An Introvert Walks into a Conference…

canstockphoto3908268I’m in a hotel room in downtown Minneapolis, wrung out and exhausted from smiling and talking about my novel with other writers. My hobnobbing and pitching at a writer’s conference garnered two requests for pages from lit agents. I’ve already called and texted friends and family to squee about it. But as usual, the exhilaration has melted away into the realization that I will have to work harder than I ever have at digging in and writing. I do not spend a long time in joyland. The water’s too warm.

The woman who met with the same lit agent in the time slot before me, passes me in the hallway, eyes downcast. She told me about her book beforehand and despite the fact that it wasn’t my cup of tea, I could see her light up when I asked about it. That’s writing for you – guts, out on the table for everyone to see.

While waiting to go in to meet with another lit agent, the woman behind me complimented

Looking for some fashion sense, obviously.

my suit. I had felt, to that point, like an idiot. I went with a black business suit, like out of a stock photo from a 1990s corporation. Most others looked like what I imagine writers to look like – all Bohemian scarves and elbow patches. I looked like I was interviewing at an accounting firm. Still, it was kind of her to give me that little boost before my pitch session and it made me think about the fact that I’m not kind like that.

People talk about supportive communities and I fail miserably when it comes to the little compliments that boost. I’m so in my head just trying to cope with being surrounded by people, that I miss those opportunities. I’m a compliment blurter, which means I’m usually interrupting someone so I can get it out there. Better than none at all, I suppose.

Right now, I’m hiding in my hotel room writing. Other writers have found compatriots and are off to restaurants and bars. Some are even rubbing elbows with agents and editors. I’m eating leftover chips from lunch and have started the coffee maker. I thought I’d find a sense of camaraderie here and instead, it made me realize how long I’ve worked on my own and how I’ll always need an out and I can’t decide if I’m sad or just resigned about it.

canstockphoto89044This is me.  Following happy news with a chaser of Michelle. I came back to the room, threw on a t-shirt and sweats, started writing lists, checking agent name spellings, taking notes on everything I was asked to do. Pulled out my calendar, looked at time frames and figured what I needed to get done and when. Time to go to the evening event. I’ll put on that suit again and find a chair near the door.

35 thoughts on “An Introvert Walks into a Conference…

    1. I can pull off the extrovert thing for 3 hours tops and then I need to be quiet and alone to recover. I’m a little disappointed to remind myself, once again, that I’m not built for working a crowd. Still, I learned some things about the industry, proper querying and was able to do successful pitches, so it was worth it to show up. One more day to go…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I’ll bet–sounds like just what you needed. Good for you for doing that, sounds really intense too, what with black suits and elevators, and chit chat.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. First, congrats on the agent requests!
    Last year, I went to my first conference- AWP in Los Angeles. I was thrilled, but also completely terrified. I’m not good at asserting myself or mingling. I loaded my schedule with conferences and skipped all of the mixers. I wish I had been brave enough to attend, but I just wasn’t. My most nervous moment was the first day at the book fair. I really wanted to engage with people at the various booths, but I kept feeling awkward and uncomfortable. However, I finally gained a little confidence by going to the back of the fair and talking with people at the less popular booths. I was actually the first person to buy a book for an author who was feeling shy and nervous themselves. To be honest, this book wasn’t something I would have sought out, but in the moment, I was happy to purchase from a kindred spirit. It got easier after that first day, but I still shied away from events that I wanted to attend. I hope the next time, I will just go for it.


    1. I suspect that I won’t be attending another of these. I have writer friends who don’t have the luxury of time or money to attend a conference and I feel a little embarrassed that I haven’t, through virtue of my personality, been able to take full advantage of the opportunity.

