Dear Agent Manners,
To piggy-back on some of the Writer’s Conference questions.
I would like to attend a my first Writer’s Conference this summer. My two concerns are 1) I won’t know anyone, and 2) I feel somewhat uncomfortable talking about myself. I am neither shy nor gregarious and I’ve always enjoyed attending conferences but I worry it will be a lot of writers there with their buddies, and agents schmoozing with each other.
Are Writer’s Conferences like sororities (fraternities)? Or, can the serious, unpublished writer benefit from such an event as a social outcast?
Any suggestions on how to maneuver through one’s very first conference would be appreciated.
Thanks for your time,
Trying to Make it Work in the PNW
Dear Trying in PNW:
Conveniently, Agent Manners can point you to this excellent post from Mary Robinette Kowal about Schmoozing 101 in which she gives some great advice. In particular, per your point #2, Kowal recommends the art of schmoozing through the device of “the other person is more interesting than you are.”
Conferences can be a great experience, and an informative one, as well as a way to spend time with other writers who may understand more about all the challenges of the writing life than your family pet (no matter how good a listener Spot or Mittens might be). Agent Manners also reminds you that everyone was new at one point – even agents have their first conference where they don’t know anyone. Agent Manners also advocates volunteering to help out – the convention organizers will appreciate you and introduce you to people, and you may get an opportunity to escort an agent or editor or author guest.
Since you are in the PNW, Agent Manners recommends the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. Agent Manners has attended this one in the past and it’s a great conference with much to offer, and has a very good reputation among agents.