How can I USE you?

by Pari

Decades ago when I lived in D.C., I read a cartoon in the Washington City Paper (if anyone can remember the artist, please let me know) that had a bunch of people at a typical cocktail party. This was soon after the release of the first Rambo movie. Everyone at this event — men and women alike –dressed in power suits and had one sleeve ripped from their clothing. Their exposed arms were muscle-bound (think Sylvester Stallone) and in their hand each one carried an uzi.

These D.C. insiders would approach an unsuspecting person and say, "Hi. Who are you? Whaddya do?" Depending on the answer, the interviewer would either shove the respondent in a pocket saying, "I can use you!" or throw that person over a shoulder with "I can’t use you!"

This, I think, sums up how many people regard networking.

Common wisdom holds that the more people you know and the more powerful they are, the further you go.

I’m not sure I buy that anymore.

In my public relations workshops for writers, I stress the importance of networking and I still believe, if done right, it’ll serve them well in their professional careers.

But something has changed in my perspective. I’ve become a quality rather than quantity kind of gal. And quality isn’t necessarily what you might think . . .

Before I earned my first book contract, I went to every writers conference with a specific game plan. My quarry: agents and editors. I didn’t bother with anyone else because I couldn’t use them — they wouldn’t get me published.

Something changed when I actually signed that first contract. I remember the exact moment. It was at Left Coast Crime in Pasadena (my book wouldn’t be in stores for another year). I was sitting in the bar with Suzanne Proulx, Sinclair Browning and Steve Brewer (who’d taken a naive fellow New Mexican under his wing). The three of them were talking about their experiences with agents and editors; they gave me a crash course in the realities of being a writer and the writing life.

I went back to my hotel room and realized I’d been a fool. I’d spent so much time trying to find the "players," that I’d ignored the true gems, the people who had the time and inclination to teach me the ropes. A few months later, I went to my first Bouchercon and realized there was another group I’d never considered: potential readers. Sheesh. How could I have been so myopic before?

Something else has changed during the last few years, too. I’ve stopped trying to meet everyone in the room. Now I just want to meet a few people, to connect in meaningful ways — to learn and share and not worry about trying to impress or persuade.

It doesn’t matter to me anymore if I meet the famous folks. Most of them are off at their parties, special dinners and power meetings at these conventions anyway. And you know what? I find myself enjoying the ride with the people right there.

This hasn’t been a business decision; it’s been a life one. My time is important. I don’t want to spend it pandering or figuring out ways to use others. I want to enjoy myself and to be sincere with those around me.

Don’t get me wrong; I hope to meet new folks at every venue. Quantity can still benefit my career; the more people who read, buy and talk about my books, the more I’ll succeed.

And even though I no longer try to cozy up to the biggies, I end up meeting a great cross-section of people anyway.

At Wrangling with Writing, I had the wonderful opportunity to share time with many aspiring writers, the con’s incredible organizers and volunteers, and people like: Corey Blake and David Cohen of Writers of the RoundTable, agents Cherry Weiner and Loretta Barrett, and Victoria Lucas. None of these meetings were planned. All of the connections were real.

At Bouchercon, I got to pal around with the international guest of honor John Harvey and others such as J. Kingston Pierce, Linda Richards, Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Ali Karim, Thalia Proctor (it was a very international con for me this year) and so many more.

What wonderful experiences. And I had absolutely NO agenda at either one.

People can sense that.

They can feel that I’m not calculating what they can "do" for me — whether I want them to give me a blurb or a bigger book deal, if they’ll turn my work into a movie or decide to promote me in their magazines. They understand that I’m more concerned with having a good time, being real, engaging in the true conversations that bring new perspectives and enrich life.

If, along the way, some of these relationships fruit benefically for my career — all the better.

If not — at least the journey was damn fun.

What about you?
What’s your attitude about networking? Has it changed over the years?
Do you go to conventions or conferences with a list of must-meets?

