Go connect with other writers, they said. It will be fun, they said.
Six years ago, midway through my first national conference, I could’ve strung whoever nudged me in that direction up by his toes, except that I love him. And he paid–quite a lot, I might add–to help me salvage my sanity, when I called him, in tears, from my hotel lobby.
“I don’t even know if there’s any more rooms available. And I don’t care what it costs–I’m getting my own room.”
Maybe it was my shuddered, hiccuping tears, or the edge of hysteria in my voice, or maybe I’m just plain spoiled but my husband said okay, and less than thirty minutes later, I was marching down the block and around the corner to my new hotel. A much quieter, more isolated hotel. Where I spent the rest of my evening, alone, in the dark, lying on my bed, just me and my Pandora radio.
I’ve learned a few things since that horrific, social-overload experience, the first of which is … I. Cannot. Room. With. People.
Cannot. Except my husband. And maybe my daughter, so long as she doesn’t hog the bathroom.
But conferences can be tough. That speed dating reference-it’s a thing. Only with higher stakes than, well, steak and who’ll foot the tab.
Let me lay it out for you. Every conference is different, but for the sake of clarify (and my blog post) picture a cavernous room filled with tables. Behind each table sits an editor or agent, waiting, simply waiting for a terrified (or overly confident) writer to approach, sit, and promptly launch into their “pitch.”
They’ve got fifteen minutes, except they spent the first five hyperventilating and smoothing back wayward strands of hair. Twisting their hands and trying to untie their tongue. Then, once all stalling tactics have run their course, they spend whatever time remains trying to convince said editor to read their manuscript. Or at least, the first fifty pages. Or if not that, then maybe a synopsis.
Or at least hand them a business card?
As I said, or more accurately, my daughter’s bestie said to me about a week ago, “It’s like speed dating.” Only harder. Not that I’ve ever been speed dating. I lucked out and nabbed my man before that social torture had been invented. Or at least, before I’d ever heard of it.
It’s funny, last weekend, I sat on the “editor” side of the table. I can’t say I found it any easier, except when a couple of friends came to see me. And maybe laugh at all my corny jokes and one-liners.
We writers are a strange lot, for sure. And you thought corporate job fairs were intense!
Do you have any funny “speed-dating” but not really “speed dating” stories to share? Or any other equally horrific, “This is how I met my boss” tales? Please tell us. It will enable us all–or at least, me–to at least pretend we’ve reached some level of normality.
And as to that dating thing–my sweet husband isn’t jealous in the slightest. He’s actually cheering me on.