Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Importance of Writing Events

As technology makes it easier for writers to build a platform and hide away from the world, many writers are doing just that--using technology as an excuse to avoid face-to-face networking opportunities. I'm a bit of an introvert myself, so I totally understand this impulse. However, it does limit the opportunities a writer can receive.

Personally, I try to make it out to at least a few events each year. They are always fun, though I often panic before them and look for reasons to opt out.

Here's a quick list of reasons writing events are beneficial:
  1. Make connections. You can make connections with speakers and event directors, but your fellow attendees are more than likely pretty interesting themselves. After the event, try to find and friend these connections on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  2. Get inspired. I always leave writing events with ideas for my writing and my editing. Just being around other writers is good for the soul and sparks conversation.
  3. Learn opportunities. At most writing events, there will be people seeking submissions to their journals, presses, and/or contests. There may be people looking for guest bloggers and/or interview subjects for blogs. I usually leave writing events with more than five solid publication leads.
  4. Find answers. The introvert in me knows how difficult it is to ask questions of complete strangers, but it's important to do so. Most people at writing events are there to help and encourage (whether they're speakers or not). They want to help, and writing events are a great place to finally get answers to serious and off-the-wall questions. So ask away.
Okay, so those are some textbook reasons why I think writing events are beneficial. To get a little more personal, I thought I'd look at some recent events in which I've participated and show just how much I get out of each event.

Red Clay Writers Conference, Kennesaw GA, November 12, 2010. I was invited to speak at this event through a Facebook connection. I spoke on building a writer platform and attended a session on blogging and one on memoir writing. In addition to learning about some publication opportunities, I also made connections with freelancers who I used for both the 2012 Writer's Market and Poet's Market books. Plus, I interviewed one audience member for my Poetic Asides blog and received an invitation to speak at the Blue Ridge Writer's Conference from a person who attended my session. I should also mention that my blogging strategy at MNINB shifted dramatically after this conference.

Blue Ridge Writers Conference, Blue Ridge GA, April 1-2, 2011. As I mentioned, I was invited to this event by a person who attended my session on platform building during the Red Clay Writers Conference. In fact, I presented on the topic again here (with a few updates) and also presented on how writers can find markets for their work. On the night before the actual conference, I also read some poetry. Anyway, I learned more publication opportunities at this event, made some new connections that have already resulted in a webinar and may turn into more speaking and freelance opportunities.

Austin International Poetry Festival, Austin TX, April 7-10, 2011. Interestingly enough, I was invited to this event through a Facebook connection as well, which just goes to show you how important having a multi-dimensional platform building strategy can be. I was a National Featured Poet for this four-day event, which meant I was running from venue to venue reading poems, making connections and talking poetry. As with every other event, I learned new publication opportunities. I've also been invited to read poetry as part of the Houston Poetry Fest in early October and have been featured as Poet of the Week on an AIPF member's blog. Plus, there are a few other opportunities still cooking.

So that's a 6-month snapshot of events and how they've led to other events and opportunities for me. Granted, I already have an established platform that I'm continuing to build. However, writers who are building their online-only platforms need to recognize the importance of in-person networking as well. If you're only doing one or the other, you're really missing out on so many opportunities to reach new audiences, readers, and even income.


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Are you--like myself--an introvert? Don't let that fear of strangers (and small talk) hold you back:


Porter Anderson said...

Robert. Thank you for these comments.

I notice that your personally informed (and informing) specific examples -- Red Clay, Blue Ridge, Austin Intl. -- are all instances in which you were invited; you presented. May I ask, just in the general form, not for specifics, what this might have done to the cost factor? Were your expenses paid? Travel? Maybe an honorarium?

Not a THING wrong with those things, if you got them, don't get me wrong. But it strikes me that in seeing this from the other side of the podium, as it were, it might be a shade easier for you to feel positive about such events than it would if you were out-of-pocket every step of the way. Nothing to say that negates your cogent points, but it's a factor, surely.

And separately, I must say that several of my writing friends and I have been concerned to see a sort of writing-event-addiction take hold of some folks. They're the tote-baggers, the badge-collectors, they're on the circuit...and they never seems to write. The choice is theirs, of course. If the social joy of yet another How To Edit Your First Chapter session is so transporting that junketing from one event to the next is a person's fondest pleasure, so be it. But haven't you, too, seen borderline Conference Fever from time to time? If not, listen at the meet-ups for "Just one more seminar in Oregon, Gladys, and I'm sure I'll know the answer. You need to be at that one, too." :-)

Thanks for the good write!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Good points (and questions), Porter!

I don't think it's a good idea to go to extremes in networking--whether online or in person. The writing should always come first.

I'm lucky enough to be in a situation that I don't usually have to pay for events anymore (because I'm speaking at them). Sometimes, I come out ahead; other times, I come out behind.

However, since I make a little freelance income, I can write off expenses on my taxes--as other freelance writers who earn money each year can do. So working freelance writers should keep that in mind too--and keep accurate receipts and records.

Jennifer Ruth Jackson said...

I have been posting "want ads" for writers in my community to start a group. No one has answered.

Am I truly alone in this town or are people just more shy than I am? It is kind of depressing...

... Paige said...

great post Robert and I enjoyed reading the comments.

I'm wondering why you didn't put more info in your comment Jennifer?

Jennifer Ruth Jackson said...

Paige: I live in a small Wisconsin town and have tried multiple online writing groups. The groups I have been in were far from ideal. So, I thought I would try starting one in person. No one has responded, even with stating exactly what it is I'm looking for; my requirements are simple.

I just want a few serious, compassionate writers to share work and give encouragement/constructive criticism. It's harder than it sounds.