50 thoughts on “How can I USE you?

  1. Gerald So

    This year’s Bouchercon was my first time attending a con, and almost as soon as I arrived, a friend asked, “Who are you hoping to meet?”

    I said, “I’m happy to meet anyone. I wouldn’t want anyone I met to sense that I really hoped to meet someone else.”

    I was lucky that a lot of people at Bouchercon recognized me by name and spoke with me freely. I’m generally wary of networking. It’s not my nature to “use” people, nor do I want to be used. It’s true I told most people I met at B’con about THE LINEUP, but I didn’t obligate them. Any feedback, participation, or promotion from them is a bonus.

    I went to B’con with a plan of the panels and events I wanted to attend. I attended most of those, and didn’t feel I had missed anything terribly important.

    Reply
  2. J.D. Rhoades

    Well said, Pari. Soon after arriving at Bouchercon, I had a conversation with a young writer who excitedly told me she had a list of the folks she really wanted to meet. I laughed as gently as I could and told her to throw it away. You never know who you’re going to meet here, or where it’s going to lead. And people can tell if you’re trying to get next to them just for “networking.” Just hang out, be friendly, and let it happen. Think of it as Zen conferencing.

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  3. Jake Nantz

    I know some writers I’d love to meet. Maybe some day I will. But the fact remains that I loathe networking. Because it never stops. Some people can never turn it off.

    See, my mother owns her own real estate company. I remember being on Spring Break my senior year at Lees-McRae, and I was watching a movie at 3:00 in the morning. Her pager starts rattling on the counter at THREE IN THE FRICKIN’ MORNING, and it was another agent…not with a sale, but to chat about something. I once went to dinner with my folks where it took her 45 minutes just to get to the bathroom because she had to stop and see everyone, because a big part of her income is based on referrals.

    Never do I want to do that. When I get to my first con, I just want to have fun. Hell, based on her blog, I want my wife and I to hang out with Kaye Barley. Sounded like she had F-U-N!!

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  4. B.G. Ritts

    At my first B’con I had a list of panels to attend and made all of them — once or twice a bit late. The next one I had a list of would-like-tos and made many of them. This time I had my would-like-tos, and except for the four I was scheduled as room monitor, I was so busy, I only made two or three. Now I know to volunteer as room monitor for the panels I really want to see and let serendipity lead the way for everything else.

    As to networking, each job I’ve ever had was a result of it in one form or other. But the interesting part is that it was never because of an intentional get-to-know someone. Someone knew my brother, a person I had worked with before, a friend of a friend, etc.

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  5. Wilfred Bereswill

    Great post Pari. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who had the pre-published game plan of agents and editors.

    I learned a lot at B’con (my first.) While the panels were good, the bar was great. That’s where I got to meet most of the ‘Rati group, and others I’ve come to know on-line. Yes, I need an agent, but I used my moments with some of the agents there just to chat about the business, not to practice my pitch.

    I tried to chat with readers as much as I could, but I was a little starstruck at times.

    On Friday I head to Muncie Indiana for Magna Cum Murder. I hope to meet a lot of readers there.

    Reply
  6. pari

    Gerald,I think you’re attitude sums up what I’m talking about:I said,

    “I’m happy to meet anyone. I wouldn’t want anyone I met to sense that I really hoped to meet someone else.”

    I’ve had that experience and it feels nasty, unclean . . .

    And, btw, it was an absolute pleasure meeting you!

    Reply
  7. pari

    “Zen conferencing”

    J.D., I love this!

    It’s exactly what I’m talking about; the glorious ability to go with the flow . . . and the importance of putting yourself in situations where the flow CAN happen.

    Reply
  8. pari

    Jake,You got the extreme in your upbringing and I don’t envy you that.

    I do think that there is a balance, however. Like I wrote in my previous comment; you need to put yourself in situations where there is a possibility of meeting people at least.

