Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Going Alone

By Hannah

You're reading a writers' group blog and the subject is going to events. You say, "I love the fellowship and support, but what if I don’t have a group and I have an event next week?” Well, okay, the chances of tossing together a group of like minds in seven days is slim, but you could always pretend you’re with us.

Amy, to start, has the most impressive knowledge of the business behind writing. I do homework before an event, but if Amy won't be there, I now do even more. Not just who's speaking, but details down to who's really running the event. What are their names; do they write, too? Do presenting authors, their agents, and/or their editors have blogs, and what materials are produced by the organization hosting the event? Minor details are conversation points, as when you ask the organizing assistant how to pronounce an author's name, and oh by the way, love that piece you wrote last week. Then you turn as the keynote speaker brushes by in the hallway, offer your hand and congratulate her on that "nice" deal you saw in Publishers Marketplace.

Lynne is the voice of calm and reason when walking into a sea of unfamiliar faces. Being with Lynne means that before you plunge through the door, you are prepared and have a plan. You've brought paper and pens, business cards, maybe a book, some mints or candies. You walk first, of course, to check-in, then take your materials and find a comfortable seat - not off to the side - where you can scope out the event and plan the next stage. Will the conference require you to move from room to room? Spend some time on reconnaissance and find where they are located. Is someone selling books or reviews? Page through them, buy one or two, ask questions. Get some tea. Find the restrooms. There's enough to do so that you will look comfortable, if not outright confident.

Lisa is the one who will take you out of yourself and your nervousness. Lisa will tell you that if you write, you have reason to be there, so enjoy yourself. With luck there may be one or two fellow writers whose antics demand attention, but if not, you have options. Strike up a conversation with someone wearing a beautiful scarf, or someone you decide looks particularly literary. Casually admire the view out the windows or read hotel plaques that tell you things like the Parker House hosted famous guests like Ruth and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and former kitchen employees included Emeril Lagasse, Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh. If you tell yourself to learn one new thing outside the seminar itself at each event, sweaty palms may become a thing of the past.

There's more to each of us, of course, and we all share these qualities, to different degrees in different situations. Which has lead to a revelation of sorts. You can attend events, or you can attend events well. The latter is an expertise, building on manageable skills that can be developed and strengthened. Is it more fun to go to events with a group? We think so. We enjoy each other’s company, and our four perspectives have unique value. But Group has taught us that even when we need to fly solo, we never really go it alone.

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