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Benefits of a Conference: Meeting Real-Life Writers

I'm back from my first writer's conference and couldn't pass up the opportunity to share about my experience. Even though I want to convey my perspective of the benefits of going to one, I want to clarify that I DON'T think they're necessary to achieve success. I might be in the minority with my view, but I'd never gone to one before I got my agent and book contract.

However, after attending my first this past weekend, I do see the benefits of going to conferences to network with other writers, agents, and editors. Today I'd like to focus on the benefit of networking with other writers, and then in later posts this week, I'll share my thoughts about agents and editors.

At some point, every writer who's serious about publication needs to start networking with other writers. We can easily mingle online through blogging and other social media. So, why then would we need to do this in REAL life. Isn't the cyber world enough?

After this conference, I can honestly say that, no, I don't think online friendships are enough. There's something about cyberland that lends itself to superficiality. We can make happy comments, add smiley faces, and use lots of encouraging adjectives, when maybe we don't really mean it. After all, we're writers and we're good at typing out the right words. But are they always honest words?


This past weekend, when I was face to face with many of my blogging friends, meeting them for the first time, I realized this was my chance to develop honest, genuine writer friendships. Maybe I wouldn't necessarily become best friends forever with everyone I met. But at least I could let them see me for who I really was without hiding behind my lap top, and they could do likewise. Even though we definitely can wear masks in real-life too, it's much harder to hide who we really are.


So, what are the benefits of networking with real-life writers?

Encouragement: The writing journey is brutal. When we're together and can share openly about our struggles, we can draw encouragement and comfort from one another. I appreciated the listening ear so many of my blogging friends gave me over the weekend—the opportunity to share both my joys and fears. And having that outlet strengthened me in a way I just can't get in cyberland.

Advice: No matter where we're at in the process, we always have something more to learn. The conference provided countless opportunities for me to question other authors about the editing process and what I can expect over the next year. As a result I feel that I'll be starting this next phase of my career with more confidence.

Connections: Let's face it, connections with the right people are a part of the game. Whether the connections can help get an agent or editor, or help sell more books, we need to hook up with others for help. In my case, I wanted to meet other authors published through Bethany House. At some point I will need to have some of those authors review my books. If I can meet them now and they can get to know who I am, then perhaps the process of getting endorsers will be easier.


What do you think? Does cyberland provide enough networking benefits for you? Or have you benefited more from meeting real-life writers?
Special thanks to Eileen Astels Watson for rooming with me and listening to all my joys and fears. The picture is of Eileen and me before the banquet on Saturday evening.

38 comments:

  1. I would love to meet many of the friends that I have made blogging. Hopefully, someday.

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  2. I've been eagerly reading all the post-conference posts and have been seeing your smiling face all over the place! It looks like it was a great time and I can't wait to hear about all you learned.

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  3. Thank for for posting on the conference! I was just wondering what benefits might be available besides pitching... after all, I've already queried everyone who I might want to pitch! Tell us more!

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  4. Jody,
    Good to have the opportunity to meet you face-to-face and get to know you a bit better. This was my fourth ACFW conference, and I recall that after the first one I was convinced I didn't need to attend a future one. I didn't know anyone, wasn't sure the classes were all that helpful, and was totally worn out at the end.
    But as the years have gone on, I've come to realize that just the experience of being with fellow writers who share my goals and the opportunity to meet new ones--really meet them--made attending worthwhile. True, conferences alone won't make you a better writer, but they will allow you to be a more complete one.

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  5. I'm so glad you're willing to share your insights - we've been learning a lot from you of late.

    I think I get quite a lot from online networking, and I have met a few buddies in person. That said, there will come a point when I have to go beyond. I've some conference plans in the works, and I hope to see them to fruition.

    Glad you had a great weekend!

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  6. I would love to meet some of the friends I've met online in real life. I want to go to a conference sometime this year for that reason alone.

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  7. I have been to two conferences and left wanting to go to more! I love the personal interaction and support. It's so much fun socializing too! Rubbing elbows with "the right people" is helpful as are the workshops.

    Can't wait to hear the next installment of your publishing journey!

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  8. Welcome home! I am so glad you had a good time and got to meet so many of the bloggers and how nice that Elaine was your roomie!
    I love the in person relationships so much.
    Jan, a blogger and writer, is going to meet me in the state of Washington in two weeks! I can't wait!

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  9. Well considering I haven't met any real life writers...I'm gonna have to stick with the cyber world.

    Glad you had such a wonderful experience!

