Everyone should officially attend at least one writers’ conference. The amount of validation you get from claiming your spot as a “real” writer, whether you feel like you are or not, is totally worth the price of the ticket. If you’re attending your first writers’ conference, Gabriela has some great, very practical tips for getting the most out of the experience. But let’s face it, conferences are expensive, and for introverts, attending a writers’ conference can be a daunting experience whether it’s your first time or your twentieth time.
The cost of travel and lodging, entry fees, anticipating the crowds of people pressing in to listen and learn, packed schedules with little down time included, and the ever-present, dreaded question, “So what are you working on right now?” can send even the most dedicated writers crawling under the bed. If you find idea of a conference experience daunting to your introverted sensibilities, or if you have a limited budget and you’re having a hard time justifying the expense of a weekend of extreme comfort-zone stretching, I want to share with you my number one writers’ conference survival tip.
I’ve been to a few conferences now as an attendee, a volunteer, and a speaker, and hands down, my best experiences and most solid connections have come as a volunteer. Most conferences are desperate for reliable, enthusiastic volunteers, and they have perks programs that make giving up some of your freedom worthwhile. But in case you need convincing, here are my top 3 reasons that volunteering is the best way to attend a writing conference:
1) You get free or majorly discounted entry to the conference
This is the number one perk, in my mind. All that programming, all those connections, for just giving up a few hours of your time? Where do I sign up? Most conferences have a minimum requirement of hours and some restrictions on volunteer participation, but especially if you’re struggling with your budget, there’s no better way to go.
2) You have someone to check in with every day.
For an introvert, this is HUGE. Even if you don’t know a single person there before day one, someone will be waiting for you, ready to help you find your place. Just this little bit of accountability and external interaction can be grounding. And after a couple of days of regularly showing up and engaging in your tasks, you’ll probably have made a few friends!
3) You’ll be behind the scenes
While the attendees of a conference get caught in the hustle and bustle and can sometimes only escape by disengaging completely (aka hiding in your hotel room), volunteers have an advantage. There’s usually a “green room/volunteer lounge” set aside for the volunteers and speakers to leave personal items, or take a break from their duties. Snacks, quiet space, and the chance to run into the event’s guest of honor: priceless.
I’ve learned so much from every conference experience I’ve had. The collective knowledge and experience that a writers’ conference draws together for a weekend makes the experience worth the energy you have to expend to be there. If you’ve been struggling with how to cope with the expense both financially and to your introverted emotions, give volunteering try. You’ll be glad you did.
Elisabeth Kauffman is a freelance editor in California. Her favorite genres are YA fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. She regularly obsesses over board games, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter. Come share your ideas with her on Facebook and Twitter and on the web at www.writingrefinery.com. Also, check out her author website and her author page on Facebook.