As a confirmed introvert, gatherings of any in-person kind test my mettle in a myriad of ways. There’s accepting an invitation or making a reservation, then packing and planning, actually arriving, and *gasp* participating.
It takes a lot of energy. A LOT of energy.
And yet, gatherings are like a really tasty, tempting treat, too. I’ll check in on the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention page, watching all the posts fly in from excited people who cannot wait to get there and are anxious to see friends and acquaintances again. Hungrily, I follow the threads, part of me wanting to be those people–the ones excited to attend a humongous conference, and who have a social circle there, waiting to welcome them back.
But, I’m not. My social circles tend to be small, and big conferences are still somewhat terrifying to consider. Lucky for me, there’s a place–and an event!–for every writer. My writing critique group, Writers on Words (WoW), is a tight-knit family of four right now, and while we’d like to grow, we’ve agreed to a maximum membership of eight. This allows us to get to know one another well, and to keep each other honest and on the writing path, without becoming overwhelming. We didn’t want the critique part of our group to turn into a tedious job, rather than the supportive, encouraging, and pleasurable experience it is now. The last member of our group who was unpublished is now published (woot! and you can find Annelisa Wagner’s story in Red Dawn, this year’s Level Best Books: Best New England Crime Fiction anthology), and we take that celebration seriously.
On my writerly bucket list is SeaScape Writer’s Retreat. Limited to 18 participants, the retreat offers writers an intense weekend of focus on the manuscript in progress with masters of the trade (Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib, and Hank Phillipi Ryan). Hopefully they’ll continue this fantastic event until I can get there! Small and intimate, it sounds like my kind of event.
There’s the magic of social media to consider, also. I quite happily participate in any number of larger groups via Twitter and Facebook. While it’s not really anonymous, it does allow one to avoid the discomfort of wardrobe choices, small talk, and seating arrangements. I love it!
However, I will attend Bouchercon one of these days, and Killer Nashville is on my list, too. Because as a writer, I try to stretch myself every time I write. I make my characters grow, too. Attending a large gathering, stepping out of my comfort zone, and creating opportunities to improve my craft? Definitely worth the effort (and discomfort).
What’s your favorite gathering?