Next To Those Jeans You Keep Because You Hope They Will Fit Again One Day)
The introvert in you may find leaving the comfort zone scary, but don’t second guess yourself. Intuition urged you to sign up, telling you this was important for your career, and a writer’s intuition should never be ignored. Yes, you’re stepping beyond the keyboard, but there’s a reason for it: you’re ready to.
5 Basic Truths about Conferences To Make Your Inner Introvert Feel Better:
1) What you wear is NOT A BIG DEAL, unless it looks like you rolled in a dumpster. Some choose business casual, others go for comfort. Use common sense and pick something neat, clean and comfortable. Don’t forget deodorant and you’re good.
2) Agents and Editors are people too. Writers can get nervous when talking (or pitching) to industry people, but the truth is that editors and agents want to find a match as much as you do! Relax, don’t put them on a pedestal, and treat them with the same respect you would anyone else.
3) You don’t need to have a word-for-word memorized pitch ready to throw at agents and editors. Writers are told to be ready to talk about their book, but this doesn’t mean memorizing a pitch (even if you have a pitch session), so let go of that pressure on yourself. A memorized pitch usually lacks the passion agents and editors are listening for. They want to see that this story matters, and that you felt compelled to write it. When you speak, let your love for the story bleed through.
To achieve this, choose the most important things to touch on and pretend you’re telling a friend about an exciting new novel idea. Ad lib, try explaining your book in different ways. Converse with your cat, dog or goldfish. If you can round up a friend or family member, talk to them about your book until you find a natural groove that conveys your passion.
4) You don’t have to attend every event. Networking is a huge part of any conference, but you don’t have to go to every mixer, reception or gathering. Introverts become drained when around others. Take time to recharge in your room after the day’s sessions.
Now, you might be tempted to skip the social bits, but if you do, you may go home disappointed that you didn’t get all you could out of the conference. For this reason, I recommend trying to stretch yourself a bit. Go to some events, but on your terms. Try 15 minutes, and if you’re still uncomfortable, leave. Or agree to have one drink, or start a conversation with one person you don’t know. Enlist a fellow introvert to take the challenge too if you like!
Stretching your comfort zone is important. Many others attending the event are feeling like you: worried there will be no one to talk to. It takes courage to say Hi! and strike up a conversation, but you can do it. After the first time, something incredible happens…it gets easier and easier.
5) Chances are, most of the people at the conference are introverts too. Writing is a profession built for introverts. That means many of the people you meet, even ones who look confident and at ease, are also struggling. They want nothing more than to trade a smile, have someone introduce themselves or say something nice to break the ice. They understand the desire to hide, but like you, they also know that widening their boundaries is what allows them to grow!
I (Chuck) Will Speak At These Great Writing Events in 2014:
- Jan 11, 2014: Capitol City Writing Retreat (Lansing, MI)
- Feb. 1, 2014: Pennwriters Pittsburgh Chapter Event (Pittsburgh, PA)
- March 28-29, 2014: Northern Colorado Writers Conference (Fort Collins, CO)
- March 30 – April 4, 2014: Worship Write With God: Christian Writers Retreat (Asheville, NC)
- April 11-13, 2014: Missouri Writers Guild Conference (St. Louis, MO)
- May 3, 2014: University of Central Arkansas MFA Literary Event (Little Rock/Conroy, AR)
- June 6-8, 2014: Wyoming Writers Conference (Sheridan, WY)
- July 13-16, 2014: Southeastern Writers Conference (St. Simon’s Island, GA)
- Aug. 1-3, 2014: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)
- Aug. 5-10, 2014: Texas Writing Retreat (outside Houston, TX)
- October 2014: Books by the Banks Book Festival (Cincinnati, OH)
- November 2014: Atlanta Writers Fall Conference (Atlanta, GA)
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