I recently had the pleasure of attending the Christian Writers Guild Writing for the Soul Conference. This was my second time attending. The first was in 2009 and I think I was so nervous about the whole thing that I really missed out on the fun and benefits. This time I was much more relaxed and really came away with some great insight and inspiration.
This week I want to highlight some of the insights I came away with. Today I’m going to share some thoughts on networking.
In the weeks before the conference I realized I didn’t have any work at a place that I felt comfortable pitching. At first I was stressed by the thought that I was wasting my money. Then I figured out that I could still network, learn, and gain valuable support which would still be a winning situation for me.
When I first began writing I thought writer’s conferences were just for either those who needed lots of help or the pros who needed to talk about all their accomplishments. Since then I’ve found that conferences are an important part of a writer’s work. They offer networking opportunities, support and encouragement, and a chance to learn from teachers who’ve walked the walk.
Networking is one of the big benefits of attending these functions. Many of the big conferences and even some of the smaller ones have editors, publishers, and agents on hand to meet with attendees. In the tough world of publishing these days meeting one of these folks at a conference can be a great foot in the door.
However, there is also a great opportunity to meet other writers and that is a great thing. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t network well. I lean a little toward the shy side and I don’t make small talk easily so the thought of meeting people and hopefully building meaningful relationships worried me. I prayed about it and decided to just be myself and let the Lord lead. And lead He did. I met some great people and really enjoyed myself.
The meals and general sessions were held in one of the big ballrooms. For lunch and dinner each table was hosted by an agent, editor, or mentor. I loved being able to sit at tables with someone I admire or someone I want to get to know better. It’s a low key way to get to know more about their work and have them get to know your work.
During meals you also get to meet other writers. We talked about our work and our lives away from writing. One morning as I had breakfast I talked with a writer from Denver. At the end of breakfast and the morning keynote session she looked over at me and said, “This was just what I needed. It really helped me organize my work in progress and know where I want to go with it.” Sometimes just talking through what you’re writing is what you need to be able to figure out what needs to happen next.
I loved meeting all the different people over the weekend. It was encouraging and inspiring. Getting to know other writers is a great benefit of attending writers conferences.