Blogger: Mary Keeley
Mount Hermon ushers in the busiest writers conference season from now through autumn, and many of you will be making your way there today. Be sure to introduce yourself to Janet and Wendy when you see them. Writers conferences are great venues for writers to spend time together focusing on their shared passion for writing. But don’t overlook opportunities to get acquainted with new friends.
A writer friend and i recently conversed about the overall conference experience. Conferees are busy each day taking in workshops, general sessions, and meetings with agents and editors. The experience is especially enjoyable when you are there with other writers you know. Critique partners often attend the same conference so they can learn and encourage each other and spend time together during free times and meals. Some conferences attract repeat attendees and faculty, who enjoy the chance to reconnect. These shared times are added blessings in the conference experience.
Then my friend told me about a time she attended a conference by herself. She decided to start a new table at lunch and let God choose her table mates at the table for ten. Nine people who belonged to the same writers group took the remaining seats. She commented that she couldn’t break into their conversation no matter how she tried. The one time someone initiated conversation with her was to ask her to take their picture. She understood it wasn’t personal; they were just enjoying being together with their group. She also felt God had a lesson in it for her. Having experienced this herself, my friend now looks for a person already sitting at a table, alone, and asks if she can join her. She said it works well unless the person rushes to say, “Sorry, all these seats are saved,” without a second glance or even a smile.
Surely these oversights were innocent and unintentional. Minds are racing to get where we need to go and make the most out of our conference experience. We don’t realize that when we look at people near us and quickly dismiss them visually when we don’t recognize them, it could be a deflating experience for them, especially when a writer is hoping to gain friendships in the Christian writing community.
I cringed as she relayed these experiences because I recall observing instances like these myself at conferences. And I’m quite sure I have unwittingly been guilty of not recognizing and reaching out to an introverted conferee who is alone or perhaps a person who is attending a conference for the first time and doesn’t know anyone. Agents and editors usually host tables at lunch and dinner as part of our faculty role. It’s our opportunity and privilege to talk with each person who chooses to sit at our table and to give our full attention as they describe their WIP. Together as faculty and conferees, let’s be watchful at the next conference to balance our time with friends and moments when we can reach out to new friends with conference graces.
Have you observed someone at a conference who appeared to be alone or shy about entering into the activity? Share a story about when you reached out to someone new and what happened.
A reminder to take time at your next writers conference to extend conference graces. Click to Tweet.
Amid the many benefits you take in at a writers conference, give back by extending conference graces. Click to Tweet.