By Traci Tyne Hilton
A funny thing happened at conference this year. I noticed that some of the name tags had little ribbons on them that said “author.” Now, it’s a fiction writers conference, so I figured we were all “authors,” but since only some folks had the author ribbon, I also figured the ribbon signified something more than just “I sit around all day writing lies and Facebooking.” (What, that’s not what writers do? *slinks away and closes Google Chrome*)
I recognized the name of the person with the ribbon-she was a REAL author with lots of real books out, but I had never met her before, and assumed (as we all do) that she had no sweet clue who I was. So I said, “Ooh! Neat author ribbon! How do you get one of those?”
She laughed. “You know how it works, Traci!” She didn’t roll her eyes, but she smiled like I had been making a cheesy joke on purpose.
“Er, no, really, I don’t!” I laughed too, and probably turned kind of pink, which is what I do when I’m an idiot. (Who needs to wear make-up when they say stupid stuff as often as I do?)
Because I was outgoing-confidently chatting with anyone and everyone-I looked like I knew what was going on!
(Side note: you got the author ribbon at this conference by being traditionally published by an ACFW recognized publisher. Yes, I probably should have known that!)
If you have some shades of shyness it can be very easy to assume that everyone around you both knows each other, and knows what is going on, while you are the only one lost and confused.
Trust me, you aren’t!
There’s a real live phenomena called “Imposter Syndrome” that studies have found most people suffer from. It is the feeling that you are the only one in the room who got there by mistake, and that any minute now everyone will realize it.
It is my suspicion that believing everyone around you is in the know, while you are out in the dark is stems from the same kind of latent human insecurity.
For an introvert, getting past the “social-imposter syndrome” (I just invented that term!) can be painfully hard, so I want to share my own extrovert-tips to making connections in the ACFW.
1. Get Local
Getting involved in my local chapter has meant the world to me. I have gotten to know some amazingly talented local writers with impressive publishing cred and some equally talented writers who are currently pre-pubbed.
We don’t email each other all the time. We don’t have standing lunch dates. But on the months that we happen to all be at the same place at the same time we have a good time and support and encourage each other.
Another really good way to get to know people and feel connected is to volunteer your time when the call is put forward on the main loop. And if you are looking to meet the people who seem well connected–well, those are the people who arrange stuff, so volunteering to help them on projects will let you meet them!
3. Get Cozy
There are several different options for connecting with smaller ACFW groups online, and the smaller the group, the easier it is to get to know people deeply. You can connect via the Novel Track loop, the genre Facebook Groups, or by taking one of online courses. (If you aren’t taking classes already you are missing out on one of the best resources ACFW offers!) You can also join Scribes (this is on my 2015 to-do list) where you will be able to connect on a deeper level with other writers as you critique each other.
There is not “shallow end” of the friendship pool. The only way to really make those deep connections is to jump in with both feet! You don’t have to do all three of my bullet points, but committing to just one of them for 2015 will make a world of difference.
Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of the Tillgiven Mystery Series. She was the Mystery/Suspense winner for the 2012 CWOW Phoenix Rattler Contest, and has a Drammy from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. Traci served as the Vice President of the Portland chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association.