TRAVEL HERE: DFW WRITERS’ CONFERENCE
Though I didn’t travel very far to get to this year’s DFW Writers’ Conference, I’m hoping what I learned will take me very far. Some of what I learned had nothing to do with writing.
Lesson One: Know Thyself and Do Something About Your Shortcomings
This wasn’t my first writers’s conference. My first was 2011’s DFW Writer’s Conference and I’ve been to a few others since, both DFWcons and those held by other organizations. From my previous conferences I learned one very important thing, mingling is not my forte. Well, not mingling in general, because I mingle well among friends. And it’s not that I’m shy. You need something announced to a roomful of strangers? I’m your girl! If you want me to go over there and introduce myself to one stranger who’s in a group with several other people, I’m all undone.
One of the most important opportunities, at a conference of any kind, is networking. It’s especially important in writing, but the truth is, I haven’t networked well in the past. I didn’t see that changing unless I did something. So this year, I volunteered. I signed up for a couple of stints at the registration desk. The difference was remarkable.
I may not be big on networking, but I’m a natural hostess. By working at the registration table, I was suddenly transformed from a mere conference attendee to the hostess with the mostest. I was greeting people left and right, answering their questions and solving their problems. When my volunteering was over, I had a whole building full of new friends. It made networking a whole lot easier.
Lesson Number Two: Even to the Experts We Can All Be Experts
At previous conferences, I assumed I had nothing to offer. I felt brand new at this and assumed other folks already knew everything. If I talked to them, I’d just be a drain on their resources.
Well, there were a lot of folks with a lot more experience than me. Some were already successful authors, both in traditional publishing and in self-publishing. Others have become agented and are waiting to hold the first copy of their manuscript in their hands. But there were also folks who basically woke up earlier in the week and thought they’d see what writing was all about.
I may not be on the New York Times Bestseller List yet, but I’m further down the road than a lot of people. I have a degree in Creative Writing. I’ve submitted to literary journals and had poetry published in them. I’ve actually made money for freelance articles. I’ve written a blog for three years. I participate on a number of social sites. I’ve attended workshops and conferences. I completed novel, read for critique groups and found beta readers. I’ve re-written my novel, written the first draft of another and have a very rough start on the third one. I’ve researched agents and agencies online. I’ve sent query letters. I’ve pitched and had consultations. Though these things have just become what I do every day – there are a lot of people who’ve never done any of them. To them, I’m an expert.
But once I started talking to people, I found out I had something to offer, even to those who’d made it further down the road than I had. Maybe all they needed to know was where the restroom was or some driving directions, but when you don’t know, you’re grateful for assistance. But I also found I had career information others might need. Maybe they’d published several books, but had never tried to submit poetry. Maybe they were new to blogging. Maybe they knew all about writing, but didn’t have a clue about marketing – and after decades in sales and marketing, that is something I know about.
So I networked this time. I may not have made the connection that will catapult my career into the stratosphere, but I did learn a number of things I hadn’t previously known. Come back next week and I’ll share some of the writing lessons I learned in the classes I attended.