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  10. Your warmth and genuinely good character shine through your blog. I know sometimes we feel the artificial nature of blogging limits our relationships with one another, and it IS limiting -- no way around it. Still, I can tell a lot about you from your blog. You shine through! I also think that my blogging friends sometimes understand me in ways that people who know me only face-to-face don't see.

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  11. Hi Jody,

    You look so beautiful!

    I'm glad you had a good time at the conference, and that you got to meet so many writers/bloggers face-to-face. I love writer's conferences for that very reason. I've made some wonderful friends and we've continued to stay in touch thru blogging, e-mail and Twitter.

    I'm with you on the endorsement issue...if we actually know the person, it seems more appropriate to ask for one.

    I have to say that while I appreciate and enjoy my cyber-friends (like you!), meeting in person is far superior! Wanna get together for lunch? LOL

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  12. Hey, Jody! Thanks so much for your take on the conference. It's encouraging to read your assessment, because it might be years before I'm able to attend one--and I'd love to have something moving in the book world before then!

    That being said, I'd love to sit and meet with y'all in person. One thing I've missed a lot is a writer's group. I used to be a part of one and it was the best. I'm sure meeting y'all, who I talk with everyday, would be incredible. It would be great to be able to put experiences and mannerisms with names, faces, and words! Maybe one day on this side--definitely on the other!

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  13. Living in Paraguay, I am obliged to rely on cyberland for information and networking. The conference sounds wonderful!

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  14. I'm a conference junkie, self confessed. I never expected to 'be discovered' at them, I just went to learn about the craft and network w/ other writers. It's a good thing.

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  15. Jody,

    I'm so glad you had a meaningful experience at the conference. I have a different take on some of what you wrote. I try really hard not to be superficial online. I know you are this way as well. I understood your comment implied that online means of communication/networking can lend itself to that just b/c of the limitations.

    My take: I really try to stick by the "If I don't have anything nice to say..." and I put my heart out there, maybe sometimes more than I should. I avoid masks and hiding behind anything. This might be one of the unique ways God made me, but I feel a call to this as well.

    As far as the game and connections...another blunt honesty, I resist it mentally. Everything about my faith struggles with the "meeting people to make it concept". I crave to meet and know people b/c of who they are, like interests or some other fascination. I've always appreciated you and your blog for this reason.

    You hit a soft spot today.
    ~ Wendy

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  16. Glad the conference was successful for you, Jody. I'm kind of with Wendy on this one. I have found very honest, aware, insightful people in cyberland, including you. WOuld love to meet some of those people in person, but I am astounded by the closeness I feel with people I've never actually met.
    Karen

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  17. Nothing compares with face-to-face. It is so good to have a meal with, sit next to, or chat up others doing this writing thing.

    I always leave a conference with motivation to continue.

    This month's Writers' Digest talks about the necessity for writers to have relationships, how it benefits their writing and fuels their ability to tackle the alone work.

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  18. For now, online connections are enough, but I do hope to, at some point, have the opportunity to make real life connections. I'm glad you had such a great weekend.

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  19. I think before the conference, I would have said cyber-land was enough. But now, I see the huge benefit of meeting people face-to-face. I feel like I know you and others way better than I did before. Plus, it was just so much fun! And odd to see that you're a lot taller in person than I thought. :) There's a lot of tall blogging woman (myself included).

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  20. Jody, there are many components to becoming published, and you are proving that one size doesn't fit all. I think the lesson is that we need to do the legwork, do what we can to increase our chances, and leave the rest up to God himself. We all find our way through a unique path that is truly ours only, walked alongside our Creator, hopefully. That's the only way toward true success. I started attending conferences before I even knew what blogging was, so I've always known about and treasured my IRL writing pals, and definitely feel that they are a huge boost to the journey. You can't be IRL. So glad you had a great time! :) (Yes, using a smiley face...)

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  21. Jody...oops! Typing too fast again. You can't BEAT IRL (in real life). Sorry to take up more space.

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  22. In real life I've always been a very private person. Entering the blogging world was scary because I had to make myself visible (i.e., if I didn't say something I couldn't be seen). I'm growing both as a person and a writer through this experience. I think online encounters are a valuable part of our networking but firmly believe we still need face-to-face personal relationships. No matter how much of ourselves we share this way, or how honest we intend to be, there is still a sense of anonymity. As writers we're accustomed to hiding behind our words.

    Conferences provide a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in a totally writer-populated environment. Interacting with others who share, and therefore understand and appreciate the word-driven life we've chosen, is invigorating and I think it's hard to explain to someone who has never attended one, just how much benefit there is in that. I always return home elated and re-charged.

