An Introvert’s Guide to Writers Conferences

by Connilyn Cossette,@ConniCossette 

Last week was the annual ACFW conference, which, for many writers, is one of the highlights of the year. Let me tell you, stepping out of my comfort zone to pursue a writing career was scary enough, but going to that first conference to mingle with hundreds of people I didn’t know was terrifying. If you are an introvert like me, then the prospect of small talk with strangers is a little like nails on the chalkboard, but if you have a plan you can face any writers conference with confidence.

The best way I’ve found to push past my natural bent to clam up during writers conferences is to brainstorm conversation starters in advance. Open-ended questions are best, so try to avoid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type questions if possible. Here are some great ones to get you started:

  • How long have you been writing?
  • Which genre do you write?
  • Which sessions are you attending?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish this week?
  • Tell me about your work in progress.
  • Who are your favorite authors?
  • What got you started writing?
  • What great tips have you learned so far this week?
  • What’s your elevator pitch? (This has the benefit of helping people practice!)
  • Which agents/editors are you meeting with?
  • How are your appointments going so far?
  • Which critique group are you a part of?

The possibilities are endless! Write a few of them down if you are nervous and scan over them before you head to a meal or a class to keep them fresh in your mind. And don’t forget to bring your business cards wherever you go, exchanging cards is a great way to break the ice.

Also, keep in mind that the writing industry is full of introverts. We are, in general, a very introspective sort, which is a great strength for a writer. Start out by assuming that most of the people in the room are probably feeling a lot like you, a little out of sorts, a little insecure, and more interested in making strong connections than meaningless small-talk. At my first conference, I was at a table all by myself, feeling like a fish out of water, when two gals purposefully sat down on either side of me and engaged me in conversation. That breakfast was the beginning of two very precious friendships and writing partnerships for me. So make an effort to search out someone looks a little uncomfortable or is standing alone, you never know if that person is a future writing partner, a future best friend, or just someone who will help you practice your pitch or pray with you before an appointment.

So relax fellow introvert, plan ahead, keep yourself open to divine appointments, and keep in mind that all of us writers are just a wee bit different than the “normals,” anyhow.

Tweet: An Introvert’s Guide to Writers Conferences by @connicossette via @Novel.Academy #writing https://ctt.ec/c09bu+

~*~

Connilyn Cossette is the CBA Best-Selling author of the Out from Egypt Series with Bethany House Publishing. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for both an INSPY Award and a Christian Retailing’s Best Award. There’s not much she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible, uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus, and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives in a little town near Dallas, Texas with her husband of twenty years and two awesome kids, who fill her days with laughter, joy, and inspiration. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

Your Spiritual Packing List

by Angela Arndt, @aearndt

The 2017 ACFW Conference starts in the next week or so and the tension is already in the air. (My air, at least.) Will I get the appointments I want? Will I talk to the editors who publish the type of book I write?

Worry hangs like a backpack for weeks before the conference. Will I come home with a request for a query? A proposal? A full? Or, empty-handed?

I worry about my professional presence:

  • Does my One Sheet reflect my book well enough?
  • Is my elevator speech interesting?
  • And those pesky business cards: can I find them, should I update them, do I even need them?

I worry about getting there:

  • The TSA regulations, what should I carry on and what should I pack?
  • Which shoes are the easiest to get on and off?
  • Will I be able to get to the correct gate and make my connecting flight in time?

Sound familiar? I would do better to focus on this list, too:

  • Prepare to do the best I can.
  • Make a list of things to do and take.
  • Check off the items as I go.
  • Then forget it.

By that I mean stop worrying. (Yes, I’m talking to myself as I write this.)

  • Stop worrying about how people look at you.
  • Stop worrying if you’ll get an agent, an editor, or a contract.
  • Stop worrying if you’ll get a request for a query, proposal, partial or full.