    But the intent is key and you understand that molecularly, I think.

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  9. pari

    B.G.,I didn’t make it to any panels but my own; however, I had selected about five I really, really wanted to attend. Does that count for anything?

    I think you’ve stumbled on an excellent plan; volunteering (it’s also a good way to network ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

    And the person I think of most when I write about meeting people at my first Bouchercon is YOU.

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  10. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Luckily I had been to numerous film festivals, especially Sundance, and knew all about the Zen of conferences before I ended up at my first book conference. While I think I could stand to be more focused (um, in general…) before I arrive at a con, I agree that a list would just get in the way of the gold that’s in front of you, 24/7. Be in the moment and all the right things will happen.

    At B’Con I desperately wanted to meet Mo Hayder, Karin Slaughter, and John Connolly, just because I’m such a fan and wanted to be brave enough to rave. I was able to meet Mo and John without having to stalk them, always a plus, and I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to meet Karin one of these days.

    Reply
  11. pari

    Will,Two things:1. Enjoy Magna. I think it’s one of the best little cons around; the programming is fascinating and there’s an intimacy I think you’ll enjoy.

    Please say hello to Jim Huang and Kathryn Kennison for me.

    2. Your fellow writers will be extremely helpful to you in the agent search. That’s how I got my most recent one. Ask the writers whose work you admire about their agents and then see if they’re willing to make an introduction or put in a good word. I’ve done that for a few people when I felt there was a good fit and will, I’m sure, do it again.

    It was wonderful to meet you and your wife; a highpoint of the con.

    Reply
  12. pari

    Alex,I don’t think wanting to meet people because you’re a fan is the same thing as trying to meet specific people because you want to USE them.

    To me, there’s a big difference there. I often go to cons with the hope of meeting some of my heroes . . . but I’m not plotting and trying to mold myself in some way in order to impress these people to be able to get something from them in the future.

    Am I making any sense?

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  13. Marianne

    My plan for my first Bouchercon and first mystery con was: to finally meet a couple of the authors I talk to online (NekkidAwfurs, er Naked Authors blog), go to panels, take notes, talk to people, and observe people, predominantly the authors on panels. ๐Ÿ˜€ That’s what networking is to me. I didn’t go with a list of people I had to meet, but if I suddenly found myself face to face with an author whose work I knew, I’d gush accordingly. Dang, missed Donna Andrews – next time.

    Fortunately, from my small visibility in the science fiction/fantasy field, I already know several cross-genre editors and have friendly contact with a respected agent. My husband knows many more professionals at all levels, and they know him well. Some of these recognised him at B’con and said hi, even though he wasn’t attending (he was hanging out and doing the gallery thing while I attended). He told one of the TOR editors I was there and writing my first mystery novel, she found me at a party and asked me what I was writing. I gave her the short form run down and mentioned I had ideas for sequels. Something must have tweaked her interest because she asked to read the manuscript when it was finished. Nice egoboo, but I have a lot of work to do on it yet. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Several people asked me at B’con whether I had an agent yet. ‘No’ is the answer to that, because I’m not ready to present everything until I know it is ready. In the meantime, I’ll take notes, meet people, and listen.

    But, thanks to Patty Smiley and Jim Born who introduced me to people, and for being genuinely nice people themselves. Love ya, guys. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Marianne

    Reply
  14. Tammy Cravit

    Being as how I’m a pre-published author (at least, where fiction is concerned) and how I’ve never been to a writers’ conference, my perspective on networking comes primarily from my “day job” business. And my experience has been that trying to plan out whom you’d like to meet (and use) too often backfires, because you’re so focused on your goal that you miss out on the wonderful opportunities serendipity hands you. Plus, if you’re focused only on meeting the people who (you think) can help you, your general attitude is going to exude a…hmm…not phoniness, exactly, but a tone that is, I think, extremely off-putting to the recipient. In so doing, you might well cost yourself the very opportunities you’re seeking AND the serendipitous ones that you pass by while you’ve got your eye on the wrong ball.

