Last week I attended my first writer’s conference–well, it was actually a Pet Blogger’s conference but aimed at every level of blogger (and micro-blogger) writing about animals (pets, rescues, strays, you name it). I mentioned in my last post I was supposed to attend the 2012 Emerald City Writer’s Conference in Seattle, Washington last October, but Hurricane Sandy kept me away.
So I registered for the blogging conference months and months ago and because I live only 10 minutes from the conference location, I knew at least logistically, it would be an easier feat to attend rather than traveling across the country.
I knew a few people who were attending, albeit as an avid follower of their blogs, but no one personally. I’m an introvert by nature so it’s difficult for me to be in an environment with so many people, especially so many successful writers. As I checked in on Day 1 I spotted several famous bloggers and internally squee’d as my inner child fan wanted to run over and gush over how amazing their blogs were and how I much I enjoyed following them.
But my inner Miss Manners held me back, telling me they probably didn’t want to be bothered and that they’d likely be annoyed by me trying to chat them up. So I quietly sat nearby and looked through the conference schedule but constantly aware of their successful and well-known presence emanating just feet away. The workshops were divided up into Beginner, Intermediate and Pro level–I knew exactly where I belonged: Beginner.
I wandered around the conference area, checking out the exhibits and displays and manged to hold a few conversations with exhibit minders (okay, okay I know I should be networking with conference attendees, but it was so much easier making conversation about litter pan scoopers and cat toys–seriously.)
I made my way to the first Beginner-level workshop focused on increasing ‘likes’ on Facebook and adding followers on Twitter. And God knows I need more Facebook followers (Hint, Hint–come on guys, I only have 7 right now, hook me up! )
First, I was surprised to see the workshop was standing room only! I had a choice seat near the aisle where I could watch the presenter and diligently take notes. But as the presentation started, I noticed an older woman standing next to me trying to take in the talk but looking a little uncomfortable. I immediately offered her my seat (yes, the military training still comes out, I can’t, and probably won’t, ever let that go). She accepted and I sidled around to where there was a tiny space against a counter top with water and candy (internal fist pumping going on at being close to the sugar supply!) and was promptly rewarded with the worst view ever. A large white post blocked not only the slides for the presentation from my view, but I couldn’t see the speaker. I sighed and tried to focus on the expert’s voice.
As I was listening and because I couldn’t see the speaker, my eyes scanned the room to take in the other beginners attending the talk. Wait! I immediately recognized one of the attendees as a famous pet blogger up for four awards at the conference. What was she doing at a beginner’s workshop about getting more followers? I’d seen her numbers and believe me, she has a lot of followers!
Hm. Well, maybe being at the beginners workshops weren’t so bad, and if an expert blogger chose this particular event, maybe it was a good choice after all. Or, maybe it’s always good to get ‘back to the basics’ even if you are an expert. I couldn’t help but notice she was taking thorough notes and I can imagine will apply the recommendations successfully.
I attended a few more workshops, walked around and made more connections with more exhibit hosts (*sigh* I know) and entered a few raffle giveaways. I just couldn’t bring myself to start any conversations with people I didn’t know. I ended up winning a raffle prize…wait for it…odor control spray! Hey–it’s better than nothing, and with a male (spayed) kitty at home who for some reason always wants to pee next to the box and not in the box…it will go to good use (just for a note here…we use puppy pads now next to the box to avoid the stains/messes, there were some in the conference swag bag which made my day! Yes, it’s the little things).
As I followed my favorite bloggers on Facebook and Twitter during the three days of the conference, I realized many of them were meeting at night and for lunch as a big group outside of the conference-sponsored events; like a clique of old friends. This intimidated me even more, and I felt a little sad that I didn’t have a group to connect with like this. Yes, it was my poor-me moment. Hey, everyone’s entitled to have one (or five) now and then!
All in all, the conference was a good way to get exposed to a) what a large writing conference feels and looks like b) how events/workshops and activities are organized and how to choose the right one c) know that if I’m going to go to a conference in the future, it helps to stay at the hotel during the conference so it’s not easy to give up, leave, go home and pout about not having the courage to talk to anyone; and finally, d) know that I, at minimum, have a talent of conversing with exhibitors whose job it is to engage attendees in conversations. Well, at least I was guaranteed a willing conversational partner for a few minutes. Yes, I’ve taken note that I must work on that one.
One of my writer friends, Carmen Cook, (and high school classmates) whom I’ve reconnected with on Facebook and whose writing journey I’m following, shared a wonderful guest blog post today on Molly Greene’s Blog, written by C. Hope Clark, who edits FundsForWriters.com about preparing yourself to attend a conference, especially if you are a shy-type. I should have had this on hand for my blogging conference, but now I know! I’ll follow these recommendations for the Emerald City Writer’s Conference in October. The good news is, the Seattle conference matches newbie attendees up with mentors so there’s always someone to sit with at events; group dinners every night by genre and many other opportunities to engage with new people. I also ordered Clark’s book The Shy Writer Reborn for my Nook. I think it’ll be a good one for me as I work to tackle my lack of self confidence and marry that up with a desire to write and publish books (and gulp, eventually market them).
The pet blogging conference was well done (and my cats were thankful for the swag I brought home to them in the form of treats and toys). I’m just disappointed in myself for not making it a more enjoyable and productive experience. Lesson learned.
I’d love to hear about your experience at a writer’s conference (or other conference!). Were you nervous, excited, tongue-tied, talkative…? Leave me a comment and let me know. Oh! And one more shameless plug to go ‘like’ my Facebook page (*blink, blink*). There’s a ‘like’ button just to the right of this post–hey, look how easy it is! And I post a lot of fun pictures, jokes, articles and book recommendations.