by Brenda Carre
Are you a conference virgin on the brink of your first experience or are you a seasoned veteran with experiences behind you that you'd like to share? Either way I'd love to hear your views.
Here are mine.
I was certain my very first conference was going to be a disaster. I sat in my room for a half an hour trembling like a Hairless Mole-rat afraid to emerge and register for fear I’d screw up and do something idiotish. After all, I was about to meet authors who had written some of my most-loved books. I feared I’d be the brunt of hilarity for years after. Looking back on that day I laugh at my own ego. I had an agenda that day. I wanted to be memorable, but I had no way to go about it. Once I calmed down and told myself to take that first step and let the rest take care of itself, I was fine. One of my best memories of that conference is of sitting in the bar with a brilliant woman author and her husband discussing her research into the history of the Templars. This was a golden experience I could never have predicted happening, and would never have happened anywhere else but at a conference.
Fast-forward several years. I was in the registration line-up and I heard a voice behind me. A quavering voice saying. “But I don’t know anybody here.” I remembered how I had felt five years earlier and I went over to her and introduced myself. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship that has since lasted ten years with an author who is both a brilliant writer and a brilliant reader. I have learned and shared so much with her I will always be grateful for that moment in the lineup at a conference.
Conferences, especially the ones where you have an opportunity to meet and mingle with the pros are golden opportunities to grow as a writer, to develop friendships, find mentors and make industry contacts. But far more than this, they are a journey to the fire with the tribe. From that very first conference I attended to the ones I still attend, do readings and panels at and also work at as a volunteer, I have learned that we are a tribe of human beings with a very special gift. The gift of communication and empathy. Use it. Be open to it and you will not fail.