    I’m hoping to make Bouchercon 2010 in San Francisco, if not the one before, and I think my “agenda” will be simple: To meet as many people as I can, learn as much as I can, and let the winds of chance push me where they may. (There are a few specific people I’d like to meet, such as the ‘rati crowd, but that’s different — I’d like the opportunity to take on-line relationships to an off-line level, not exploit them for personal gain.)

    The other thing is, too, that I think of the mystery writing community as something of an ecosystem: mutual cooperation targeted toward the overall benefit of the community is a good thing. Exploiting the ecosystem for your own benefit is rather like a logger clear-cutting a forest: Sure, you might be able to get away with it, but the end result harms everyone, including you, far more than it helps. If I’m in a position to help out another writer, I will (and have, a couple of times). But I do it because it’s the right thing to do to further the ecosystem, not because of any expectation that the people I help are somehow indebted to me. I feed the ecosystem (metaphorically speaking) when I can, and I trust that by making the ecosystem stronger, it will be there to feed me when I’m hungry.

    But that’s just common human decency and kindness, in my book.

    Reply
  15. JT Ellison

    Great topic, Pari. Ties in with the emotional vampire stuff I talk about all the time.

    I am a zen conferencer. I didn’t attend my first major con until I had a deal, so I was never looking for a handout. And with TFest in Phoenix forcing intimacy (the first time for everyone, the heat, the tiny bar, the inventive programming)I was lucky enough to bypass the “I want to be friends with you because you’ll help my career.”

    Now, I go to conferences to hang with friends, meet readers, do my panels, have a dinner with my agent and/or editor, and in general let the con flow around me. Planning too much makes it exhausting.

    That said, I was planning to hunt Laura Lippman down and fangirl. Badly. Greg Rucka too, but he canceled, so the loss isn’t quite as keen. And I missed hanging with John Connolly, who I haven’t seen in years, which tore me up.

    Reply
  16. Ali

    Pari –

    Great post, I must admit I love meeting people I read, be it novels, stories, blogs etc – but the real pleasure is the sheer randomness of B’con. Sitting next to you at the Anthony Awards Brunch a delight.

    I love Murderati and I was so pleased to thank you for your efforts.

    But it was tiring and returning home a strange feeling after the intensity of the Baltimore experience.

    Great post

    Ali

    Reply
  17. Brett Battles

    I never went to a conference intending to meet anyone specifically. I was just going to learn what I could and meet whoever. As it turns out, per my last Murderati post, I ended up meeting the woman who would become my agent at the very first conference I attended. You just got to be open…zen conferencing, that’s the way to go!

    Reply
  18. pari

    Marianne,You see, that’s the magic of networking done right; it doesn’t even seem like networking at all. Your husband and others gave you a good context to meet people and the flow happened.

    Very cool.

    Reply
  19. pari

    Tammy,That analogy — the ecosystem — is very useful. Thank you for it.

    And helping others IS simply the right thing to do . . . if one can without becoming overburdened in the process. (I’ve seen some authors go overboard and burn out, then they risk becoming resentful).

    Networking in its various guises can be found in almost any public context. Whether we decide to wear blinders or not is up to us.

    Reply
  20. pari

    Ali,The feeling about that brunch is mutual.

    I know what you mean about the randomness of BCon. It was especially so for me this year since I packed the entire thing into less than two full days.

    I’m still recovering a bit.

    Reply
  21. pari

    Brett,But how do we “teach” that openness to people who don’t trust chance? How do we encourage them to understand that the “contacts” they make today may fruit in twenty years (or not at all, but it doesn’t matter . . .)?

    Reply
  22. Louise Ure

    I guess I never went through that “agents-and-editors/ who can I use” phase of con attendance. I seem to have jumped from the “deer in the headlights/ I don’t have anybody to have dinner with” feeling to “who can I make more comfortable right now?” I like the place I wound up.

