Monday, August 15, 2011

It Takes a Village - Networking at Writers Conferences

I LOVE meeting people.

That’s why last year when I attended my very first ACFW, I went with one overarching goal – meet the fabulous ladies of Seekerville. (Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE the Seekers! If you are in doubt, just check out the past posts on my personal blog ;-) Poor Mary Connealy has to put up with my nagging more than she probably wants to do. And Audra Harders has the most gentle and lovely spirit. She took me under her wing and prayed with me. It was beautiful. Missy Tippens is full of southern sweetness. Accents are wonderful things.
And Julie Lessman? She always has a flock of people following her bubbly personality around. So fun!
I know, there are wonderful editors to be wooed and talented agents to impress, and those two sets of individuals were on my list too – but first and foremost I wanted to meet people who had inspired my writing (and my life) for the past year and a half.

And I wasn’t disappointed. It was a blessing straight from God.
1.       Because they really are as wonderful as they seem online
2.       They will be continual encouragers of my life and future supporters of my writing.

So, why is it important to get other people involved in the publication process?
Let’s face the hard truth. Very few people break into the world of fiction on their own. Dan Walsh is an extreme exception with his quick and easy path to publication, but for the rest of us it truly ‘takes a village’.

A village of highly trained or somewhat zealous individuals. J
Networking is the best way to create your ‘village’. And networking at Writer’s Conferences is vital to the unpubbed (and published) author.

One editor said that if she had two manuscripts, equally good and both publishable," said author and conference teacher Jack Cavanaugh, "one having been mailed in, the other picked up at a writers' conference where she met the author, she'd publish the conference author over the person she hadn't met." Why? "Because after making gut decisions, publishers invest upwards of $30,000 on the project before it ever hits the bookstore."

Basically, taking the risk and sacrifice of time and money speaks volumes to these people. They may see you as a more ‘serious’ writer when you’ve forked out $1200 to attend a writer’s conference and prepare for it.
Besides agents and editors, make sure to MEET OTHER WRITERS!! Who knows when you’ll bump into a new friend, crit partner, or an author who shares your work with his/her editors. I met Angie Dicken last year and I’m SOOOO happy to know her as an AlleyCat now! I got to share some chat time with Patti Lacy and Wendy Miller…and Wendy still wanted to be an Alley Cat with me – even after meeting me! (wonders never cease)

Siri Mitchell and I had Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks together.

I enjoy the networking just for the mutual encouragement- that’s my favorite part. In my ‘real’ world, my husband and kids can get glazed expressions when I go into writer-speak. But at conferences, especially Christian conferences, I find kindred spirits. People who talk to imaginary friends, dream up crazy worlds, and google-search for weird things like various poisons, other words for ‘smile, the body language of a liar, and ‘how long can a person survive in a sinking car’.

It’s pretty awesome.

So, what are some basic Networking tips?

1.   Come prepared

a.       Intro & pitch- practice your personal introduction and then your pitch. Personal Introduction: “Hi, my name is Pepper Basham and I write different types of fiction, like historical & contemporary romance, speculative, and YA fantasy. How about you?”
You’ll get more on the ‘pitch’ writing later in our Writers Alley series , so stay tunedJ

b.      One sheets – Next Monday Angie is giving a GREAT post on writing One Sheets. More than just your pitching tool, this is a great way to help calm your nerves as you pitch. It’s like your ‘cheat sheet’ J

c.       Business cards – a visual source for networking. Don’t leave home without it.

d.      People wishlist – Have a goal. Who do you want to meet? My top goal this year is to meet my fellow Alley Cats. Woohooo! And then I get to meet my adopted-writing-mother RUTH LOGAN HERNE from Seekerville. Not only that, but I have a list of agents/editors I want to try and ‘bump into’ as well as a long list of cyberpals who I’m dying to accost. It’s going to be a blast!

e.      A smile – never fully dressed without one. It’s the universal sign of ‘niceness’ – and for heaven’s sake, if you’re a Christian you should have at least one thing to smile about . Doesn't Laura Frantz have a GREAT smile!J

2.   Never eat alone

a.       Meal opportunities – Find a place to sit with people you don’t know. Eating is our most social avenue. Take advantage of it.

b.      Social gatherings – use other gatherings as an avenue to explore new friendships and connections.

c.       Service opportunities – volunteering in the bookstore or at the registration desk puts you in front of a whole lot of people over a short period of time. Even singing in the choir at ACFW allowed me the opportunity to meet Regina Merrick and Lisa Carter.

Plus you get the added bonus of serving. I met Janette Oke this way last year.

3.    Seize the moments (and stretch your comfort level) – take the opportunity to meet new people. Don’t just stay with your ‘group’, but branch out. I stumbled into Erica Vetsch and Patty Smith Hall. Author Cathy Marie Hake sought me out after a year of cyberchat! Woohoo!

I met Cindy Wilson(ALLEY CAT) and Jeannie Campbell in the taxi on the way to the airport!

