October 11th, 2017

Why Every Writer Needs Writer’s Events

For those of you who have followed my posts over the years, you know I joke a lot about being queen of the troll introverts. I’m happy in my writing cave, it’s comfy there. I have my espresso machine and my fat cats for company. And I have awesome WiFi which means I can chat with all the writers I want via social media and email and FaceTime/Skype. Why would I ever want to leave?

Image via Pixabay

Well, over the last few months, I did leave. I went to three vastly different writer’s events: In May, I participated in the Gaithersburg Book Festival (GBF). Then in August, I went to New York for the Writer’s Digest Conference. And September was the Women’s Fiction Writers Association retreat.

My thoughts on the different types of events:

The Book Festival

GBF is my home town book festival. They’ve brought in some amazing authors over the years so when I got the letter that my application had been accepted, I was equal parts ecstatic and terrified. Plus, the event was taking place a week after my debut released. I’d never – NEVER – done a book event before.

What I did right:

Since it was my very first event, I asked a couple of other debut authors I’d become friendly with and who lived in striking distance, if they wanted to submit applications with me. It was much easier getting onto the stage with others who shared some of the same fears and excitement.

What I learned:

Knowing your book and talking about your book are not necessarily the same. In the couple of months leading up to my debut, I wrote a lot of guest posts for various blogs and responded to many of the same interview questions in each. I thought I was ready to answer almost any question that came my way. Until I was asked those questions live.

Why it’s worth going:

Aside from the fun of getting to talk about your book, I loved the opportunity of interacting with readers and getting to meet a few favorite authors who, until that day, I’d only interacted with via social media. It also gave me the confidence to know I could do it. I may not have been brilliant that first time, I may not ever be brilliant at this type of event, but I can do it nonetheless (and I’m already looking at other opportunities for when my second book releases next year).

If you’re not published yet, go meet authors and support the event. One of the first years I went, I fan-girled over a favorite author. I bought her book from the indie selling on site even though I already had a copy at home and asked her to sign. There weren’t a lot of people at the signing tables which gave us the opportunity to talk. She ended up blurbing my debut.

 

The Large Conference

I’m not a large conference kinda gal. I find them overwhelming and underwhelming. But since this was my debut year, I was pushing myself to take on things I haven’t done or would usually steer clear of, so not only did I register to attend, I signed up to present.

What I did right:

I told my inner doubter to shut it and submitted those speaker proposals. And then agreed to not only do a solo presentation, but participate in two panels. Hey, if you’re pushing past your comfort zone, jump straight into the deep end. And to reward myself for being so brave, I went up for the conference a day early to meet my editor and attend a workshop I’ve been wanting to do for ages but never had the opportunity.

What I learned:

It actually is possible to put lipstick on a troll and make her somewhat presentable. 🙂  In all seriousness though, the experience was a great reminder that you can do whatever you want once you believe in yourself. I may never become a highly sought-after speaker, but I didn’t completely embarrass myself and I was able to help a few people with the information I presented. And you know what else? It was fun.

Why it’s worth going:

You never know who will be in the audience. A number of folks approached me after the various sessions to ask questions about the topics addressed. I had the pleasure of bringing up the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and, as a result, the group lucked out with a few new members.

Another audience member picked up my book at the onsite bookstore. Turns out she’s local to my area and runs a radio program discussing books. She contacted me and I got to check one more first off my list – the program will air later this month.

And, of course, if you’re unpublished, these events are a gold mine for meeting and pitching agents and connecting with other writers.

 

The Writer’s Retreat

The WFWA retreat is a bit of a hybrid event. We have a presenter give two half-days of a craft workshop, and there are discussion groups on marketing and the business of writing and writer’s life. But there’s also writing time and plenty of socializing time.

What I did right:

This one is a bit harder for me since I’m the retreat organizer, so my time during this event is mostly spent running around making sure things are running smoothly. That said, I did two things differently this year: (1) I made myself sit and write on a new project, and (2) I took off the organizer hat long enough to socialize and relax.

What I learned:

It doesn’t matter how comfortable you are in your writing cave, every writer needs to connect with other writers from time to time. Even – especially – during those times when you think you’d rather hide in the darkest part of the cave.

Why it’s worth going:

The energy and creativity in a room of writers, particularly those who write the same genre, is better than a giant pot of coffee. I was pretty worn down by the time I got to Albuquerque for the retreat and, to be honest, my thought in the days leading up to the event was to get through it and regroup after. But once I was there with my writing tribe, I was swept up in the creativity and the bonding over our shared experiences, and I left with an optimism that I hadn’t had days before.