    Reply
  23. Dana King

    I went to my first Bouchercon last week with some specific people to meet, but they were all people I had already met online, and we were just hoping to put names with faces. I met a lot of other people, too, and figured out quickly that hitting all the panels is not the way to go. (Thanks for that to several blogs that provided Bouchercon tips for newbies.)

    So, sure, I may have done myself some good professionally, speaking to zine editors and other authors, learning about possibilities for outlets and input I didn’t have before. Mostly I had a good time, learned a lot from BSing with people who have been where I am now, and were very generous about sharing their experiences. Less networking than bonding, because, as crime fiction writers seem to acknowledge, we’re all in this together.

    Reply
  24. Marianne

    I ended up having some spontaneous meals with complete strangers at B’con and enjoyed every one. I had no idea who I was talking to half the time, but that didn’t stop the conversation. I’d usually start out with the polite “are you a reader, writer, or professional (pro)?” and go on from there. I met a lovely cross section of people and gave them my undivided attention equally. I did share a lunch table with an author who told me she was looking for a possible new agent for a particular reason. I listened, asked questions, took her bookmarks and flyers, and made some notes on them. At home afterward, I scouted the type of fiction she wrote on the internet and did two things: ordered one of her books for myself, and packed off her information to the agent I know, asking said agent if they were interested in talking to this person, the why-there-of she was looking, and included the author’s website and contact information. I left it up to the agent to get in contact with the author. I have no further interest, except to congratulate the author if the agent decides to open a dialog. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I like to pass along opportunites when I can and keep the networking-by-osmosis karma moving right along. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Marianne

    Reply
  25. pari

    Dana,That’s a good distinction: “less networking than bonding.”

    I did a lot of that at BCon this year — and tend to do it at most cons I attend at this point — and it’s a wonderful way to experience them.

    We ARE all in this together.

    Reply
  26. pari

    Marianne,That’s a beautiful thing you did. Most people wouldn’t have taken those extra steps.

    You’ve given us all something to think about . . . paying it forward more actively.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  27. janet Reid

    This is really good advice.

    And Pari, you are on MY list! Next year, I may volunteer at the registration desk just to meet you and say thanks for this post and the great interviews you do in the MWA newsletter!

    Reply
  28. Stacey Cochran

    My attitude about conferences has changed radically over the last decade. At my first conference (in 1998) my goal seemed to be: get as drunk as you can, stay drunk, get drunker, and make a pass at two or three high profile female agents and editors, and ruin your reputation for good… and have a little more to drink.

    Towards the middle part of this decade, my attitude seemed to evolve into: go with an agenda, harrass as many people as you possibly can that you truly are the next Stephen King… and watch your writing career tank before it even gets started.

    Now in 2008, my attitude has emerged into: go with the goal of helping as many people as you can, listening to as many people as you can, and talking as little about myself as I can. It’s hard to quantify how much professional success this has brought me, but I sure as hell enjoyed Bouchercon this year.

    I’m sure I still made a bad impression on some people… but maybe I didn’t make as a bad an impression on _as many_ people this time around.

    How’s that for progress!

    Reply
  29. toni mcgee causey

    I have such a terrible memory for names–even author’s names, those whose books I have devoured–and a particularly difficult time putting names and faces together, that any conference for me is just personal connection and learning. I have told the story of not recognizing my own husband (of eight years at the time, when we had two children) when he approached me at the grocery store and I hadn’t expected to see him there, so I know going into conferences that I’m going to not recognize people out of context, and that is terrifying, because I’m either going to miss saying hello to someone I care about, or I’m going to give offense. The practice of going to conferences has made it a little easier, and seeing groups of friends at these things help, but mostly, it’s just about the chance meeting of whomever I happen to meet–whether it’s the guy driving the taxi or the bellhop or the quiet writer sitting in the corner, not quite brave enough to join the group, it just has to be about personal connection. Life’s too short and too unpredictable for anything else to matter, anyway.

