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


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

Someone Else’s Success Doesn’t Not Ensure You’re Failure

Rachel HauckSomeone else’s success doesn’t not ensure you’re failure.

Unless, of course, you’re facing Jason Bourne.

Then you’re a goner.

But most of us feel like the picture to the right after we enter a contest. Published or unpublished.

We feel like a sniper-judge is looking through a scope at us and we’re painted with a big ole bullseye.

His success at achieving his goal will kill us — all our dreams and hopes…

The shooter is the judge who gave a low score.

“He’s out to kill me! All my hopes and dreams! What do you mean I’m not the be all and end all of unpublished writing?”

I know because I’ve been there!

Published and unpublished.

Contests can rock your world or break your hope. But it’s up to us, as writers, to be steadfast in our calling to write.

Contest do not make OR BREAK an author.

Contests, while helpful and often a stepping stone, are merely a tool to help a writer reach the next level.

They are not intended to be a Seal of Approval or Seal of Disapproval that over inflates or deflates your dreams.

So take a deep breath. Swallow. Get back with your game plan and move forward.

Have a Game Plan

Speaking of a game plan…

1. Most of us enter a contest then sit back and wait… Bad idea. Move on. Start another story. Focus on your next book Contracted or not. Read a writing book. Read a good book not in your genre. Spend time with the family. Don’t just wait.

2. Set new goals. If you’re not published, start a new story that you plan to finish in time for ________.

3. Follow up with editors or agents.

4. Sign up for a conference.

5. Do something outside of writing. Sign up for the local 5K. Work on a promotion in the day job. Start a review blog. I don’t know but you do. The Lord does. So get to work! 🙂

What To Do With Conflicting Feedback

It’s tough when you get conflicting feedback but DO take a deep breath, step back, get yer dander down and consider the input just might be right.

First of all, no judge that I know sets out to destroy the authors of the manuscripts they’re reading. I know, we all picture them with evil scowls, muttering, “Who writes this drivel!?”

Sometimes newer author judges can make some rookie mistakes. They take off points for creative choices or the word “was.” I think we should forbid anyone from discounting an entry because they used the word was…

But overall, I think judges are looking for voice and story.

And those are two of the hardest things for an author to master.

So, if you have conflicting feedback — one judge loved it and the other hated it — consider two things:

1. Audience. The first judge was your target reader. She/he felt your voice and the story emotion. The second may not have been your target audience. Or the story just didn’t resonate with them. Consider the story is probably somewhere in between. Needs work but doesn’t need to be torched.

2. The negative comments might have validity even if said harshly. Try to read between the lines. Hear what they might be saying if you were sitting across from them in a coffee shop. If a judge says the story was cliche or the characters kind of flat, take that into consideration. But don’t read: I stink as a writer. ReRead your piece to see where the judge might have accessed that? Have someone else you trust read it.

3. Don’t give up!

What If All The Feedback Is Negative

1. Get feedback from someone you trust.

2. Consider that the story just didn’t work for some reason but look for the positive input as a starting point to rework the story.

3. Be willing to rework the story.

4. Kick a few cabinets… er, I mean, spend some time in prayer. Let God share your burden.

5. Make a plan if you don’t have one. Execute your plan if you have one.

Contests Are Just One Brick In The Publishing Road

1. I didn’t win any pre published contests. But I managed to get published anyway.

2. I haven’t won that many publishing contests but enough to boost my confidence and add a few line items to my resume. But I’m still publishing!

3. Keep your eye on the prize — getting your book in print. On God’s GOOD plans for your life. So keep working. Realize that publishing takes time because you’re not just putting words on a page, you’re learning a craft. You’re telling a story about pretend people that will touch real people’s lives.

So hang in there! You’re well on your way!

Go write something Brilliant!

5 Tips to Help You Afford a Writers Conference

“I can’t afford to go to a writers conference.”

I hear this writer’s lament a lot. And there were years I stared down that seemingly insurmountable CAN’T, all the while longing to go to a conference and learn, network, and yes, have fun.