Some of you may think this is your last conference, your last chance to accomplish your dream. I’ve been there, too, but you never know what God has in mind. Open your heart and mind to His leading. In order to do that, you (and I) need to make one more checklist.

Here’s your Spiritual Packing List.

  • Focus on how the conference will bless you. Remember, you’ll be with thousands who have a common goal of glorifying Christ with their story. When we sing, it’ll be like a tiny slice of heaven.
  • Okay, that’s a given but if I were to post all the things we could pray about, the list would be a whole post by itself. Thankfully, the ACFW staff and volunteers have prepared a 40 Days of Prayer for the ACFW Conference in the ACFW loop emails.
  • Bless others. How? Listen with your heart and watch for those who need encouragement. Find someone who is more nervous than you. Invite a lone passenger into the elevator, even if you have to crowd to get him or her in. If someone’s standing alone in the dining room, call them over your table. Pray with someone who is visibly upset.

After the conference is over when you’re tired and ready to go home, remember the ways you blessed someone and you’ll never remember being nervous.

Click to Tweet: Attending an upcoming #writers conference? @aearndt shares your spiritual packing list #writing https://ctt.ec/0xUHa+

~*~

Angela Arndt writes women’s fiction with a thread of romance. Stories of strong, independent women in difficult situations set in small Southern towns are her favorite. She and her husband live outside one in the middle of a big wood with thousands and thousands of honeybees. Visit her at www.angelaarndt.com

 

The two things every writer needs to succeed (and it’s not talent or marketing!)

My husband has a girlfriend. And I really like her. She’s cute and even I enjoy spending time with her. Her name is Lilly.

She’s a 1978 vintage Alfa Romeo Spider.

 

Okay, that was a little tongue-in-cheek but he is spending a lot of time restoring her, from the inside-out. And that included a weekend trip to Iowa get a junker Alfa for parts.

Which left the remote control in MY possession on Sunday. Since the Vikings don’t play until tonight, I roamed the channels searching for something to fill the gap until the Outlander season premier.

I landed on Hacksaw Ridge. Yes, I’d seen it before, but something about the courage of Desmond Doss, the medic who saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa stirs my own courage. Makes me want to save people, or at least clean the kitchen.

But it also made me think about being a writer, and the fact that it takes great courage to expose our hearts and get our work out there for the world to scrutinize.

In fact, the courage of Desmond Doss grounded me back into my long held belief that writers must have two essential tools if they want to succeed.

  • Conviction
  • Grit

16 years ago today I was in Russia, watching with horror as the news played out the events of 9-11. I was a missionary, an ex-pat living in far east Russia and in that moment, I just wanted to go home. I ached over the tragedy in our country and grieved with my fellow Americans. But I was held in Russia by my conviction that God had called me to be a missionary. That conviction rooted me to my cause over two terms of service, through illness and danger and injury and fear. It kept me from flying home when I was on my knees, overwhelmed. It gave me a purpose and a vision and a focus.

 

We came home a year later, and God changed my focus to writing. But he never lifted my conviction. In fact, he deepened it. He transferred it to writing and to teaching writers—expanding my reach to 11 countries and into the lives of other writers who are like minded and convicted to write life-changing stories. (you!)

A writer has to be convicted that they are called to WRITE. To tell a great story. To write a story that matters. Because it’s not easy. It’s lonely, it’s exhausting, it’s sometimes thankless (hello Amazon reviews!) and in the beginning, not very profitable. But writers write because they must. They can’t escape it. They are convicted that they must write.

But what about Grit? “Just one more, Lord, just one more.” Desmond said this over and over as he dragged the injured to safety, and admittedly, although I’m not in peril, I sometimes say this when I begin a scene. “Just one more scene, Lord.” Because half-way through the story, I’m mucking about in the middle, hoping that my plot is working, my conflict and motivation are realistic and my characters likable. And when the book is done…I need to write another one. Because that is what career authors do…they write. And write. Just one more…

I recently watched this fascinating Ted Talk on the power of passion and perseverance. (aka, conviction and grit!) I encourage you take a look over your lunch hour: https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance

Grit keeps you moving forward when the world tells you to give it up. Grit settles deep inside you and says, keep going…you’ll surprise yourself. Grit says, it is worth it. Grit believes. Grit gets it done.

