by Ursula Renée
In a few weeks, hundreds of authors from around the world will gather in New York City for the Romance Writers of America 35th Annual Conference. Besides offering educational workshops for authors at every stage of their career, this event will serve as an opportunity to meet editors and agents and forge new friendships. However, for those who feel awkward at gatherings, this experience can be overwhelming.
There may be times it feels as if everyone but you has a friend. To solve this problem, walk into a room and head for a corner. Once you are settled in your safe haven, glance across the room at the opposite corner. Nine time out of ten, the person trying to blend into the wall does not have anyone to talk to.
Now that you have identified someone who is probably feeling as awkward as you, take a deep breath, walk across the room and introduce yourself. A good conversation starter is, “what do you write?” Or, find something you admire about her – whether it is a dress or piece of jewelry – then compliment her about it.
During meals, listen to the conversations around the table. You may find that you have something to offer to the discussion (i.e. you may be able to exchange recipes with an author or suggest places someone can visit on vacation). However, just like you would steer clear of politics and religion, you must also be mindful of being critical and offering unsolicited advice on any topic. No one wants to hear how you would have rewritten the ending of her novel.
If you find yourself in the presence of authors who have made the New York Times bestseller list and wonder if you are worthy enough to be in the same city as them, remember the answer is always, “Yes.”
Do not measure your worth by that of others. It does not matter if you can count on one hand the number of followers you have. Everyone, including the superstars in the industry, had to start somewhere.
However, while you are building your self-confidence, do not get so full of yourself that you alienate everyone around you. Remember, there is a time and a place for everything. Do not expect editors and agents to drop everything and fall at your feet when you walk into a room. While you may want to take advantage of an editor’s inability to escape, she may not want to hear about your thousand-page epic novel while she is trying to take care of personal business.
In order to get the most out of the conference, you will have to make the effort to come out of your shell. And, while it may feel like the most challenging task you have ever undertaken, the friendships and connections you form will make it worth the effort.♥
Ursula Renée is the President of RWA/NYC. When she is not writing, she enjoys photography, drawing and stone carving. Visit her at www.ursularenee.com.