Monday, October 19, 2020

Getting Out While Staying Home

    One sad result from these days of isolation has been the inability to attend writing conferences.  personally I have always loved writing conventions from the first RWA convention I attended in 1983 aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. To me they have always offered a great opportunity to connect with writers of all kinds -- from those who are best selling authors to those who are just starting out. They are the perfect place to socialize with others who are in the same creative and searching boat. 

    I have always suggested writing conventions to other writers as well. To me they are appealing because they’re the place where  normally quiet and more introverted groups gather to study craft. Writing can be a lonely profession and most writers prefer it that way.  We are often more used to sitting in a room alone and doing our writing. When you’re dealing with a whole convention of  people who are more comfortable sitting in a room alone, it can be easier to connect because so many of us are sitting in a corner watching everyone else…

    That’s why I enjoy writing conventions—even for an introvert, it’s easier to approach someone else or even a group of people who might be or are probably feeling just as uncomfortable. We don’t mind sitting alone at the bar at these conventions because there’s a person alone next to you who is probably feeling just as uncomfortable. The bottom line is if you do strike up a conversation with the person next to you, you’ll probably discover that you have a lot in common – the need to write. Not only that, whatever you decide to do -- just keep sitting there or talk, well, those around you  understand. Actually, most respect your silence unless you choose to talk. I often find that if you start talking to that other alone person, before long you find you have a lot in common… the need to write.

    This year we’re all sitting alone in our rooms writing, but our forced isolation has also opened up a whole new world. Technically, we’re all sitting alone at that bar as we join the various rooms as conventions are held virtually. While I was unable to attend one of my favorite conferences, Left Coast Crime in San Diego, which got cancelled at the last minute, I have been able to enjoy other, virtual meetings and now a virtual convention.

    This weekend I attended Women Writing the West which was conducted as a virtual convention and it was a new and fun experience. I presented my Plotting Wheel session from the cozy confines of my home office, sitting at my desk. My companions were Molly and Chewpie, the cats who normally hang out around my area. Molly insisted on making a guest appearance, which seemed a common theme among other writers attending.  A number of cats and dogs made virtual appearances.

 I have to admit I am enjoying these virtual meetings. In some ways it’s easier to chat as we sit and wait for the next session to start. So many of us are isolated that we’re excited when we get some of that outside interaction we’re no longer getting on a regular basis. Our local writing groups aren’t meeting or are meeting virtually too. If you haven’t tried meeting virtually it’s a good way to keep from a totally forced isolation. Virtual meetings are a way to connect and the best thing is we get to see all of us who are at the meeting. We get to connect with others we might not have gotten a chance to talk to at the last writers’ meeting.

These days of virtual meetings and conventions also present an opportunity to attend sessions we might have missed due to time constraints. They give us a chance to  connect in person with others and to get to hear challenges and issues we are all facing during these months when we are more isolated than ever.

The isolation is also having an effect on the ability and opportunity to write. I suggest looking to find ways to make that work for you as a writer, rather than lamenting lost opportunities. Not being able to go out has meant the chance to pick up on old work that needs editing or polishing that has been ignored or the opportunity to finish a story.

 It also can present time to take a refresher class on an element of writing or to work on research for a story you might want to write. Those openings are out there now because many groups are having to go to virtual meetings so traveling across town or the inconvenience of a time period can be solved by recording a meeting and playing back later is solved.

My entire point here is that this is a time  we can find new opportunities to get more writing done, but don’t let that mean you can’t still socialize with other writers. Look for those virtual opportunities and still connect with other writers. Use the time we are inside to find new writing subjects or to still connect with new and different types of writers.

While I just attended and spoke at my first virtual convention, I know it won’t be the last. I’ll be looking for other, new opportunities to connect with other members of the writing community. This week I'll be conducting a class at Savvy Authors on Pitching, and please watch for the new book on pitching that will soon be available on For more information on plotting, please watch my website and for more details. 

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