Friday, April 25, 2014

Stepping Out

Tomorrow I'm scheduled to be at a local conference for writers. I've paid my registration fee. I've organized schedules so that Hubby is available to spend the day with the Peanut. I've pulled out my business cards, even if they do have my maiden name on them, and dusted off my rarely used tablet. I'm as ready as I can be for a full day of networking and learning.

But it's been a couple of years since I've mingled with other writers or attended a conference. I'm completely out of the writer's loop--and that scares the crap out of me. I feel like a newbie walking into a room full of strangers. I'm not sure who will be there of those I used to see regularly, and I'm sure there will be plenty of new faces. Will the regulars remember me? Will I remember them? Will I feel welcome, as though I'd never disappeared from their circle, or will it be as though I'm a new writer all over again?

I'm nervous, to say the least, but I'm excited, too. There's something inspiring and motivating about being around a group of fellow creatives, and I'm already preparing to soak up all that energy. I've roped a writer friend into coming with me, and this will be her first conference experience, so I'm also looking forward to being her introduction to the local writing scene.

In the spirit of being optimistic, I'm reminding myself of tips I've given to others in the past, back in the days when I attended writing events frequently:

1. Network, network, network. I'll try to talk to as many people as I can. I'll introduce myself to whomever I find myself sitting or standing next to and I'll introduce my friend to anyone I meet. I'll exchange contact information with each of them, on the off chance that we might be able to help one another in the future.

2. Follow up. I'll make sure to be in contact with every person whose contact information I collect within a couple weeks of the conference. I want to reconnect with the writing community and this is a great way to begin building relationships again.

3. Take notes. I won't just be taking notes on the sessions I attend. I'll also make sure to take notes on the back of business cards so that I remember something significant about each person I meet. This will help when I write those follow-up emails later.

4. Ask questions. People like to talk about themselves and their projects, and what you hear when you ask questions will tell you a lot about the people you meet. I'm a firm believer that if you ask questions and listen closely, you'll learn more than you would in any classroom.

5. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself. Have a pitch about the book you're working on. Know what "you do" so that when the inevitable question comes up you can quickly respond with a succinct summary of the types of work you do.

6. Be open. More than anything I want to be open to whatever I'm supposed to learn and whomever I'm supposed to meet at this conference. I believe that an openness to creativity, thoughts, and people will help me to get the most out of the experience. Opportunities and ideas can abound it I'm ready for them.

Wish me luck as I wade back into the world of writers!

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