Harsh Reality: A writers conference is nowhere in your budget.

Writer Reality: You can’t afford not to go to a writers conference.

So how do you get past the first reality, conquer the financial obstacle, and get registered for your first writers conference? Here are some things that worked for me:

1. Start local. Yes, we all want to go to the big national conferences: ACFW, Mount Hermon, and any – okay, all of the MBT retreats. But when you add airfare and hotel on top of conference registration, your budget collapses. Hop on Google and search for writers conferences in your town or one-day conferences within a day’s drive.
2. Save up. One of the first conferences I attended had an arrangement where they charged a certain (reasonable) amount of the registration on my credit card for twelve months leading up to the conference. By the time the conference rolled around, it was paid for. Set up your own conference savings account and put a set amount aside each month for conference registration. What’s that you say? It might take you two years to save up for the Deep Thinkers or ACFW? Okay then. Get started now.
3. Buddy up. If you’re traveling out of town to a conference, there’s no need to get a hotel room all by yourself. I take that back – some people do prefer to sleep alone. But, if you can, share a hotel and split the costs two, three, even four ways. If the conference is within driving distance, see if anyone else wants to ride with you and share the cost of gasoline.
4. Book early. Don’t wait until the last minute to book your plane flight or your hotel room. The closer you get to your departure date, the pricier your plane ticket. And hotels fill up fast, especially when the conference offers a discounted rate for attendees. You can, of course, choose to stay at a less-expensive hotel close to the one where the conference is being held – but make those reservations early too.
5. Avoid extras. Yes, early bird sessions and after-conference sessions with big-name speakers are nice. But these are optional – not mandatory. Bookstores with all your favorite authors’ books – and the chance to have those books signed! – is another temptation, as are auctions to raise money for worthy causes. Think ahead: Is this in your budget or not? If you do go to the bookstore, know how much you’re going to spend. Pay cash if that’s the only way you won’t go over your limit.

What about you? How have you budgeted for a writers conference?

Getting A Four Chair Turn

Rachel HauckConfession.

I’m enthralled with the reality show The Voice. Have you seen it?

In fact, author Lisa Jordan and I were chatting on email how much we loved the show.

Especially the coach Pharrell Williams. He’s one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met.

Okay, I haven’t actually met him but he’s really encouraging. He challenges me as a Believer, as a writer, to find the good, find the Light in life and in others.

Lisa said how much Pharrell challenged her as well, and got her to thinking.

“Who was her four chair turn?” Did she even have one?

A four chair turn is when all four judges turn their chairs to vie for the auditioning artist to be on their team.

Sometimes only one judge turns. Maybe two or three turn. And it’s awesome when all four judges turn.

But even one judge means the contestant is on the show. It’s a win!

As Lisa looked over her writing journey, she realized she had a four chair turn.

Me, Susie Warren, Rachelle Gardner (agent) and Melissa (editor.)

How encouraging to look back at her journey to see such a “win.”

Got me to thinking about my own “chair turn.”

I was one of those “artist” with a bit of experience, like background singer or a coffee house performer.

I had co-authored a Heartsong with Lynn Coleman but I wanted to move to trade size novels.

So when I entered my chick lit into a contest held by Kristin Billerbeck and Colleen Coble, I got my four chair turn.

Kristin, Colleen, Karen Solemn (agent) and Joan Marlow Golan (editor)

Georgia On Her Mind became my first trade size novel!

On the writing journey, it can seem like no one but your Mama is rooting for you, but stop, look and remember those who’ve encouraged you along the way.

Even if it’s only ONE person, that’s enough to get you “on the team.”

Despite my four chair turn, I had some work to do.

I was coached by my editor, my agent, and the great Susie May when we were both young in the biz.

Maybe I haven’t been that break out author that “everyone loves,” but I love that I’m in the game. And there’s room to grow!

The big thing is realizing people are for you! They are in your corner!

What do you think?

Who has turned their “chair” for you?

Also consider who you can encourage. Not just writers but friends, family, a neighbor.

Then go write something brilliant