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  30. pari

    Janet,I’m honored!

    Actually, I heard you were there and I thought, “Dang! I still haven’t met her.” But I didn’t have any idea where to look for you since I kept missing panels.

    And thanks for mentioning the MWA interviews. I don’t hear much from anyone about them unless they’re displeased about something.

    The interviews do take time and effort, but I view them as a kind of paying back OR a paying it forward thing.

    Reply
  31. pari

    Stacey,You made me laugh. Thank you.

    We all make some of those faux pas, don’t we? I know there are people out there who object to some of the things I’ve done at cons.

    Ah, well. We try to recover as best we can.

    You HAVE hit on something else that’s key though — not talking so much about ourselves (at least not until asked).

    One of the things I tell people when I’m training in PR is that we’re far more interesting to ourselves than to anyone else . . .

    Reply
  32. pari

    Yes, Toni, it is that personal connection that matters.

    I smiled when you wrote about not recognizing your husband. I don’t wear my glasses most of the time because they’re only good for distance and I’m just not ready to give in to the whole bi-focal trauma . . . as a result, I often don’t recognize people until they’re quite close. But people recognize me and say hi or wave.

    I bet I’m missing half of the interactions.

    Now, I always walk around with this kooky sort of half smile, just in case.

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  33. Fiona

    Pari, thanks for the advice. What a great mindset to take to a con.

    As a reader, it was great to meet Alex, Toni, Rob and Allison at RWA. NICE doesn’t begin to describe them.

    The first thing I did after the con was email all of my friends and let them know what wonderful people I met in SF, and recommend their books. Needless to say, these four excellent authors now have many new readers.

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  34. Zoรซ Sharp

    Great post, Pari!

    Interesting people are always a joy to talk to, but I never start weighing up what they might be able to do for me. That’s like writing something you don’t believe in – it always shows.

    And other people are deathly dull, regardless of how ‘useful’ or ‘influential’ they might consider themselves.

    But, if I’m going to a convention, I do try to BE there for the duration. I don’t go on sightseeing trips until the Sunday afternoon, I don’t go off shopping, or bowling, or to the cinema alone to watch a movie – all activities happily reported to me by authors at other conventions.

    We’ve met people who have become great friends at conventions. Making those kind of personal connections – those friendships – is all part of the reason why we go. Some people you just click with and it’s nice when it happens.

    OK, so we did sneak off to the gun range on Thursday morning at Bouchercon, but we took a group of other attendees with us! And it did count as research … sort of … ;-]

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  35. pari

    Fiona,What you did was a gift. Truly.

    I know that advertising helps, publisher coops in bookstores help, product placement and all of that helps.

    But I remain convinced that word of mouth is the biggest boost to any career.

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  36. pari

    Zoe,I wish I’d been there on Thurs to go to that range. That would’ve been, um, pardon me, a BLAST!

    I always admire the people who get away for signings or scenery. I tend to stay at the con and let the vibe lead to interesting meetings. It usually works well.

    Again, JD’s term “Zen conferencing” really applies.

    Although I will say it was great, great, great to see you.

    Reply
  37. Becky Hutchison

    I went to B’con to learn as much as I could from the panels and to interact with whomever I sat or stood by at the different conference events. I get a little overwhelmed in big groups, so I prefer to talk with people close by.

    BTW, I was sent the following link to Sandra Parshall’s flicker show of the conference:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/guppies/sets/72157607970181094/show/

    Several Murderati folks are in the pix (including one of Alex wearing her cool Obama 08 t-shirt and another of Zoe signing books). Enjoy!

    Reply
  38. Fiona

    Pari, what I did was relate my (very positive) experience with these nice people–who are also enjoyable authors.

