Mon. Nov. 5, 2018: Friendliness — Pull Up a Chair! #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, November 5, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde


First off, let me apologize. I mis-read the list of topics, and I spent October talking about tolerance, which was September’s topic.

Let’s just say I’ve had a challenging couple of months!

I’m back on track for November, and the topic is “friendliness.” My first week on that topic will deal with friendliness at conferences.

I’ve attended plenty of conferences where I didn’t know anyone. Sometimes they were international; sometimes they were in my home country.

I’m a writer and an introvert. I need a lot of time on my own (which is why I don’t book with a roommate for conferences — I need to retreat, and I need to be able to maintain my writing rhythm).

But I still want to interact.

I’ve usually been able to meet at least a few people and be friendly enough with them for the duration of the conference so that I don’t feel like a wallflower. I’ve met people at conference who wound up being good friends for the long haul.

It was actually easier to make friends and hang out at conferences before social media. I don’t do selfies; I don’t post photos at events of myself with people; I don’t even use author photos (that’s in my contract). I publish under multiple names. What I look like has nothing, NOTHING to do with my ability to write.

I’m not an actor.

In my opinion, the writing should NEVER have anything to do with my appearance.

It’s about the work. Not about me.

It used to be that a conference was where you could attend, interact, and blow off some steam. It was kind of like Vegas — what happened at the conference, stayed at the conference.

Not anymore.

So, in my opinion, a lot of them just aren’t as much fun.

You don’t get to relax anymore. You have to be “on” all the time. Performing all the time. I wasn’t particularly wild, but I also didn’t have to worry that anything I said with irreverence or did might be taken out of context and posted for the world to see.

There used to be at least a bit of private space at conferences, where people could interact and not be on guard all the time. Vent, laugh, get to know each other as individuals, not as representatives of a brand or a company.

That doesn’t mean I advocate people being horrible to each other, treating each other badly, unwelcome harassment, and saying awful things. People did that, and do that. Sometimes it’s a moment of anger or misunderstanding; sometimes they reveal who they really are. There are plenty of talented individuals, in all the arts, who aren’t particularly stellar human beings. I’ve had my share of disappointments, meeting someone whose worked I liked, and finding I didn’t like them as a human being. I’d prefer them across the room to across the table. And yes, sometimes I’ve discovered something that is so averse to my sense of integrity that it destroyed my ability to enjoy their work.

I do believe that we should meet people on a platform of basic human dignity and work from there. But the fact that we have to be “on” all the time means that it’s harder to really get to know people. It creates more tension. Instead of a conference being a place to have some fun and a little freedom amongst one’s people, it’s one big long marketing adventure.

I was on the board of directors for a local writers’ organization for a few years. Their central event was a rather wonderful conference. Instead of panels, where attendees went to listen to other people talk process, there were workshops where they learned process and had the chance to apply it. There were evening speakers or lunchtime speakers and all kinds of great events.

Part of my job was to make sure the presenters felt welcomed and taken care of; make sure they had everything they needed for their workshops; make sure they had someone to share the meal with, and weren’t sitting off in a corner alone (unless they wanted/needed to in order to decompress).

I also felt it was my job to make participants feel more included. For me, it meant being more pro-active than I’d been as a participant. How many times did I go into the bar at the end of a conference day, not know anyone, and not feel comfortable enough to grab a seat alone?

In this case, I felt that part of my job as a trustee of this organization was to play hostess.

I’d gather up a few people, starting at the welcome cocktail party, and every evening at the bar after the day’s events ended. We’d settle in a place clearly visible from the door, and put together a bunch of tables.

As someone came in through the door, stopped, and looked around, with that deer-in-the-headlights look, I’d wave and say, “Hi! Come join us! Pull up a chair!”

The relief was palpable.

Most of the time, they did. If someone arrived and someone at the table knew them, they waved them over, too.

By the peak of the night, we had an enormous table of people getting to know each other. Often, it organically wound up being a mix of writers, agents, and editors. People moved around, switched seats, talked to a variety of people.

I also took the time to talk to every individual who joined us, find out what was working for them and what wasn’t, as part of their experience, which helped us build a better conference the following years.

By starting it at the first cocktail reception, I set a tone of friendliness. People started meeting each other. They had someone to attend talks with, or go to meals with, or even explore the area with.

