Start Your Week Off Write: On Writing Conferences, Gnats, and Conquering Your Fears

image courtesy Tracey Hunter, Creative Commons

By Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

I shared a couple weeks ago about preparing for my first writers’ conference with the post 7 Insider Tips To A Successful Writers’ Conference Experience. Before I left I ran across Jami Gold’s post about pre-conference jitters What’s The Hardest “First Step” You’ve Taken which I could totally relate to. I took her advice about getting into “no-turning back” mode. Since I drove from Tulsa to OKC by myself, I had ample opportunity to give in to nerves and literally turn around and forget the whole thing. I gave myself a completion reward that required me to drive to OKC and even farther, a research trip to the Wichita Mountains. Since I was there anyway, I had no excuse to not go through with my plans.

I decided ahead of time I was attending for the experience, to learn about writing conferences and take note about how to proceed in any future conference I attended. I decided not to pressure myself with pitching to agents. This turned out to be a good idea, as I learned from Chuck Sambuchino’s excellent workshop, that to pitch to agents the prerequisite is a solid FINISHED novel.

Note To Self: Get to work and finish! 

I set four simple goals: talk to some people I didn’t know, go to all the classes that I possibly could, go to at least one buzz session, and stop navel-gazing being so self-conscious. I accomplished goal #1 at each and every gathering I attended.

Note to Self: Using “And what kind of writing are you interested in?” will eradicate awkward silence in conversations at writing conferences every time.

The workshops were all informative and well-presented. I learned about proper pitching and how to generate magazine article income from Chuck Sambuchino, how to make your characters multi-dimensional from Steven James, and a plethora of writing craft tips from William Bernhardt. I didn’t accomplish my #2 goal of attending every workshop that I could. I missed the first workshop on Saturday morning due to overindulgence at the social media buzz session the night before.

Note to Self: When social media buzz sessions are located at the hotel bar, pay attention to how many drinks are set before you. 

My #3 goal obviously came to fruition based on the prior Note to Self. Beyond that, the lovely Lela Davidson, who was gracious enough to host the buzz session, shared a tip about following the followers of those who may be interested in your niche to expand your social media platform.

Note to Self: Pay attention to great advice!

I really appreciated the professionals who shared their time and wisdom. They don’t make big money from these sorts of gatherings and sometimes have to put up with tempermental writers who like to give their own dissertations during the Q & A. (!)

I loved the supportive camaraderie present at the banquets each evening. The cheering for everyone who won an award continued strong and steady throughout the night. We could all relate to the blood, sweat and tears that went into the winners’ writing babies, just like we put into our own writing babies.

I met new friends, got to know a few old friends much better, met an editor who’d like to read my project when it’s ready (okay Self, Finish!), and made some new old friends, a.k.a. online friends whom I haven’t met in person and then got to meet face-to-face. Yay!

My #4 goal was accomplished thanks to the help of a fuschia blouse and some gnats. Besides the writers’ conference, there also happened to be a gnat conference at the hotel due to a recent replanting of the indoor courtyard landscaping. At the last workshop on the last day I sat at the front of a filled-to-capacity room where the speaker shared about writing voice. The author read works including her own to demonstrate voice. At the height of an emotion-filled piece, gnats began to congregate on my new fuschia blouse. Put on your glasses, gnats, I’m not a flower! I tried to swat discreetly, but to no avail. Eight gnats decided to have a power meeting on my blouse in the middle of the workshop. When I gave up worrying about it, I got over my self-consciousness.

Note to Self: Wear what makes you feel confident and comfortable, but be prepared to attract gnats.

The most important thing I got from the conference is the confidence I gained by pushing past my fears and doing it afraid. Fear always magnifies and distorts. The truth is never as scary as our imagination makes it. Step out of your comfort zone if you want to move forward in life. What you will gain is greater than your fear.

Want more inspiration to conquer fear in your life? Check out Dumb Little Man’s post One Uncomfortable Difference Between Successful and Unsuccessful People

Question: Where are you holding yourself back in your writing? What’s one thing you can do about it?

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6 thoughts on “Start Your Week Off Write: On Writing Conferences, Gnats, and Conquering Your Fears

  1. Hi Kristin, I’d call that a successful conference! 🙂 You talked to an editor, how cool is that?

    Congratulations, thanks for the link and thanks for the tips about gnats. 😉


  2. Thanks, Jami! Yeah, how it came about was that I was involved in a group conversation, my friend/mentor Jackie mentioned I was a great writer (yay for supportive friends!) and the editor asked what I was writing. After sharing the details, he said he would definitely be interested in looking at it when it was done. I didn’t know he was an editor/publisher at the time, otherwise I’m sure I would have thrown up, fainted, swallowed a gnat or two, who knows. 😉 It was one of those conversations of opportunity and luck that I guess happen at writing conferences all the time. I’ll be attending again next year for sure, now that I know they aren’t the scary monsters I made them in my mind. Pitching, though, that is the next dragon I have to slay. I’ll be relying on your great advice for that. 😉


  3. It’s great you got to pitch informally like that. Just shows that you never know when an opportunity will come along! I have to say, I love the OWFI conference. It has a great feel to it, a lot of camaraderie which is so refreshing and encouraging. Personally, I was outside the bar with Steven James during the buzz sessions, so less temptation to hit the brew. LOL. But hey, letting your hair down a bit is half the fun at a conference like this. So glad you went for it and stepped out of your comfort zone. It’s totally worth it, isn’t it?


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