Conference Lessons

This past weekend was the annual Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) conference. It was the first time I signed up for this one, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My initial impression on the first day was that the atmosphere seemed subdued, but I quickly realized my error in judgement.

The writers conferences I’d attended in the past had been SCBWI (society for children’s book writers and illustrators) conferences and had a far more playful feel to them because we’re talking about children's books. 

My main reason for coming to the PNWA conference was not so much the breakout sessions, though they were interesting, but the opportunity to interact with agents and editors, and to meet new people. 

A writer, any artist really, grows stale if he/she doesn’t step out and meet new people, have new experiences, and look at things from a different point of view. Of course stepping out is not always easy for a bunch of introverted artists, but the PNWA was a huge success in that sense. 

Whenever I sat down somewhere to take a few notes or quietly practice my pitches someone would join me and offer to help, though it invariably turned into a wonderful conversation. There were people there from all over the country and even some from outside the country.  

I feel I learned the most from those people because we shared a common interest, though we came from completely different backgrounds, and through that common interest we were able to start a conversation about writing, publishing, and life in general. 

Sometimes a question as simple as ‘what kind of writing do you do?’ opened the door to real depth and a human connection. 

It reminds me of something I observed and try to incorporate in my encounters with others. A brilliant marketing lady I had the good fortune of working with many, many moons ago at a non-profit I wrote grants for, had the ability to make people feel at ease and open up simply by finding one thing to complement them on in the first 5 minutes of meeting them and then really listening to their response. (Thank you, Carrie!)

I wonder what the world would look like if we all took the time to even for 5 minutes put our egos aside and found something good in another? 

But now I’d better get back to putting together submissions to the agents who expressed interest in my manuscripts! Wish me luck!