I’ve noticed that, just as there are seasons for book releases, there are seasons for book events—and that season seems to be now! Wow, considering writing is usually a solitary pursuit, there sure are a lot of community events happening. It seemed to start, in the Pacific Northwest, with the Willamette Writers Conference, and now Wordstock, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Tradeshow, the Oregon Arts Summit, and Alaska Book Week are upon us. Once the holidays are over, there’s Write to Publish and the Northwest Independent Writers Association Symposium—and even the next Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference is in the region, in Seattle!
So, Indigo, is it really important that I attend any or all of these events? I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Keeping up on Facebook and with my kids and pets and writing from my treadmill desk seem plenty for me!
Dearest Busy Bee:
Thanks so much for writing. We get a lot of emails about this subject, and Collaborative Editor Kristen Hall-Geisler has written about it before. But it doesn’t hurt to talk about it again, especially since, you’re right, this is a particularly busy season for conferences, conventions, and tradeshows.
For better or for worse, comfortable for your personality or not, the days of the hermit writer are gone. You need to get out and talk to people in order to get your work published and then purchased. So we do recommend you attend events—even event, singular, if that’s all you can do this year. Over the last weekend of September, Susan DeFreitas, Kristen, and I attended the Eastern Oregon Word Round-Up, a festival of books in Pendleton, Oregon. This is its second year, so it’s still very much growing. Still, we benefited a lot from attending. Here are five examples of how:
1. You may make new friends and reconnect with the old. Susan reconnected with a colleague from her MFA days. I attended the Round-Up last year, so I enjoyed seeing Eastern Oregon writers, editors, and publishers I hadn’t seen for a year. Kristen finally met in person many people whose names she’d seen or heard. (In the photo above, she is meeting Paty Jager, a prolific publishing novelist; one of our Indigo instructors; and a fellow judge, with Kristen, in the Central Oregon Writers Guild Literary Harvest writing contest.) We all met people about whom we hadn’t known at all, and we all left with business cards exchanged and Facebook friend requests received and sent (a key online version of the card exchange in many businesses, including publishing).
2. You could make sales or start discussions to do so. Kristen sold a copy of her book—to an area public library, no less—and the executive director of the Libraries of Eastern Oregon asked us to talk with her further about bringing Sledgehammer Writing Contest to her audience.
3. You will likely earn a healthy ego boost. People attend these events to learn from each other—you will impress someone with something you know. Susan and Kristen both taught workshops at the Word Round-Up and received positive feedback from the attendees.
4. If you attend an event for a repeat time, you will be delighted at how much more adept at attending the event you are this year than previous years. That may sound silly at first consideration—but if you know exactly which coffee stand always has the shortest line, that you should arrive early so you have time to prepare in the space, and that you should go ahead and plan on staying the night because you will have had such a good time the first day that you’ll want to stay a second, you soon realize that having that knowledge makes you more skilled at accomplishing what you’re there to do.
5. Sometimes an event is in an area you love visiting. We felt rejuvenated just from spending a little time in that beautiful part of Oregon, so different from where we live in the western part of the state.
Okay, you writing champ, you—go get ’em. And by “get ’em” I mean that you should go squash your fears and your nerves. Learn, teach, experience, and from those things, you will edge closer to your publishing goals—and you’ll most certainly gather new topics to explore through, what else, writing.
P.S. Indigo participated in/attended or will participate in/will attend all of the events you mentioned, Busy Bee. Look for us at whichever one(s) you choose!
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Kristin Thiel is Indigo’s senior editor.