Does the thought of attending your first big conference make you sweat, break out in hives, pull your hair, bite your lip or worse? Welcome to the world of newbies.
Last year was my first conference as a writer. Years ago, I was in direct sales and attended rallies and seminars regularly as a part of my job. Later, I traveled across Illinois as a pharmacy technician. Meeting people and flying or driving to new places was not new to me.
The fact that I was going to the Missouri Writers Guild (MWG) yearly conference alone made me itch – literally. Who was I to think I could schmooze with professional writers? I had half a book done and no clue how it would be received.
I went anyway, and it was a great learning experience as well as a lot of fun. The first day I met Donna Essner, a writer from Missouri, at the afternoon meet and greet session – kind of like online dating. I chose to introduce myself to Donna because she looked, dressed casually and had a big smile. Donna was approachable, something a newbie like me needed. We clicked and she invited me to hang out with her Southeast Missouri group. Dinner was on our own, and I met the rest of the gang that evening. Bill and Sharon Hopkins, Marybeth Niederkorn, Janet Cannon and Donna welcomed me – I never looked back! Two days with them and I felt like I'd been attending conferences for years.
We laughed, shared information, sat together in sessions and brainstormed afterwards.
That first conference introduced me to the world of writers as a group. Writers are always willing to share their best techniques on the craft of writing and most will spread your name around on their FB page and their blogs. It's all about networking, marketing your brand (yourself)and, of course, learning the craft of writing. New forever friends is a huge bonus!
I learned what to do and what not to do. Questions were answered, advice was given and this little girl from nowhere took off!
In between last year's conference and the conference I attended this year, supportive friendships flourished. I've given and received great advice, drove to book signings and book launches for my new friends and had the pleasure of Bill and Sharon's support at my own book launch for Dirty Laundry. I was so proud when our local newspaper did the article on Dirty Laundry and included a picture of me with Bill and Sharon!
All of this happened because a newbie stuck her neck out and walked into a conference alone and willing to learn.
My wish for you is the same. Go, introduce yourself, take notes, socialize and make new friends. Who knows? Your new friend may be the next NYT bestselling author!
p.s. Of course, Miss Marly hopes SHE will be on that NY Times list someday, unless Sharon beats her to it!
Watch for tomorrow's post on the conference sessions…