You never know who you’ll meet and how that will inspire your writing future.

4.    Don’t forget to reciprocate

a.       I’ll give you my business card if you’ll give me yours ;-) Make sure to exchange cards with the people you meet. Unless you have a photographic memory, this will be extremely helpful 2 weeks later when you’re writing ‘thank you’ notes or googling a website.

b.      Your new best friend? Talk AND listen. It’s so easy to monopolize a conversation when you finally have someone who actually wants to hear about your imaginary friends (believe me, I KNOW), but I’m pretty sure when God gave us two ears and one mouth he was trying to make a point. (Melanie Dickerson, I couldn't find the pic I have of you in Medieval attire ;-) But you looked great!

5.    The perfect follow through – After you get home, keep the networking going. Follow up with emails, visit website, and send thank you notes. I will NEVER forget Keli Gwynn’s beautiful ministry to me in her personal cards she sends. Not only does it show her generous nature, but it solidifies the fact that if she needs my shout-out about her upcoming debut – she’s GONNA get it!!!!

So, what are some extra tips you have for networking at a Writers Conference?

Anyone you really, really want to meet at your upcoming conference? J


Ralene said...

I want to meet the Alley Cats! You all have been such an inspiriation over the last year or so I've been following th blog. You guys know I'm a fan. :)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh, that's for reminding me, I need to get back into regularly visiting Seekerville. It is a great blog.

Conference is amazing for networking and it's so exhilarating to actually meet in person those you've blogged with for years!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Yeah, I'd like to meet my agent! HA! :D

Perhaps I've already met them. Now I'm just being cheeky.

Pepper, you are fantastic! Full of joyful energy and one who loves to laugh, of course you're part of the reason I meow with you cats!

~ Wendy

Pepper said...

Some major hugging will have to follow - so be prepared! :-)

Pepper said...

You are right!
My favorite part is getting to see people int he flesh. It makes my conference experience!

Pepper said...

Didn't we have loads of fun with Patti Lacy?
And you are lovely - inside and out. I can't wait to get to see you again with an entire AlleyCAT year behind us :-)

Keli Gwyn said...

Pepper, I loved meeting so many of my treasured online friends in person at conference last year, including YOU. =)I'm eager to meet more this year, including the Alley Cats I've not had the pleasure of meeting before.

Missy Tippens said...

Excellent post, Pepper! Such great advice. I'm with you. The best part is meeting online friends in person!!

Loved the photos! You looked so beautiful and glamourous at the banquet! (And isn't it fun to actually get really dressed up once or twice a year?) ;)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Pepper, I love your post--your excitement for Conference shines through. I don't get to go this year (sigh), but hopefully I'll get to meet you and all the Alley Cats next year. Looking forward to reading more before and after Conference!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Love all the pictures, Pepper. Hmmm. I notice there were no pictures of me on this post.


:-) I enjoyed meeting you last year. I am so sad I won't be able to be there this year. :-(

Pepper said...

Me too!!!
I will have the opportunity to meet Casey and Mary for the first time!! Even room with them- poor girls ;-)

Pepper said...

I can always put one of you up. I have like THREE!!! So many pictures so little time!!
And I wish you could come. You looked so elegant in your medieval garb last year.
Wait....maybe I'll go add that picture. So fun!

Pepper said...

You are SOOOO sweet. I love getting to play 'dressup'. Usually I'm sharing the tiaras with my daughters and the dresses don't quite fit :-)

Pepper said...

Oh no, Jeanne!
I hope you can come next year and we can celebrate The Alley Pals who come along to meet us. What a blessing all of you are!

Missy Tippens said...

I won't be there either, Melanie. We can pout together.

Joanne Sher said...

Sooooo wanna go. BBAADDDLLYYY - but it's apparently not happening this year. I REALLY wanna meet Roseanna White, and Seekers, and AlleyCats, and whoever my agent is gonna be (yeah - I WILL get one. REALLY! LOL).

Casey said...

Oh Pepper, you've got me itching to RUN to St. Louis. My goodness, I'm nervous with excitement, what a great post! It's going to be so wonderful to meet and connect with everyone. Getting jittery. :D

Beth K. Vogt said...

I'm making my list and checking it twice (blatant plagairism, I know) of the people I'm looking forward to meeting at ACFW. And it will so much fun to finally put faces to the names of the Alley Cats!
There's so many "what should I do?" questions rolling around the Internet pre-conference. I remember author Randy Ingermanson saying, "It's not about you. Think about all the other writers attending the conference. How can you help them?"
I try to remember his advice whenever I prepare for a conference.

Carol Moncado said...

I'm a bit scared to meet my roomies. But in a good way. More scared of the cops that might show up.


Right now, I'm just trying to not freak out completely... Petrification is likely to follow...


Cindy R. Wilson said...