Conviction and Grit. It’s the stuff heroes…and writers…are made of. Don’t give up. Your story matters!

Write something brilliant this week!

Susie May

P.S. If you’re the kind of writer who likes pushing yourself to new depths in your writing, who likes the power of brainstorming and enjoys the beach in February, you’ll fit right into our annual Deep Thinkers Retreat! Registration is now open—get the early bird discount price of $50 off until November 1st! (use coupon code at checkout: EarlyBirdDT18)

Hope to see you there!

The People-Side of Writing Conferences

by Jeanne Takenaka, @JeanneTakenaka

The first time I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, I was scared, excited, nibbling my fingernails, and not sure what to expect.

Friends further along the writing road settled my nerves so I could enjoy the conference.

A few things to remember as we prepare to attend writing conferences:

Meeting Agents and Editors:

  • Reality check: Though we have opportunities to pitch our stories and meet agents and editors, they rarely make an offer during that fifteen-minute appointment.
  • Should we still bother pitching our stories? Yes! These meetings offer opportunities to interact with professionals we may one day work with. And for them to get to know us.
  • Don’t get so worked up over offering the perfect pitch that we become a big ball of shakes. Instead, pray before appointments.
  • Remember agents and editors are people too. Don’t begin the appointment by launching into our pitches. They like it when writers introduce themselves and relate on a human level.

My first pitch was to an editor. I was scared. So, I owned it. I said something like, “Hi. My name is Jeanne Takenaka. For better or for worse, you’re my first-ever pitch.”

The editor chuckled and we discussed my story. She read my first chapter and gave encouraging feedback.

Meeting Other Writers:

  • Conferences are great places to make and deepen connections with writers. Though we’re the only ones who can write our stories, we don’t walk out this writing journey in complete solitude. Connecting with other writers opens opportunities to help and cheer each other forward.
  • We’re not in competition with each other. Sometimes, writing friends will receive amazing feedback after pitching appointments. Even if we don’t get that coveted request—if we can celebrate with those who do, rather than envy them? This deepens relationships.
  • God knows the timing for each of our journeys. If we cling to this perspective and trust His plan celebrating our friends’ success becomes a little easier. And, when we’re disappointed in how a pitch appointment goes (and it happens to all of us), it’s okay to work through those emotions. Talking with a trusted friend or mentor renews our perspective and helps us move beyond discouragement.

Chocolate helps too.

  • Don’t be afraid to talk with well-known authors. I’m a closet fan-girl of certain authors. I never want to draw their attention to me. Though I may have wanted a photo with them, I was never bold enough to ask. Reminiscing over the past few conferences, I wish I’d been brave enough to talk with my favorites. To ask for a picture. Most well-established authors are gracious, and they’re happy to spend a few minutes talking with those who enjoy their books.

After attending five ACFW conferences, most of my nerves have subsided. The anticipation of connecting with writing friends takes center stage in my heart. If you’re coming to ACFW this year, I would love to say hello to you. Come find me.

What about you? What’s one thing that makes you nervous about attending writing conferences? For writing conference aficionados, will you share one piece of advice?

~*~

Jeanne Takenaka writes contemporary fiction that touches the heart. She won My Book Therapy’s Frasier award in 2014 after finaling in the contest in 2013. She was a Genesis 2015 finalist in the romance category, and she finaled in the Launching a Star Contest and the Phoenix Rattler in 2012. An active member of RWA, ACFW and My Book Therapy, Jeanne blogs about life and relationships at http://jeannetakenaka.wordpress.com. A graduate with an M.A. in education, she resides in Colorado with her husband and two exuberant boys who hope to one day have a dog of their own.