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.

A Newbie’s Takeaway From American Christian Fiction Writers Conference 2016

Today I’m recovering from five days of an action packed conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The American Christian Fiction Writers Conference has always been an amazing event and this year was no exception. Thank you, My Book Therapy for encouraging me to step out in faith and attend. It was five days of rich and encouraging classes aimed at raising your writing up a level or three. Here’s what I learned at this year’s conference, maybe it will help you too.

  • Praise & Worship. Surprise you? Not me. The praise and worship was amazing. The words of those songs reached in and grabbed me where I stood. Rachel Hauck and the praise team did a magnificent job. With a day full of classes and a pitch session, the praise quieted this writers heart and soul. The worship reminded me to turn my heart to who really holds my future, my Creator. Two of the songs stuck with me, so much so, they are now on my playlist. If you haven’t heard them before or if you haven’t paid attention to the lyrics, I encourage you to do so. They were Good, Good Father By Chris Tomlin and It is Well By Bethel.
  • Friendship. I’ve been blessed to have amazing friends that encourage me on this writing journey. But most encouraging of all was time spent with friends and mentors. Not all of it was about writing, many conversations were heart-to-hearts about life’s struggle. The friendship and prayers offered up on my behalf were amazing. Just one side benefit of God’s blessing, once I decided to take a leap of faith into writing.
Alena Tauriainen, Kariss Lynch, Lindsay Harrel and Gabrielle Meyer at The Gala Event.
Alena Tauriainen, Kariss Lynch, Lindsay Harrel and Gabrielle Meyer at The ACFW Awards.
  • Transparency. So many of the winners at the award ceremony shared their struggles during their acceptance speech. Several shared about battles with cancer while writing. I appreciate their honesty at a time when they didn’t have to be. It reminded me that we must keep going, to persevere. God is with us every step of the way.
  • Community. There were over 100 first time attendees at this year’s conference. One of the first things I learned from My Book Therapy wasn’t about writing. It was about extending friendship to those along the journey. ACFW makes this easy because each first timer had a brown ribbon on their name tag. A simple smile and hello opened the door to conversations and new friends. I loved listening to the stories of others pursuing their dream.
Alena Tauriainen and Rachelle Gardner at the Books & Such Event
Alena Tauriainen and Rachelle Gardner at the Books & Such Event
  • Nuts and Bolts. Between appointments and meetings I was able to slip in several classes.
    • Jaime Wright taught about using social media as an extension of who you are. To be real. Example: If you like dogs, talk about dogs.
    • Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck taught about the different types of series and how to approach writing one. Very, very valuable for those of us interested in writing series.
    • Dani Pettrey taught about staying true to the story God called you to write. That while it may seem like a stretch, follow God and He will make it happen.
    • Hallee Bridgeman taught the in’s and outs of publishing indie. While it may seem a daunting task, she provided key steps and insight into the process.

If you attended, what were some nuggets you took away from the conference?

 

The What and Why of Writing: Boy Scout Moment

Say the words “Boy Scout” and most people will think “Be prepared.” That’s the Boy Scout Motto. Or they might think of words like trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous. These are parts of the 12 Points of the Scout Law. I know all this because my husband, who is an Eagle Scout, recited all 12 Points to me in rapid-fire succession. Once a scout, always a scout.

And yes, all of this Boy Scout trivia is applicable to writing a novel.

What: Boy Scout Moment

This is a sweet moment in the beginning of the book where we glimpse the hero or heroine doing something kind: Maybe they are  kind to an animal. Maybe they help an old woman across the street (Boy Scout, remember?). In some small way, your character sacrifices what they want for someone else. The Boy Scout Moment helps your readers like your hero and/or your heroine.

Why: I already explained why you need a Boy Scout Moment early on in your novel. Look at the last line under the section labeled “What.” You want your readers to like your hero and your heroine.

As novelists, we understand the character arc in a story. Character arc is the timeline that allows our main characters to change and mature as the story progresses. This is why in Chapter One you can have a hero and heroine who loathe each other but then discover Happily Ever After together by the time you pen “The End.” Thanks to the character arc, they are not the same people they were at the beginning of the story.

But not all our characters are likeable at the beginning of the book. As a matter of fact, we’re supposed to write characters who are less-than-perfect. How do you show readers that your hero or heroine are still worth their time, despite their faults?

This is the brilliance of the Boy Scout Moment.

While your heroine may not glimpse the hero’s heart of gold until later in the book, give your readers a quick peek. Here’s where you can peruse that 12 Point Scout Law again:

  1. Trustworthy
  2. Loyal
  3. Helpful
  4. Friendly
  5. Courteous
  6. Kind
  7. Obedient
  8. Cheerful
  9. Thrifty
  10. Brave
  11. Clean
  12. Reverent

 

Example: In my novel Crazy Little Thing Called Love, my heroine Vanessa doesn’t do close relationships. She’s good at saying hello and she’s good at saying goodbye — but she doesn’t know how to do all that comes in between those two words. And yes, there are reasons for that. I knew if I wasn’t careful, Vanessa could come across as distant, yes, even unlikeable, to my readers. At the beginning of the book they wouldn’t know all the reasons why Vanessa would seem closed off toward people. That unfolded as the story progressed. So I crafted a Boy Scout Moment for Vanessa where she helped out a single mom who she’d met during one of her shifts as a paramedic.

What kind of Boy Scout Moment could you give your hero or heroine? Could he look like a jerk to the heroine but prove himself to be trustworthy to someone else? (#1) Could she be loyal to her family by helping out a sibling? (#2) Could he continue to be courteous to his boss even though he’s seething inside? (#5) Or could she clean up a mess she didn’t make?  (#11)

 

[Tweet “The What and Why of Writing: The Boy Scout Moment via @bethvogt #writingtips “]

 

 

 

 

Get More From a Writing Conference By Using Social Media

Many writers have the mistaken idea that social networking is only beneficial for connecting online. Or that it only helps when you can’t be at a conference. But it’s important to plug in through social networking BEFORE the conference starts!

Connecting early can greatly increase what you get out of the event. And that is so true for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference coming up later this month. Conferences are expensive and you’ll get so much more for your money if you plug in early.

Here are some things you can do in advance of the conference:

  • Begin to follow the conference hashtag. For the American Christian Writer’s Conference, it’s #ACFW. The cool thing now is that you can follow hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. By following the conversation you’ll be able to see who else is going, find up-to-the-minute information, and see the answers to questions other people ask.
  • Follow the conference social media accounts. For ACFW, that’s Twitterand Facebook.
  • Visit the conference website and plug in with the faculty and staff. This is a biggie, especially when you’re networking and/or pitching a project. Take a look at the faculty who are scheduled to be present and plug into their social networking connections. If they have a Facebook page, like it or friend them. If they have a Twitter account be sure to follow them. Take advantage of this advance information by getting to know what they’re looking for before you arrive at the conference.
  • Visit the conference website and check for special eloops or online groups. These can help you connect with others who are attending. ACFW has a first-timers loop that was especially valuable for me before I attended the first time.
  • Finally, put a call out on your social networking accounts. Ask if anyone is planning to attend the conference. It’s always more fun when you can share the experience with a friend.

Now it’s your turn to share. How do you use social media to prepare for an upcoming event? Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comments section below.