By Leslie DeVooght
As we prepare for the ACFW conference, I wanted to share my tips for introverts attending for the first time. Two years ago, I attended my first Christian writers’ conference, and like many writers, I was scared to death. Being an introvert in a crowd of hundreds of strangers seemed like a cruel joke, but everything I read said if you want your book published, you must attend a writing conference. With that in mind, I developed a plan to keep my anxiety in check.
Now, I may have gone a little overboard. I did buy and study the book, The Fine Art of Small Talk. Then I loaded my wrist with faith bracelets. There were crosses and dangles with the words faith and pray. My favorite is a bangle with the words, “my faith is bigger than my fear,” inscribed on it. Through all of this, I prayed and prayed hard.
Not only did I survive that first conference, I made friends and formed a critique group. If you’re nervous about attending a conference, just remember the four P’s—Pray, Prepare, Practice, and Pretend. You can do this. I can’t wait to meet you. I’ll be the one wearing all the bracelets.
- Pray – The most important thing you can do is pray. Find a verse and pray it as often as you feel the butterflies. For me, it was more like breathing. My verse is Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Ask God to calm your nerves and prepare a way for you. He will.
- Prepare – One of the best ways to fight off worry is by over-preparing. Read blog posts about conferences. Both the Steve Laube Agency and Rachelle Gardner of Books and Such Literary Management have great posts for first timers. Also, get organized. I made a notebook with everything I could possibly need at the conference. It’s fine for those extroverts to worry about the trees, but if it brings you peace to have ten copies of your one sheet and your entire manuscript, then print it. You can recycle later. Here are the things in my binder: three copies of the first five pages of my book, five one sheets, my first three chapters, written out questions and answers about my work, typed questions for agents and editors, business cards, and a pouch with pens, paper clips, and of course, dark chocolate. The more you prepare, the less you will have to worry about when you are meeting strangers. I mean, potential friends.
- Practice – This may sound strange, but I promise it works. Write down questions that you could ask your new friends. For example, what genre do you write, where are you from, are you published or pre-published. Then memorize them and practice asking the mirror. Also, rehearse several variations of your pitch and practice answering potential questions about your work. When you’re nervous, you don’t want to be scrambling for the right thing to say.
- Pretend – That’s right, fake it till you make it. Get up early and take time getting ready. Choose professional clothes that make you feel confident. Put on a smile and act like your heart isn’t racing. Remember most of the people feel the same way. Walk up to someone and introduce yourself. One last thing, pretend you cannot go back to your room and hide. I know it’s tempting, but the whole point of being at the conference is to make connections, and you can’t do that from your room.
Award-winning author Leslie DeVooght writes Southern Romance set in the Golden Isles of Coastal Georgia. Leslie’s flash fiction has been published in Spark magazine and the 2018 Writer’s Digest Short, Short Story Anthology. She also posts devotions and flash fiction on her website, www.lesliedevooght.com. Keep up with Leslie on Facebook at LeslieKirbyDeVooght and on Twitter and Instagram @LeslieDeVooght.