A Conference Intervention

By The NCW Leadership Team

We are all gearing up for the conference. It’s been a while. Yes, we’re putting on a hybrid event this year. Sure, we hosted an amazing virtual conference last year. But for some of us it’s time to step out of the Zoom box and see people IRL.

It’s safe to say, writers tend to stay on the introvert side of things, so even if the last few years hadn’t been a dumpster fire, we might be struggling with meeting people face to face.

Sometimes it serves our creative mojos to peek our heads out of our doors and mingle. With people.

Conferences are invigorating, inspiring, and can energize our writing process. They are also a deep dive into conversation, expanding comfort zones, and brain fatigue.

It’s no secret we pride ourselves on putting together a friendly and welcoming conference. Even if some of you are new members, first timers, or out of towners, one of the most consistent comments we receive is how warm people are and how comfortable attendees and faculty felt.

That said, the Leadership Team has some strategies on how to navigate the weekend.

“I carefully planning my sessions. I like to make sure that the ones I’m attending are related to my current genre/project/problem. When possible, I try to attend a session with an agent I’m meeting with before I pitch so I can learn a little bit about them. Makes it less intimidating.”

— Heather Hein, Creative Programs (she/her)

“If there’s a time slot where no sessions interest me, I try to use that time to browse the bookstore. If there is an opportunity to sit at the same table as an agent I want to pitch, then I try to sit at that table so I can have a more informal conversation with them. It helps them remember me when it comes time for my pitch.”

— Sarah Roberts, Youth Programs (she/her)

“Take at least one session that is outside your toolbox. For me, that’s usually poetry, and I learn more from those sessions than I expect. Choosing something I don’t typically write opens my eyes to new ways of thinking about words and storytelling.”

— Amy Rivers, Director (she/her)

High protein snacks are must to keep your energy up and your brain nourished. Thinking is a workout!

“I have a survival kit a.k.a. my big purse. I pack various painkillers, caffeine pills (in case there’s no easy access to coffee), protein (jerky or seeds), dried fruit snacks, a slim water bottle, an extra note book, and extra pens.

Oh, lip balm, hand sanitizer and hand lotion too (Colorado is dry!).

While I don’t normally take them on the floor, I try to have little folders or containers in my hotel room so I can organize handouts and business cards as I get them. Taking pictures of QR codes and business cards on your phone is a big help too!”

— Mel Miranda, Social Media Coordinator (she/her)

“I like to make sure I am dressed in something that is comfortable but makes me feel confident. I also like to make sure I have a special notebook just for the conference and I have all my pens ready. No one ever told me to have cards to pass around, so I made some quickly before the second day of the first NCW conference I went to.

Make friends. Make connections. Keep an open mind. I am with Amy. I always try something that’s a little outside my normal genre, so I do make a plan for the workshops I want to attend, but I also leave wiggle room for change. Sometimes, as I go along, I change my mind because I’ve gotten to know certain workshop leaders or because I’ve gotten to know other writers attending the conference.”

— Cristina Trapani-Scott, Newsletter Coordinator (she/her)

We can do this.

“Mine is more of a mental game. My pre-game toolkit contains a big ol’ dose of self confidence.

I take a deep breath, remind myself that everyone at a writers’ conference is either a writer or someone in the industry, put on a smile and introduce myself. It might be to a famous author, or someone I vaguely remember from somewhere or it could be to someone standing alone who might be feeling intimidated.

At my first writers’ conference I was terrified that someone would discover that I didn’t belong. Since then I have learned that we all belong.”

— Ronda Simmons, Educational Programs (she/her)

“One thing I have to remind myself of is there are plenty of other introverts at the conference who are nervous about meeting new people. They will be grateful to you for starting a conversation with them. And if you can get people talking about what they’re passionate about, conversations will flow easily.”

— Bonnie McKnight, Membership Coordinator (she/her)

“Plan on layering. I know it’s Colorado and most of us are habitual layerers. BUT hotel conference rooms are like mini-climates. You could be in Antartica one minute and the South American jungle the next. It doesn’t matter how much we try to stabilize room temperatures, there’s never any consistency.”

— JC Lynne, Writing Bug Managing Editor (she/her/they)

If you’re attending multiple sessions in the same room, don’t sit in the same seat for each session! My brain at least is very spatial and looking at the screen/presenter from different angles helps me remember each session individually instead of having them all run together. Bonus: Switching tables means you’ll get to talk to more people and you get a little extra movement in between sessions, which can also help boost your memory.

— Krystapher Ardrey (they/them)

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