Writer’s Conference Connections: Easier Than You Think
|Anne Lamott with Cathy-on-a-Stick. Yes, THE Anne Lamott.|
1. Business cards, writing utensil, notepad
Experience has taught me that you don’t need much at a conference. Mostly, you’ll be listening (thus the notepad and writing utensil for a couple notes) and networking (which is where the business cards and Cathy-on-a-Stick come in).
I don’t think I’ve ever given a business card to an agent, editor, or publisher. I pass out my cards to writers. I enjoy making friends, connecting with writers from down the road as well as across the country. And Cathy-on-a-Stick…well, that’s just a fun way to make connections. But that’s not what I had in mind when I first thought up Cathy-on-a-Stick.
Several years ago, when my daughter was leaving for a faraway college, her close friend pasted a picture of herself on a Popsicle stick. That way, my daughter could take her friend with her wherever she went. Crazy kids, right?
Shortly afterwards, I started attending writing conferences. As is common, I would meet amazing authors and wonderful writers and someone would invariably say, “Let me take your picture with Mr. or Ms. Fabulous!”
But I don’t really “do” candid photos. My hair comes out wonky or a spinach-encrusted smile’s plastered across my face. And it’s an absolute given that one or both eyes will be closed. I’m like a walking disaster area at a conference.
And then I remembered my daughter’s little pic-on-a-stick friend.
So I searched through all my photos and eventually I found one decent picture of myself. I cut out Cathy and pasted her on a stick. For the next conference, I brought her along because hey, Cathy-on-a-Stick always looks pretty swell, considering that’s it me. And when the inevitable photo opportunity came along, I whipped out that pic-on-a-stick.
I’ve never had anyone say no to her. She’s just plain fun—and memorable.
I can’t go to a conference—or any writing event—that friends don’t ask about my pic-on-a-stick. And it’s not long before other writers wander over to ask, too. I meet a lot of people, thanks to Cathy-on-a-Stick.
Of course, I realize that not everyone is comfortable with such a goofy ice-breaker. But there are other, more subtle routes one can go.
I have a writer friend who always wears hats at events. Everyone knows her by her hats, and as a bonus, she’s always easy to find. I have another writer friend who has a purple streak in her hair. Like me, she didn’t plan on the purple hair becoming a “thing,” but she’s kept it because it’s become so identifiable with her.
Quirky, unique, and even silly-but-sincere shticks invite conversation. So try something fun at your next conference—an unusual pair of earrings, funky boots, an outrageous scarf. Soon you’ll be talking to your own fabulous folks, passing out your business cards, and making great connections.
Oh! And don’t forget to bring your sweater. Friends are great for warm fuzzies, but you’re still going to need a nice, warm sweater in those air-conditioned rooms.
~Cathy C. Hall