The more relaxed atmosphere of retreats allows everyone to be themselves, to share their experiences, ask questions, let their guard down, be writers.

 

There are, of course, plenty of other types of events – writer’s cruises; small group retreats that are only focused on writing and reading your work; pitch events; local meet-ups, etc. Depending on your available resources (time and money), some may be more doable than others. But all have value. You’ll get from any event what you want to gain from it. From someone who didn’t attend a writer’s event for years when I first started, this introvert is a convert.

What type of writer events do you enjoy most? What’s something you learned about yourself from attending a writer event? What’s held you back from attending or participating?

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About Orly

 

Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, a quarterly contributor to Thinking Through Our Fingers blog and Writers In The Storm blog, and an active member of the Tall Poppy Writers. Her debut women’s fiction, The Distance Home, released from Forge in May 2017, and Carousel Beach will be releasing May 2018.

You can find her online at http://www.orlykonig.com or on GoodreadsTwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest

39 comments to Why Every Writer Needs Writer’s Events

  • It was great finally meeting you in person in NYC, Orly. And, if it helps moving forward, I would’ve never guessed you are an introvert. Thanks for the insight. Hope to see you again soon!

  • Never met a conference/retreat I didn’t like! But then I’m a golden retriever to your troll.
    The WFWA Writers Retreat is THE best evah!

  • Great advice. Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed your adventures-vicariously. 🙂
    You’re a superhero! For me, it’s baby steps.

    • Orly Konig Lopez

      Baby troll steps are still steps!!! 🙂
      Pick a smaller event to start with. And set yourself a goal – can be anything from meeting one new person or having your morning coffee in public to introducing yourself to an author you admire or pitching an agent. But a goal (or two).

  • I am terrified of signing events, but I’ve discovered that book festivals are actually fun. I just got back from the Williamsburg Book Festival in Virginia. This was a smallish festival in a beautiful venue. One thing I did different for this festival, was take along a friend to help me at my table (not all festivals allow this). It kept me from looking so lonely between reader visits. I also used any/all downtime to connect with other writers and check out their displays to get ready for the next two festivals I’m going to this month (York, PA and Cincinnati, OH). Best thing about festivals – everyone is there because they love books and authors, so it’s a great atmosphere.

    Getting into Books by the Banks in Cincinnati kind of shocked me, but it’s made me realize that there’s no harm in trying for the bigger festivals (it only costs me one book). I’m super excited to share the space with some big names..And already dreaming of more festivals in the spring. Gaithersburg isn’t too far….

  • I love going to writer conferences and retreats, but the thought of being an author at a book festival unnerves me. It just seems like you’d have to be “on” the whole time. Which means this introvert would have to figure out how/where to get a little downtime to recharge. But it helps knowing that you did it (I’m sure you were great!), and it both can be done and is worth the effort!

    • Orly Konig Lopez

      Although if you’re on a panel or a presenter at the conference, you have to be “on” as well. I think for me, there’s less pressure to be “perfectly professional” at the book festival. Readers are looking to meet the “real” person rather than the cleaned up presenter.

  • Holly Robinson

    I also hate leaving my cave. I have horrible stage fright and had to take a class in standup comedy to get over it (really!) That class helped me enormously when it came to having to think on my feet during writers’ events, but I still prepare for every author appearance. I have grown from hating these author panels and festivals to loving them, for all of the reasons you named here, Orly. Whether it’s a retreat or a festival, you never know you who you might meet–or who that person might then introduce you to later–and it’s such fun being around people who live and breathe books.

    • Orly Konig Lopez

      Wow, Holly, you never cease to amaze me! Standup comedy class. Just the thought of that scares the undies off of me. But totally agree, the people make it worth every anxious moment.

    • As much of an extrovert as I am, the idea of Toastmaster or a stand up comedy class, gives me the willies. I am SO IMPRESSED WITH YOU, Holly.

  • Orly, thank you for sharing your experiences. I too prefer my writing cave but I’m taking my first baby step that feels like a jump off a cliff in November. I’ll be reading at our local independent bookstore and talking about my book. I just found out a few days ago and haven’t had time to get nervous yet. Prepare, prepare, prepare is what I’m learning. Right now I’m in the stage of visualizing myself at the podium since I’ve been to many readings and only dreamed of being a published author.