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  23. Yes, it is important to meet face to face and have real time friendships. I love writers' conferences for this reason.

    Unfortunately, some people cannot afford to attend them. In that case, critique groups are beneficial.

    I'm so happy for you that you got to do this, Jody!

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  24. Cute pic! :-)
    Also, I completely agree with this post. And I think I'm going to be having a similar post coming up about the agent/editor thing. (I think... could be wrong about the similarity)
    But for networking with other writers, really, really meeting them, yes, it was for sure worth it. :-)
    I loved meeting you too! You're so sweet and encouraging. :-)
    Looking forward to more posts!

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  25. Happy Monday, Jody! I'm so glad you enjoyed your first conference experience. I have yet to attend one, but I'm hoping to do so in the near future. I miss my old writer's group. You're right; it is necessary for us to connect in "real life" with other writers. I do know from experience, however, that it is not always possible! I would love the chance to meet my blogging buddies face to face!

    Jen

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  26. I was about to put, "glad you got home safe and sound", but then I remembered that you were creating this post in our hotel room, and I'm not sure if you scheduled it or not. I hope you are home safe and sound, and regaining rest. Bet your kids were thrilled to see you walk through your door!!

    I was almost in tears when all of mine and hubby came to greet me in their PJ's as the limo driver slid my suitcases into the foyer. I think he was embarrassed to see them in bed clothes, and the two barking, heaving dogs didn't help either. So good to be home though, and I really appreciate you as a roommate, Jody. I hope I didn't keep you awake too late, or wake you too early either!!! Sorry, if I did!

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  27. I agree with you. I don't have a group yet, and I've never been to a conference. I will someday.

    I think it's very helpful to be surrounded by people with the same goals. We all want to feel a bond with like minds.

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  28. I remember my first big writer's conference. I felt so awed by all the writers I was meeting. It was an incredible experience. But it's even more exciting to meet writers you've known online for a while. There's something so exciting about putting a face with all the words you've been typing back and forth!

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  29. One thing I loved about the conference was reading name tags and being able to think, "Oh, I know you." Whether it was a book I'd read, a blog, or on Facebook, it was amazing to take those I've met online and transform them into 3-dimensional people.

    Like Katie said, it was also surprising to see how much taller or shorter my imagination had pictured others. And to see if their online personalities matched the in-person conversations.

    You can't put a price on friendship. Whether face-to-face or across cyberspace, those connections make our lives richer.

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  30. Great post--very honest. To me, there is no substitute for sitting and gabbing with a fellow writer. I love the Internet, but I'd take a coffee date any day! So glad you had a good time!

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  31. The internet saves me from being avery lonely writer.It seems we have very few conferences here in australia ( in fact I don't know of any so far) and writing groups are hard to find. all of my networking so far is on the net. I have thought about flying over for the conference next year...and I just might do it. It would be so great to meet all you guys.

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  32. Hi Jody -

    I've been to a number of conferences and always enjoy meeting other writers. At the last Philly conference, I met a Facebook friend. There's nothing like hearing the voice, sharing a laugh, and making that real-life connection.

    I'm thankful for all my blogging friends, but I'd love to meet every one of you in person. :)

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  33. It's inspiring when I hear about writers like yourself who meet up with people that they blog with, whether it is at a writing conference or a make-shift get together.

    The fact is that most people that I meet at conferences I do not stay in touch with. However, I started up the Adventures in Writing blog as a direct result of meeting an aspiring author and staying in touch. The idea grew out of following her new blog.

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  34. I agree, nothing like meeting face to face. I have enjoyed attending the writer's conferences that I've gone to. I want to go to the Jackson Hole Writer's conference. Warren Adler is behind it.

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  35. Oh, how I look forward to face-to-face gabbing with the friends I've made in cyber world. Maybe next year? I believe you and I decided we would be able to drive to ACFW next year? Glad you had fun! I look forward to hearing more about it.

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  36. Sounds like your first conference was a good one. It's always nice to meed people in person that we have heard about, or met only by voice or internet.
    I agree thaat bloggers seem to put their happy faces on, especially with the comments. Oh, well, I can use some pleasantries.

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  37. I love the folks I met at conference back in April. Though my holy trinity was found via blogging. I've only met one in real life but the 4 of us are making plans to get together soon. They really are my miracle workers and I am grateful everyday for them (and our chain emails chatting with each other all day!)

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  38. I love talking with other writers face to face. It's fun to just hang out and realize how alike or different we are! I'm so glad you had a great time at the conference. I hope to get to go to this one sometime soon:)

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