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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Are Conferences for Everyone?

I’ve been waiting for registration to begin for the Writer’s Police Academy since last year. It’s a great opportunity to learn from the professionals what really happens at a crime scene and the detailed process of an investigation. The conference provides ride-alongs, trips to a shooting range, jail tours, step-by-step workshops on how to process a crime scene, dispose of a dead body, undercover work and microbial forensic. You get the idea. The list goes on and on. This year the guest of honor is Michael Connelly. The guest presenters are Lisa Gardner and Alafair Burke. Who wouldn’t want to be in North Carolina this September, right? Well… me.

I got all the emails for months, anticipated the day of registration and kept my pep talk mantra rolling in my head; a continuous circuit of “You can do this. Go out on a limb. It’ll be worth it.” And I tried to ignore the voice in my head that kept saying, “Don’t set yourself up to fail. It’ll be a waste of money. Conferences are not your thing.” And I know deep down that I should listen to that voice because it’s right. Not because there isn’t a great line up of people and activities, but because I won’t take full advantage of the opportunity. I’d go to hear the speakers (and sit alone at some obscure table) and I’d enjoy listening to them, but the rest would be hell.

It’s the networking, the socializing and the lunch hours when I have to look around the room and find a seat at an already full table or find an empty table where I sit alone (either one is excruciating). It’s making small talk with people I don’t know and the exhausting task of trying to be an extrovert when I’m overwhelmingly the opposite.

The date to register for the Writer’s Police Academy came and went. I made a few menial excuses to myself, like I couldn’t really afford it this year and what if something comes up at the last minute that prevents me from going? September is a long way off.

I was relieved when registration day had come and gone. I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to register, but I tried hard for a few months to persuade myself otherwise. Conferences are for socializing, for networking and at least for the Writer’s Police Academy, about gathering research, all of which I can do from the comfort of my computer. It may not be as much fun, but it doesn’t make my heart race or my palms sweat.

How about you, anyone else with an aversion to conferences and feeling guilty about it? Anyone have an antidote for introversion?



jean harrington said...

No antidote to offer,Patricia, except to say, "What's wrong with being an introvert?" After all, you're a writer, and writers work in their solitary caves bringing forth people from their imaginations. You need quiet for that, girl--at least I do--and while conferences can be fun, sitting in the hotel lounge with a glass of wine and witty, clever people, if it's not for you don't force the issue. Remember what Polonius said!

Anne Marie Becker said...

I registered for WPA, though I wasn't expecting to. Kind of a last minute decision, and yeah, I'm a bit intimidated. Must be why I haven't figured out my hotel or flight plans yet. :) Conferences exhaust me, but now that I have some friends that go to each one, I look forward to them. With WPA, I won't know anybody. Yikes!

Rita said...

With the way online groups have evolved conferences as learning tools don’t suit every ones needs they way they used to. Now, I think the WPA is in a class by its self. I would go just to hang out with the likes of Michael Connelly and Lee Childs. I like the smaller reader writer cons where there are more readers than writers. Fun. RWA is, IMO, for networking. RT, well I don’t quite know how to explain it. My conferencing will be limited this year. I’ll miss the hanging out but not all the hype. Just be calm.

Ana Barrons said...

If you find an antidote (other than alcohol, which helps), let me know! I'm also very introverted and really have to work at being sociable in a group situation -- particularly huge groups like conferences. I went to a chapter retreat by myself years ago and just felt awful. Now I only go to conferences with a writing buddy, and fortunately the one I go with is super friendly and bubbly and knows everybody. Then, of course, I end up retreating because I get overwhelmed...

J Wachowski said...

Oh, totally feeling your pain, girl! I remember one conference, shaking hands with an editor and handing her my business card, (at least a dozen people in front of me had just done the same thing,) but in my case, she made a face. At me. A yuck face.

Now, maybe she had a sudden pinch in her shoe, or maybe she was sick of people handing her cards--who knows? She's human.

However, I saw the yuck-face and had to go back to my hotel room and hide...for the rest of the day. Which kinda cuts into conference time. :)

I will say, exposure therapy has helped. I've gotten better over the years.

Now I only hide for an hour or so when someone does a yuckface. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks all, for your suggestions and admissions. And I thought I was the only one. Nice to know I'm in good company:)

Lynne Connolly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynne Connolly said...

I think it's nice to have the support, especially for first timers. I'm running the class for first-timers at the RT Booklovers' Convention this year, in New Orleans. It's a valuable resource. RT is one of the friendliest conventions I know. You absolutely get most out of it if you're alone.
I have never got a contract from formal pitching, but I have had some of my biggest breaks at conventions. From the informal meetings, the parties, going to the bar and daring to sit at a table with people I don't know.
A convention is work, and work isn't always fun. But if you plan out your strategy, it can work.
And yes, I'm cripplingly shy and introverted, but nobody you meet at a convention, unless they really know me, will suspect that.

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