Networking at the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference was a flop.
In everything I’ve read about conferences and certainly in my own writer’s group I’ve heard how important it is to network at writer’s conferences.
I went to the Regional Mid Atlantic SCBWI Conference last weekend and found again how hard it is for me to network. This was true also at the Pennwriter’s Conference I went to last May.
I suck at it. I felt like the wall flower at a party in middle school. First, I had crowd fatigue after just one workshop. I was blown away about how much work is ahead of me with marketing my book “Annie’s Special Day.” And about how that’s my new job. Not writing.
I was so overwhelmed after the first workshop that I ran to my car to lick my wounds. I didn’t want to talk to anyone except my husband. I looked at my watch. It was only 9:30 am. He would be fast at work on his own project, on his linguistic program and I thought I can’t call him after every workshop, every hour. I’d wait till later.
So I stayed in my car and walked around till it was time for the next workshop. It was an agent panel. How I wished I had an agent to talk to my publishers and navigate that trail for me. And not for the first time. There are so many questions I have to negotiate by myself, right now and this whole past year. Yes, I wish I had an agent. The agent panel only confirmed my fears and/or wishes.
I tried to talk to the authors in line for the bathroom. They just weren’t friendly. When I asked if they were enjoying the conference, they looked at me like I was from Mars. Maybe they were having the same reaction I was. Then after I had finished there was time to wander around. People were milling around. Finally I got the nerve up to ask someone,
“Everyone’s talking but us, what’s your name?’” and then we started talking.
I talked to three other writers during my conference. None of them were published or even had a finished book. All were afraid to tell me what their book was about because they thought I would steal their idea. None had an elevator speech or even knew what that was.
SBWI conferences are those that have narrowed down the genre of writers. They are those conferences that deal only with children’s literature.The attendees are kid lit writers or illustrators.We all have that in common. So I thought it would be easy to talk to people. Easier than at the Pennwriters’ Conference anyway. I just don’t have an easy time of it.
I felt immense gratitude for my writer’s group where I had learned so much about the business of writing. I felt gratitude for all the people along the way that had told me, taught me and had passed along information to me about writing
I was further along the road than these writers I had met. None had heard about the online conferences that had given me so much, The Muse Online Conference and WriteOnCon. All I could do was give them the web sites and dates of the conferences and reassure them no one was going to steal their idea. That most people have so many ideas of their own that they want to develop they don’t think to steal another’s. I only gave my card to one other person and I don’t think it was looked at. No one shared email addresses. Yes, networking at this conference was a flop. At any rate I did talk to three people and enjoyed the workshops immensely.
Have you had similar experiences? All I heard was how important it is to network at these things and I couldn’t seem to do it very well. Have you gone to conferences and had a hard time networking?