The Magic of Writers Gathering

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 The last member of our group who was unpublished is now published (woot!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?

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Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

14 thoughts on “The Magic of Writers Gathering”

  1. I am one of those extroverts who scares and horrifies introverts. I love all gatherings, big or small. I love writers conferences, and my favorite is the Pikes Peak Writers Conference held every April near the gorgeous Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. I’ve been going there for more than a dozen years, beginning when I was so green I didn’t even know I should be nervous when pitching an agent or editor. Over the years I’ve been to a zillion writing conferences and it truly is the friendliest one around. It would be an excellent place to dip a toe. As for reader conventions, I’ve recently discovered Left Coast Crime. I haven’t been to Bouchercon, but LCC has been described as the more accessible ‘little sister’ to Bcon. You can meet fellow scribes as well as well as readers of the mystery/crime genre. And that’s ALWAYS fun.

    The beauty of all these events, though, is that you can participate as much or as little as you want. But nudging yourself out of your comfort zone is always rewarding.

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  2. This is a really tough question, because I love them all! There is so much energy at all of the gatherings mentioned so far, and I come away with valuable inspiration. You could probably call me a convention junkie. I feel more comfortable in the smaller events, overall.

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  3. Becky, yes! I love that: “…you can participate as much or as little as you want.” Exactly. And Left Coast is on my list, too. Now it’s moving up the list!

    Keenan, I hadn’t heard of Book Passages. Thanks!

    Sue, you’re right; there is so much energy. I think that’s why, even though they can be intimidating, I still love conferences. I would go to them all, if I could! I need to win the lottery.

    Cynthia, its so good to hear from people who have attended these conferences. I think that makes a huge difference. Everyone I talk to loves both those conferences, which says a lot about them.

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  4. Mary, I agree. I have a group of girlfriends (there are four of us), and we get together and just enjoy being there. Sometimes we do big things, sometimes small things, but it’s just so wonderful to be with that group.

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  5. This is an issue for most writers. I often find myself clustered with friends at a conference, more because I’m comfy in that tight circle than walking up to a group I don’t know, but I wonder how it looks to others. Do we appear cliquish? Rude? Unapproachable? What we do to maintain our own safe circles might be sending the wrong message!

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    1. I think that’s absolutely true, Diane. I think it can also look cliquish for those of us extroverts who like to hang out with our friends we only get to see once a year. One thing I always tell newbies or shy folks who come to the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is to sit with people they don’t know at meals. (One thing I like about PPWC is all the meals are included in the price.) If you sit with different people at lunch and dinner times 3 or 4 days times 6-ish people that you can realistically converse with …. well, that’s a lot of new friends!

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  6. I have only been to one conference, not really even a conference, Writer’s Police Academy. I didn’t know anyone f2f as we say these days, but…As soon as I got there and got in the registration line people were talking. Talking to everyone. I saw tons of name tags with names of folks I not only recognized, but had warm online relationships with so I felt comfortable talking to them. Then I realized, I may not “know” anyone in the room, but I “knew” nearly everyone. Just didn’t recognize them without their twitter handle.

    Pam, I am not kidding. I would rather have root canal without Novocaine while delivering triplets than go into a crowd. But in my one experience of a writer group, it was like a huge homecoming.

    Next year, Bouchercon. Will I see you there? We can break introversion barriers together!

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  7. My favorite is LCC. For one thing, the organizers work very hard to get every writer who want one, a panel. The exposure is terrific.

    I also loved WPA. I went to either the first or second one, learned tons of details for my books, and plan on attending another one at some point.

    My bucket list will now include the SeaScape Writer’s Retreat. What an awesome indulgence!

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