Writer’s Conference First Impressions

February 19, 2011

This weekend I am attending the San Fransisco Writer’s Conference.

I have never attended such a thing before. In fact, I have never (except to a few family members and this blog’s readers) publicly announced I am a writer before. I have read that others have the same hesitance. Perhaps timidity, perhaps superstition, perhaps even ego (after all, how many times do you want to stammer excuses when asked, “Hey, haven’t you gotten published *yet*?)

It has been, so far, an experience of highs and lows. One very frustrating event where poor moderation led to a session that lasted far too long and ended with several people not getting their chance to shine; but for the most part, the speakers have been excellent and the range of information broad.

Social media dominates. Alas, we poor writers have to learn to publicize ourselves. Gone are the days of sitting in your nest producing fledglings books, and then letting others worry about the flying lessons. Especially if one goes with ebooks and self-publishing, which sound quite enticing after several workshops on the topic, one must find ways to Build One’s Platform. I cringe.

There is an element of excitement, the lure of the challenge, but it is to force myself out of my lifelong comfort zone. Worthy aspiration, terrifying prospect.

I am writing tonight because I am skipping out on the evening’s events. A fifteen and a half hour day around myriad bustling bodies, then six hours sleep, followed by a nine-hour day was too much. Veterans of various maths conferences, both my offspring wonder that I would go to all the sessions. “I’m paying for it,” I reply. For the conferences they’ve attended, they’ve been fully subsidized, which encourages a less stringent attitude. They did socialize extensively with all the other mathematicians who found beer and football more to their taste than the esoteric ramifications of the elusive equilibrium.

If asked if I would recommend attending a writing conference,  I’d say, “Yes. Go to your second one.” Not to be facetious: truly, there is a mindset, a way of functioning that has to be learned, by me, at least. Some people are natural networkers and they seem to have met all the right people and gone to all the right sessions. For introverted types like me, and I went to a session today by Dan Poynter titled ‘Self-Promotion for Introvert’, it can be frustrating. I know I need to network. I want to network, but somehow I end up off in a corner all the same.

My poor networking skills led to the discovery that men establish bastions. Although there are a large number of them here, they seem to cling together. Lesson one on the first morning – do not, as a female, sit at a table where three or more men are already gathered. Other women do not arrive. Other men do, and they ignore you.  Yes, yes – generalization. Allow me the luxury of writing for effect and not for total accuracy. I have had several nice chats with men; it’s not that they’re unapproachable, merely that they are more comfortable in a pack. It’s not just women who clump; the stereotype holds across genders, guys.

I must ascend the knee-boggling steep hills again to be at the conference hotel at 7:30 in the morning. An hour not fit for man nor beast, but one that has been decreed. So I am off to polish my pitch yet again, and get some sleep.


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