Great post, Pepper! I was so worried about meeting editors and agents last year, I didn't think what a great opportunity it was having the chance to network with other writers as well. It's such a wonderful place to learn a grow and meet amazing people - like you! :)

I am so sad to be missing the conference this year, but hopefully I'll have the chance to go again in the future.

Regina Merrick said...

What a great post! I loved meeting you last year, and look SO forward to seeing you this year! Yes, Laura has the sweetest smile and warmest hugs of just about anybody, doesn't she?

I know exactly what you mean about the "glazed-over" look. Going to ACFW last year, as scared as I was to room with 3 people I'd never met! - was like going to this huge family reunion of people like ME!

Thanks, Pepper!

Susan Anne Mason said...


What a great post! Thanks for making me glad I've decided to take the plunge, conquer my fears and GO!!

Can't wait to meet everyone there. But very nervous as well. But it sounds like everyone is very friendly and will look out for us newbies!

Can't wait to meet all of you.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pepper, just delightful. Lovely. And I will never forget how conferences have put people in my path in the most wonderful ways. The things that have come full circle in five years. Amazing. Good. Marvelous!

Thank you for the great shout-outs for Seekerville. We love being a part of something bigger than all of us, and making friends and family along the way. I love me some extra-sweet Southern daughters! ;)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Ah Pepper, You are the ultimate extrovert who shines in these settings. I can't wait to see you again at conference this year!

Pepper said...

Oh Joanne,
You are such a sweetie - and such an faithful Alley Pal!
Can't wait to meet you someday!

Pepper said...

Get ready for a BIG OL' Hug!!...or five

Pepper said...

You are positively RIGHT!
It was an honor and joy to get to serve in different volunteer roles at ACFW last year.
A blessing!

I can't wait to give you a big ol' hug too - if you can stand it ;-)

Pepper said...

Be afraid. Be very afraid

Pepper said...

It is such a nuturing experience, isn't it?
So many people willing to help.
And oh, I wish we could see you this year - but we WILL get together someday.
And what a time we'll have!

Pepper said...

I really should have entitled this post, It Takes a Family
Because, especially at a CHRISTIAN writer's conference, we are all supposed to belong to the same family, right?
The family of God.
What another added blessing!

Can't wait to see you again?
Are you singing in the choir again?

Pepper said...

You are such a sweetie.
You and I have shared some contests together and you've always been so encouraging.
Thank you!
Can't wait to meet you!

Pepper said...

I may be scary, but I have lots of love too!
I can't tell you how excited I am to get a chance to meet you.
And I'll even try to behave myself.

Here's hopin'

Pepper said...

It was such an honor to get to cheer for you last year.
And now, with a year behind us as AlleyCats, it will be even more fun.

You know, I score borderline on the extrovert/introvert scale. Weird.
And borderline on the Right brain/left brain scale.

I'm just weird. No surprise :-)

Carol Moncado said...

You know... if I had a video camera and captured Pepper meeting Ruthy for the first time, I just might be able to win ten thousand dollars...


Julia M. Reffner said...

Great post and loved seeing all the pics!

Oh, there are so many I want to meet...someday :). The Alley Cats, of course, Julie Lessman, Laura Frantz, Cheryl Wyatt...people who have encouraged me along the way.

Melanie Dickerson said...

LOL! Love you, Pepper!!!

I'll miss you this year. Sniff-sob.


Angie Dicken said...

Pepper! It was such a God thing to meet you last year! I am SOOOO excited for Conference this year. I was telling one of my other writer friends, it is going to be a reunion! I have gotten to know so many writers in the virtual sphere, it will be so fun to meet them in person.
And I so agree about publishing a book alone...I keep adding to my list the phenomenal writers that have helped me better my is definitely not a solo project! Love ya! Can't wait to have an Alley Cat Chocolate Party!

Audra Harders said...

Pepper, no fair! You've got me drooling over conference and it's still a month away!

You nailed the conference experience for me -- networking. LOL, such a fancy word for getting together with fellow Christians andn writers for an entire weekend where we can hug, plot, giggle, cheer -- the list goes on and on -- to our hearts' content.

Absolutely awesome.

And Pep? Ever think meeting YOU was a blessing to ME?? Let's see what other workshops we can sneak into this year, LOL!!

Pepper said...

You mean Ruthy's petrified expression as I grab her in a massive bear-hug in the middle of the ballroom?
Yeah, that should be good! ;-)

Pepper said...

We'll send you cyberhugs and weird texts so you'll feel more like you're there.
Will that help?
I can get Casey to take pictures of her Mr. Write too. :-)

Pepper said...

Love you back, Mel
I'm so happy to have watched your stellar writing year unfold.
How cool is that!!!

Janet Dean said...

Excellent post, Pepper! I loved meeting you at last year's ACFW! You are as adorable in person as you come across in your blog. I'm getting excited for St. Louis!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Looking forward to odd texts on the lists...and definitely any photos of any "Mr. Writes" with Casey!!