    It’s fun to find new books to read, and I enjoy the books even more knowing I got to meet the person who wrote them.

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  39. Meredith Cole

    Pari-After being at my first Bouchercon for about 5 minutes, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to see everything and meet everyone, so I quickly decided to relax and go with the flow. It was the best decision I could have made–I met so many interesting people (readers, writers, booksellers and reviewers) in the halls and hospitality room. We talked books, politics, food, sore feet, etc…

    I’m just sorry I didn’t get to reconnect with you again, but hopefully we’ll see each other at the next mystery con!

    Reply
  40. pari

    Meredith,You are wise, very wise.

    Good decision. You could’ve driven yourself crazy otherwise.

    Will you be at Malice? So far, that’s the only convention I’m planning on for next year. Though BCon in Indy — especially with Jim Huang as one of the folks at the helm — is awfully tempting.

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  41. Becky Hutchison

    Well, Pari, since you asked….(I feel like I’m doing a what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation assignment, but here goes):

    One of the main things I learned was that mystery writers are very warm and welcoming people. Every person I had the fortune to meet was friendly and jovial. I struck up some nice conversations in the elevators, looking through books in the bookstore and waiting in line at the few queues I was in.

    All the panels I attended were great, particularly the ones I went into on a whim. I heard that ideas for stories pop up at the oddest places and that weird articles on the web or in newspapers prove that the truth IS actually stranger than fiction. Also one shouldn’t be afraid to listen in on loud conversations and always keep a pen and paper ready to take notes.

    From the agents/publishers panel I heard that there is still a need for new writers and to make sure and follow the submission guidelines exactly, because they’re looking for any reason to purge their email and/or pile to read.

    And last, but not least, I discovered that Chris Grabenstein and Donna Andrews are hilarious auctioneers! They sure know how to put on a great show. I knew that Chris was a stand-up comedian, but though I know Donna from our SinC chapter, I never realized how funny she is on stage. I hope whomever’s in charge with the next B’con will continue having this crazy duo as auctioneers.

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  42. Becky Hutchison

    Unfortunately I didn’t. I can imagine how funny Mark was, though. He cracked me up at the presentations on Thursday night. However, my 17-year-old son, my husband and I were starting our four-hour drive to a college open house at Old Dominion University…a really nice school BTW…on our seemingly never-ending quest to discover the perfect college for my son (who we heard, from our daughter, is only interested in how much partying goes on).

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  43. Allison Brennan

    I love going to most conferences, and networking is secondary. Sure, I go to meet my editor and other people at my publishing house, my agent to catch up in person–sometimes, the face-to-face meetings are good just to talk business and personal. But my primary reason for going to conferences is to have fun and see people I like who I don’t have to explain what I do and why and I NEVER get the question, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” (Oh, next blog topic methinks . . . ) I wish I could go to more workshops and panels, but I do acknowledge that I’m also in attendance, especially at RWA, to “work” — present workshops, attend the literacy signing and my publishers giveaway, and be available for impromptu meetings. This year, I donated a Napa Valley wine tour for Brenda Novak’s diabetes auction, and that was fun but still nearly a full day; parties, dinners, lunches . . . I gained five pounds (I have since lost it, but geez!) and catching up. ITW felt like less work for me this time around, less “frenzied” in many ways, and I got to sit in on several panels . . . but not enough. Because I’m in California and going to New York is expensive and time consuming, I stuff in everything I can into the trip.

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  44. pari

    Allison,We have to find ways to justify the expense, don’t we? Sometimes it’s for a kind of “vacation,” but that sounds pretty thin to hubby and kids . . .

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  45. Melody-Jane

    As an English speaker who lives in a non-English speaking country, I’d be glad of any networking tips on this subject. I wonder if you ever go to conferences overseas?

    I’m not sure writing conferences even exist in a country with just 5 million inhabitants, but perhaps they do. We get a ‘book fair’ at least.

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