by Sally Matheny, @Sally_Matheny
Do you resist going to writing conferences without a Linus-Blanket? I am not referring to your fuzzy, bed-raggled quilt from home. I’m talking about bringing a friend along for moral support. It’s great when writer buddies travel together, but there comes a time at every conference, (brace yourself) when good friends must part.
Parting doesn’t mean ending the friendship! Conferences provide fabulous times to connect with friends. For financial reasons, many writers pool their resources and travel together. That’s wise. However, as we all know, many writers are introverts. Quite often, they use their travel companions as security blankets.
Allow me to encourage the Linus-Writers.
Stuck at the Hip
If friends are stuck at the hip, it makes it difficult to linger after a workshop and ask a question. Dialogue may not flow as smoothly if you’re clinging to your Linus-Blanket.
Or perhaps you feel obligated to skip your moment of enlightenment. Your friend may be eager to get to the next destination and you’re concerned about making her late.
Besides, what if you really want to go to “Put Your Writing Wig On” and your old chum guilts you into going with her to “Plotting with Puppets”?
Divide and Conquer
If you come with friends, be brave. Go to a few workshops together but don’t be afraid to split up. Divide and conquer! You can share notes and comments later. Think how much fun that will be. Plus, you’ll double your education.
When you do attend a workshop alone, you have two choices. You can hermit in the back corner or you can be interactive. Be courageous. Get in on the discussions—make new friends. There’s sure to be another Linus-Writer there just waiting for you to say hello.
If your hometown posse constantly surrounds you, how will you become acquainted with others? Whenever my shy daughter tiptoed into a new group, I’d ask her, “What if your best friend EVER is sitting right over there? You’ll never know unless you go start a conversation.” This usually worked. Who wants to miss the chance of meeting their best friend EVER?
Food brings people together. Unfortunately, sometimes at conferences you’ll witness the same six people sitting at the same table at every meal. When this happens, an enormous opportunity for gleaning fresh perspectives, and possibly future employment, evaporates.
If you’re with a group of pals, it’s okay to stay connected. Maybe agree beforehand you will eat one meal together, but then mingle with other attendees for the remaining two meals.
Introduce your new acquaintances to your regular gang. Both parties will reap benefits.
Networking is a big deal for writers. God brings the most awesome people in our paths. Rather than solely focusing on what each person can do for you, consider how you might serve them. Usually, the quiet, Linus-Writers aren’t the ones with selfish motives. It’s an achievement for a Linus-Writer just to mingle!
A Few Suggestions for the Shy
- The challenge is to introduce yourself to at least two new people in each workshop and two new people at each meal. You’ll not regret it—just do it.
- Have business cards ready. They are conversation-starters. “May I give you my card?” Be sure to ask if they have a card to give you. Business cards provide multiple avenues to connect. If you struggle with initial face-to-face conversations, you may communicate more easily via social media.
- Comment about the workshops to someone sitting next to you, or as you’re waiting in a line. Try to keep your comments light and positive.
- Other conversation-starters may be “What do you enjoy writing/reading?” “Is this your first time at this conference?” These questions are safe to ask even if you’re unable to distinguish editors from writers. This could be their first time at BRCWC and surely, they enjoy reading!
Alternatively, you can always ask someone if he is presenting a workshop. If he is, then you’ll know how to conduct your conversation. If he isn’t, then you’ve just made the conference attendee laugh and created a friendly environment for chatting!
Friends are precious gifts from God. It’s a blessing to attend conferences together. Share the expenses, but count the cost of always sticking together. Pray for one another. Dare one another to be bold and branch out at the conference.
Good buddies will understand. Every Charlie Brown knows the value of a Linus.
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Encouraging others is Sally Matheny’s mission in life. She enjoys “reflecting on ordinary life under God’s extraordinary Light.” Her articles appear in numerous print and online magazines, including Clubhouse Jr., Appleseeds, Practical Homeschooling, The Greenhouse Report, and Homeschooling Today.
In addition to writing, she has a passion for fascinating history. You can find her speaking and teaching on both topics at co-ops, conferences, and to the N.C. Jr. Historian club she advises through the N.C. Museum of History.
A former public school teacher, with a Masters in K-6 Education, Sally has homeschooled for over seventeen years. Married for twenty-eight years, she and her family call the serene foothills of N.C. home.