      Still, I’m glad for the experience, will come away with new information about the publishing industry and have learned how to talk about my book. It’s been five years since I wrote the first draft of my novel, so I’m glad that it’s finally off the bench and am ready to start querying agents in earnest. Thanks for sharing your experience and best wishes to you on your writing journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I hate that kind of event too. All those people I don’t know–and since I struggle to recognize people, people I should know but don’t, which is worse. Congratulations on getting some interest. That’s worth the pain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fortunately, while I was briefly excited by the interest, I have a long enough view to know that it’s a foot in the door, no more. The real work begins when I return home and start chiseling away at the requested first 50 pages.
      If anything, I’ve learned a lot about what agents like and don’t like and how to put together a proper query letter. There’s a lot of advice out there, but hearing from 10-12 working agents really knocked some points home.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Congrats on surviving the event. I get why you’re in your room eating chips. I’ve been to lots of conferences, work-related, and couldn’t wait to get away from the peoples to process what had happened. I’m resigned to it at this point. Wonder what will come of it all now?!


    1. But wait – there’s more! I have another day of breakout sessions and two more pitch appointments. I didn’t sleep well, have loaded up on caffeine and ibuprofen and discovered I’m having trouble pronouncing names. This oughta be fun. If I were doing this right, I’d be loading up my coffee with Irish whiskey right about now.
      As for what will come of it, it could be absolutely nothing. As I’ve learned from reading other working writers’ blogs, at any point in the process things can fall apart. It’s not a done deal until one has a contract and check in hand. One agent said of the 800 queries she read in a year, 7 writers got represented. This is one of the reasons I’m not agog with giddiness. The hard work is just beginning.


  4. Go, girl! You’re doing it just right in your own inimitable style. I love that, in part — this I admit — because my style is similar. I especially liked this couplet: I do not spend a long time in joyland. The water’s too warm. 🙂


  5. I had similar feelings at the one or two writers’ conferences I attended. Also, I get tongue-tied when expected to pitch my perpetually-in-progress novel in 30 seconds or less. It surprises me that writers aren’t more gregarious among themselves. Conferences could be so much more fun if the atmosphere weren’t so competitive.


      1. Michelle, Yes, and blogging about your experience enriches all of us who didn’t attend. Writers are interesting people, for sure, and I guess by attending more conferences, you will become more comfortable and find simpatico friends.

        You may feel more “introverted” than you are. The term itself has a derogatory tone. Perhaps “reflective” would characterize you better. Who doesn’t need time to process?


        1. I don’t intend on doing this again. I consider introvert just a simple way of figuring out what energizes me. I always think of those needs in percentages. I need 70% of my time alone and 30% around people in order to remain centered. Each person has their own percentages and I guess I don’t think it’s derogatory as much as a useful tool.


  6. I can only imagine Michelle. I’m glad you’re there though and getting a couple of positive results is better than a sharp stick in the eye. I couldn’t even read an essay out loud when I took a English classes a few years back–my voice would shake so bad, I had to ask my classmate to read it for me. Thank God, and she was a wonderful reader. I know you will soak a lot in and learn and use what you learned, as you are already integrating it into your work ethic approach to things. Good for you!


    1. I definitely got positive results, but in the end, it’s still all on me how far I take them. I can pull off confident, assertive conversation, but the pudding will be in the work. I’m glad to be home to put everything in context and to decide how to move forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The part of the brain that deals with ambitions vs reality is duplicitous. I’ve submitted my novel for a national writing prize, the Leacock Medal, Canada’s top and only medal for humour. I know — I know! — that a self-published novel isn’t going to crack through, without even discussing whether it merits inclusion. But the brain keeps playing out these “what if” winning fantasies. I try to prepare for disappointment but my hopes won’t let me. Your brain seems to prepare for success but your pessimism won’t let it. In short: our brains are stupid.


    1. Ah hell, Ross. I’m right there with you – hoping you get that prize, knowing that writers are so often playing the odds. I walked out of my first pitch grinning ear-to-ear. She liked me! She liked me! Well, none of these people saw my actual writing, so how delusional did I have to be to think that was a win for me as a writer?

      Liked by 1 person

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