Thursday, January 26, 2012

Conferences and Networking

With the approach of the annual Oklahoma writer's conference, I find myself remembering my first experience with it last year, how much I learned, and how much I've grown as a writer since then. 

Last year, it was about learning, meeting other writer friends, and becoming comfortable with thinking of myself as a 'real' writer. I didn't volunteer, I didn't try to stand out, and I wondered around big eyed when any well known author would speak to me casually. I hadn't started this blog, I didn't have a website, and the first draft of my book was only a quarter of the way written.

How things have changed!

This year, I am comfortable in my own 'writer-ness', *grin* I am the president of my writer's group, and my book will be ready to submit after a few more revisions. My blog is doing fabulous, my website is up and running, and I have an author profile on twitter as well as my profile on facebook. I want to be more involved. I want to pitch my book. I want to start promoting myself for my book. 

In thinking of ways I could help out at the conference, I decided to be a shepherd. Shepherding is one of the best opportunities for networking at a conference. Shepherds are assigned to conference speakers and help them with things such as taking them to lunch, making copies, verifying room set up, welcoming participants into their room, introducing the speaker for their presentation, assisting with handouts during presentation, and watching the  clock during presentation. 

Though not glamorous and including tons of work, it is the moments between events when a shepherd is alone with the speaker that the magic happens. That is the time when a shepherd can get to know the speaker, become friends, and hopefully have the speaker ask about the shepherd's work. 

And that, my friends, is worth being a chauffeur, gopher, and entertainer for a perfect stranger.

I found out today who I will be shepherding and I could not be more excited. Melissa Frain, Editor for Tor Books, the leading publisher of science fiction and fantasy. This is a dream come true for me as she works for the publisher responsible for publishing books by my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson. I can only thank God for putting such an opportunity before me. 

Though I am nervous about meeting her and actually talking about my book with her, I am excited and impatient for the conference to arrive. What an amazing opportunity. 

Are you networking to promote yourself? If not, I encourage you to begin attending conferences like the OWFI conference in Oklahoma. You never know if they person you meet will help take your writing to the next level. 


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