    • Orly Konig Lopez

      Oh fun! (I can say that because I’m sitting in my cave 🙂 )
      You’ll be great. At one of the discussion groups, someone pointed out that your brain can’t process fear and gratitude at the same time. So if you’re nervous or afraid about doing something, tall to yourself about what you’re thankful for and that will help you relax and focus.

  • This is a wonderful post for both new and seasoned writers. I’ve never attended an event and NOT came back more inspired and informed than when I left. Thanks, Orly!

  • I always think I’m the shyest person in the room — and then I go to a festival or conference and find my fires burning brighter than ever. There’s so much inspiration, support and camaraderie that I can’t wait to find another one to attend. That said, I’m looking for info on that Gaithersburg Book Festival. It’s in my neck of the woods. Thanks for a great post.

  • Two years ago I went to my first writer’s event (KidLitVic for any Aussie authors out there) and back this year and will go next year (finances are in review). The first year I was so nervous but it was wonderful. I made friends who I continue to talk to, gained a wealth of information and pitched to a very positive publisher. When my kids are older, I’m hoping to go to a few more – they’re a great time but also a great opportunity.

    And how can you call yourself a troll? You’re always so lovely and informative on WITS.

    • Orly Konig Lopez

      As Vaughn pointed out, I fake it well. 🙂

      Good for you! And you’re right, they’re more than just great opportunities – they’re loads of fun.

  • I so agree that self-acceptance/esteem/belief is the basis for achieving great things.

  • Thank you, thank you, Orly! I’m such an introvert, I don’t even have a pet because it would impinge on my solitude. lol. (But I do have a husband, and that works. Go figure.) I don’t have a book yet, but I’m working on a memoir, and I appreciate your advice to get myself out there, as intimidating as it sounds. Not the public speaking part (when that day comes) – I would actually love that. It’s being in a room full of writers and pretending I belong – the old voice of doubt in my head. (I affectionately call her Voddy.) But I’m going to start looking for memoir writers conferences and get my butt there. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Orly Konig Lopez

      I think you’ll find that you instantly fit in a room of writers. Every one of us has that same worry at some point in our writing career. There’s a great relief actually in knowing that you’re not alone in your doubts.

  • Like you, I’m an introvert at heart but I love love love talking to other writers. Lots of times I feel that I can do that through our blogs, and I also teach creative writing classes so I have a chance to talk about writing a couple times a week there. But when my first book of fiction was published I was asked to talk to different book clubs and found out how fun it is to talk about my characters and my setting and the plot and to answer enthusiastic questions from readers. Totally spurred me on to write my next book! And with my children’s book that was just published this spring I’ve talked to groups in libraries about publishing a children’s story; as you say it’s led me to meeting other writers and presented other opportunities to talk about my books and my writing process. Lately, I was asked to be a panelist at the well known Concord Festival of Authors in New England. I’m thrilled and scared and hope that I won’t feel like a troll! Your post here is inspiring me to perhaps try out some larger writing conferences in the near future.

  • Fae Rowen

    For me, writer events are a way to learn. I listen—whether it’s at a formal session or a conversation at the next lunch table—and learn. I’m not good about “networking” but when something is interesting-or confusing-I have no problem whispering to someone next to me. I’ve met some great people that way!

  • I have never been to a writer’s conference or retreat! And I’m not having much success googling. . .But I would dearly like to move beyond NaNo for community. Back in the day I majored in writing and taught in in college for, oh, ten years. So, yeh. . .where’s my community these days?! =D

    Tx for the post. And comments.

  • Pat

    I find book signings, book club appearances (in person or electronically), author’s day presentations all valuable ways to engage with my readers. Until I read your post, I hadn’t considered the benefits of a writer’s conference. Now on my to-do list for 2018. Thank you,

  • Your conference and retreat adventures sound like my plan for the coming year. My proposal to a writing conference next spring was accepted, and I’ll be on at least one panel. Talk about jumping in with both feet! The retreat is a great way to recharge the writing energy (unless you’re the organizer?), but I’ll be seeing my writing sisters at the conference, so maybe we’ll do a spontaneous micro-retreat. I hope my conference goes as well as it sounds like yours did 😀

  • Orly, I loved seeing you at WDC17, and happily plugged WFWA throughout the conference to anyone who would listen. Seeing onstage one of our founders was a huge plus for me. Thanks! And my goal is to make it to WFWA retreat next year.

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