No one felt left out.

Basically, I created what I always wished for at other conferences.

That also changed my behavior when I attended conferences. Instead of sidling in to the bar and taking up as little space as possible, I take a table that I like. When I see a face of someone I might have passed earlier in the day, or spoken to at some point, I invite them to join me.

As an introvert, it takes a huge effort to make that first move. But I know what it feels like to be unsure of one’s welcome. So I do it anyway. Even though I’m as exhausted mentally as physically by the end of the evening. But it’s worth it.

That doesn’t mean I wind up adoring everyone I meet. There have been times when I haven’t particularly liked some of those at the table. But I could still be cordial to them, and we could each find people at the table with whom we better connected.

Be the welcoming person you always hoped to find at a conference. It will make the experience better for everyone concerned.

So next time you’re feeling unsure at an event, smile at someone else and say, “Pull up a chair!”


Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 6:58 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 5, 2018: Friendliness — Pull Up a Chair! #UpbeatAuthors  
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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

We have heat! And the repair guys came to fix the bolt on the door in the morning (which hasn’t worked since the new doors were put in) and the intercom in the afternoon (which hasn’t worked for three years). Everyone was very nice, and each repair was done in about ten minutes. Elsa, of course, was right in the midst of everything, making new friends. If only relations with the landlords would stay pleasant, but I’m sure they’re dreaming up some fresh hell for the tenants.

In and around the repairs, I completely restructured the first section of SETTLING THE SCORE. Now, I have a series of quick scenes setting up the characters up front, once we’ve set up Lucas at the gravesite. You don’t know WHY these people are connected, but the group photo that sends Lucas on his journey is established early with the various characters who are in it, and it brings it back to being an ensemble story, my original vision, instead of simply Lucas’s story I’m tightening a lot of the scenes already there, but now, I think it has a better flow. Everyone important (hero and villain) is established early on, with the audience not entirely convinced who falls into which camp, and then we see Lucas bringing things together with the news of his father’s murder, and pieces of the ensemble’s former connection and strong emotional ties coming through. It’s less linear, but more cinematic, which, being a screenplay, matters. And I chose NOT to go with flashbacks, which I think is a stronger choice.

Should I decide to adapt the final screenplay into novel form (because, for me, where I am in my career, that would probably sell faster, unless these early summer meetings land me something quickly I don’t expect), I will go back to a more linear format.

As I moved through the material, tweaking it, I also incorporated the notes I made the other night. It will still run long, but I can then make more internal cuts and collapse dialogue and make things more specific in further rewrites.

Watched LIE TO ME last night, for the first time. Liked Tim Roth’s work a lot, on the fence about the whole show. It’s trying to masquerade as an ensemble vehicle, without making the supporting characters strong enough. Tim Roth is an interesting and inventive enough performer to deserve equal matches around him, in fact, I think it would even elevate what he’s doing, and he’s not getting the challenge. A lot of that, I think, is in the writing. I see why it’s a show on the bubble. There are some really good ideas in it, but the execution feels diluted.

This morning, I will write for an hour or so, but then I’m getting in the car and driving up to CT. I’m actually going shopping — Mercury is retrograde, and I want to see if I can pick up a few things I need. I have my tickets booked for the out of town job at the end of next week. I got a lovely orientation packet from the pottery workshop. Now that I see who’s teaching it, I am Very Intimidated. This place is for pros, not dabblers. And I’m going to find out if I really like working in clay, or if I only like the IDEA of working in clay. I’ll make my decisions from there.

I’ve already had to cancel plans to attend two writing conferences, a yoga conference, a trip to Maine, a trip to Seneca Falls,and two trips to Canada due to Elsa’s illness and the vet bills. I’d really like to participate in something fun, challenging, and unique over the next few months, but it has to be closer to home and not too expensive. We’ll see. I hate having my wings clipped.

By the way, I STILL haven’t heard from the vet. Not happy.

I’m reading a fantastic book called SPANNING TIME: A DIARY KEEPER BECOMES A WRITER by Elizabeth Yates, who won a Newbury Award in 1951. The diaries span her life as a teen in the teens to either the 40s or 50s, and show how determined she was to be a writer rather than a debutante. It’s wonderful, and it certainly makes me want to hunt down and read her other work.