PNWA Conference – Networking

One of the great things about the conference is that there were so many people there – a mecca for networking! Career Services at Northwestern and my parents have taught me the importance of networking, but this was really one of my first opportunities to practice, and I learned a lot!

The first hurtle in networking is actually introducing yourself to the person. Sometimes, this isn’t so bad if the person isn’t in the middle of a conversation or if he or she is a peer. But I was terrified of the agents and editors and presenters because they weren’t just people, they were somebody. And why on earth would they want to talk to little old me when they could be talking to a colleague with much more interesting and relevant things to say?

The solution to this, I learned, is to simply rip off that bandaid. I was lucky enough to have another of Andrea’s interns with me, Sarah Martinez, who has been to conferences before and has experience networking. At one point there was an editor I wanted to meet and she just sat me down on the couch across from him and said, “Have you met Katie Flanagan?” And the conversation went on from there.

The next problem I encountered was actually having something to say. Sometimes I had questions I’d thought of ahead of time or a reason I wanted to speak with the person, but other times it was me sitting down next to someone thinking, “Oh my gosh you do this and that’s so cool!” and not having any idea how to carry a conversation with that person. Again, the insecurity of I’m nobody and you’re somebody impaired me. In fact, when I was just chatting with other writers, I had no trouble finding something to say. Sarah was very good at having interesting questions for the people she was talking to, and I settled back to just listen to conversations. Unfortunately I didn’t find a solution for this other than to try to tell myself I’m being silly and an editor at St. Martins is just as normal a person as an unpublished writer and that I should definitely be able to find something to say.

The final part of networking that gave me anxiety was handing out my card. I didn’t do this with everyone, so I was really only giving it out to the people I was already scared of. That meant at the beginning of the conversation I already knew I wanted to hand it out, but I didn’t want to do it immediately. So I spent the conversation trying to find a time to pull it out naturally, and then by the time the conversation was over they were leaving and I didn’t want to hold them up by giving my card. I did give it out, but it always felt awkward to me. Of course, the recipient was always graceful and didn’t seem to think it was cumbersome to take it, so it was probably all in my mind.

The conference was a great opportunity for me to practice networking, and I actually did make several great contacts despite my anxieties! So my parents and Career Services are right: network, network, network!

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Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Conference – Manning the Booth

This past weekend I was at the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Conference. Writers’ conferences are basically when writers, agents, and editors all converge to talk about the craft and business for a few days at a time. For more information on what they are and their benefits, check out my last post.

This was my first big conference, meaning I was excited, nervous, and not entirely sure what was going to happen. My main function at the conference was to man the booth advertising NILA’s MFA program and the Whidbey Island Writers’ Association. That means Friday and Saturday I stood next to a table with a display board putting on my best smile and trying to attract people so that they could learn about the wonderful programs we offer. I didn’t have to try all that hard because the esteemed Bob Mayer plugged us Thursday in his session. I did learn a few things about manning booths, though.

First, I got there early Friday morning (7:35 when it opened at 7:30) which meant I got first pick of the booth locations. I went for the booth closest to the main entrance. I did wonder if there is a strategy (I’m sure there is) for locations in these conference hallways, but since I don’t know it, the first table seemed most likely to grab everyone’s attention. I was not disappointed. Once again, the early bird gets the worm.

We had a bunch of brochures available for people to take, and when I first set up the booth, I arranged them in a beautiful arc that was very pleasing to the eye. I even took the time to make sure the pamphlets were evenly spaced apart. However, partway through the day, a nice man suggested that I mess up my display because people would then be more inclined to take the brochures. Apparently when the display is too pretty, people don’t want to ruin it. I had noticed that people were asking me whether I could take the brochures, a question that seems silly to me because why would I have out brochures if I didn’t want them to be taken? So I messed up my display and put the brochures in smaller fan clusters. After that, everyone took brochures without hesitation. This is definitely something to remember.

The other interesting thing about manning the booth was that Friday was much busier than Saturday. This is probably because the same people were there on both days, so those interested generally all came by the first day. However, the hallways were more crowded Saturday than Friday, so I expected more people to stop. It would be interesting to keep track of this kind of flow over the years to see whether it is a pattern and if so whether there is some way to garner the extra energy on Friday. But since I’m only here for the one summer, I guess I won’t know what it’s like next year!

I’ll post another day with more reflections on the conference, including some of my experience “schmoozing”!

Introduction

Welcome to my brand-new blog! I am really excited to get onto the blogosphere. So here’s a little bit about me:

I love to write. I started considering myself a writer back in first grade when I always wrote the longest stories during “journal time.” In seventh grade I finished my first “novel” (I reread it a few days ago to procrastinate studying for exams…it’s bad. But I still love it.) Since then, I just haven’t gotten rid of the writing bug! I went to the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio in the Summer of 2007 and studied under Justin Kramon. He has a book coming out this summer that I’m REALLY excited to read, and you all should be too! Now I’m studying at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL; next year I get to apply to the English Major in Writing. It’s a really selective program, so here’s hoping I get in!

This summer I’m interning at Andrea Hurst and Associates and the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Andrea Hurst and Associates is the parent company of Andrea Hurst Literary Management, but it also offers services to authors like book development and classes. The Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (NILA) is a writers’ association on Whidbey Island (just outside of Seattle) that offers writing groups and classes, a low-residency MFA program, and an annual conference. I’m really looking forward to getting experience in the publishing industry through these two organizations! I think it’s going to be a great summer!

Check back here for general insights I learn throughout the summer. I’ll be sure to talk about my search process for getting an internship in the first place, about the Saturday Chat House Conference coming up next week, and the MFA program in August.

Thanks for reading!

Last thing I read: This post on literary agents.