Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Going to conferences with pals

"And going WITH writing friends is a great way to get more than your money's worth from the conference."

This line from your Wed. July 16th blog post has been gnawing at me ever since.

There's this writing conference I'd like to go to in September and a few others from the online writing group I'm part of are also considering it.

We're all in agreement that it's meant to be a good conference and it would be great fun to finally meet some of the online crew face to face.

But, that there might be a further benefit of turning up in a group, en masse, hadn't remotely occurred to any of us.

Anyway, even though I've been thinking it over, probably too much, I'm still wondering what exactly you meant...

Going to conferences with friends means you have someone to eat lunch with just for starters. There's a lot to be said for that since we all know what it's like to be in a room full of people and know NO ONE at all.

There are other benefits as well. You can divide and conquer the workshops more easily. Each person in the the group attends a workshop, and you trade notes and tips and insights.

Everyone compares notes on the agents you meet. Was Agent Amazing really all that amazing?  Was Agent Bilious really as sickening as she sounded?

If you have a bad experience and others do too, you know it's not you.  That's HUGELY valuable at a writing conference because talking about writing is very subjective.

Even if you go with pals, I strongly encourage you to reach out to new people while you are there. Boldly introduce yourself to the writer sitting next to you at a workshop. S/he'll be just as shy as you are, and glad to meet you. Need a starting point for the conversation? Ask about her book!

One of the great things about being an agent at a conference is you can walk up to total strangers who are clearly alone and shy, introduce yourself and be fairly confident they want to talk to you.  I've met some very nice people doing that.  You will too.

Have fun!


JeffO said...

All the reasons for going with a group are spot on. As you say, however, it becomes super-important to make sure you step out of your little group of friends and meet new people. Sometimes, it's too easy to stay in that little safe bubble.

Joyce Tremel said...

I've found that one of the best questions to ask when you meet another writer at a conference is, "What do you write?" Be prepared to answer that question, too.

And whether you're with friends, or going it alone, another way to meet people at a conference is to volunteer--even if it's only for an hour at the registration table.

DK said...

Also, if you're there with friends you'll meet the people your friends have met. Since a major aspect of these conferences is networking, you and your friends can divide and conquer this aspect as well, and that way you can add a lot more people to the "people I know" list.

Rena said...

I just attended a conference with some friends I'd met on Twitter. It was our first time meeting too, but we clicked immediately. We actually had several people join our table because they said we looked like we were having the most fun. Having other people there, especially at the start, is a great way to relax a little, knowing that you have a "safety net" if needed. We divided up as needed, but it was nice to know there were people waiting. Plus, then we got to be the ones to invite others to lunch and dinner.

Rebekkah Niles said...

Not to mention the fact that having friends going means you also have the option of possibly splitting costs. I for one am usually more comfortable with a roommate I already know (even only online is easier on my nerves than a complete stranger), and meeting up to share taxis saves some cash.

Then there's the aspect of having someone to explore an unfamiliar area with, whom you don't feel awkward mentioning you're afraid to walk down that there dark alley alone. Or someone you know in whose room you're willing to leave your stuff should their room be ready before yours. Sure, meeting new people is great and no one will judge (because they're as lost as you), but if you're still getting comfortable with large mobs of awesome people, a little peace of mind goes a long way in making things easier.

Wendy Qualls said...

A little object lesson:

I went to the RWA national conference last year. I knew some writers from my local chapter, but pretty much nobody else. I'm also not really a drinker, but the hotel bar is pretty much "where to go" in the evening so I gave it a shot. Because of this, I:

1) Bumped into someone I knew from my own chapter, who also didn't know anyone, and we just took in the ambiance

2) Ran into someone SHE knew, who brought a few friends over, so we had a little group going

3) One of those friends turned out to be a SERIOUSLY famous and successful best-selling author, who told a great comedy-of-errors anecdote about a welcome-to-the-conference gift her agent tried to send her which ended up with the wrong person

4) . . . and her agent turned out to be the very agent I was pitching to the next morning.

5) Which means instead of opening with "Hi, I'm nervous," I was able to open with "Hi, I'm Wendy, nice to meet you, FamousAuthor was just telling us the saga of the green purse last night and it was a great story!"

6) I got a full request :-D

So yes, I highly endorse both the "going to conferences with friends" thing and the "make an effort to meet new people" thing . . .

MVB said...

Great advice all around. Thanks so much QOTKU for posting a reply to my question!

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Sharing costs is huge. With room costs busting $200/night, it is reality. The cost is the factor that has kept me from Thrillerfest these last two years.

I've gone with friends and alone and had a great time both ways, but I like having a wingman. Someone to share the social activities with and applaud the successes and laugh at the foul-ups.

In fact, I get to see one of my FB friends in about 3 weeks at Killer Nashville. Let the writerly shenanigans commence!


Lance said...

All good advice. Costs are certainly a big hurdle. But I've made some good friends at conferences, and that is usually in the bar, but sometimes sitting at a random table at lunch. Picking a quiet looking table and getting the conversation going works, too. Thank you.

Fatboy said...

Costs are ridiculous. Along w/many options, workshops and venues for aspiring writers. I'm sure there's some value to these, but I get the sense that many/most are solely devised to profit from one's dreams.

Rachel Leigh Smith said...

Came over here via Chip MacGregor's blog, and the post/question really speaks to me. Because I have a lot of experience with it.

This is the first year since 2007 I haven't attended a writer's conference. One in September, actually. The first year I went I knew about three other people well enough to hang out with them and just plop down beside them and start talking.

As the years went by and I met more people in the group, the list of people I would go and hug, or look to sit with during a meal, grew. But I always found myself going back to that core handful of people.

I shared a room with my CP's twice, and we had so much fun. Last year at the conference only one of them made it, and we roomed with another person we both know, and again had so much fun. We were up till 2 am one night brainstorming.

But, I wouldn't have met my CP/other half of my brain if I hadn't been willing to step outside my group box and talk to someone else. Neither of us can remember what life was like before we met.

When you go with friends you also have the added benefit of brainstorming at the drop of a hat, plus people you know you can celebrate with when something awesome happens. Like TWO agents requesting the full of my first novel.

The networking is key too. I've met so many other people, and had amazing conversations about writing from hanging out with people I know, who know other people and pull them into conversation.

And something I've never seen mentioned in any post about attending conferences is the jokes you create as a group. They never cease to be funny.