[NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] What I Learned About Networking at AWP

Thanks to everyone who followed my live tweets from AWP last week! It was an exhausting but fun (and educational) conference. Never having been before, I wasn't sure what to expect. Here are a few things I learned:

SheWrites Press Publisher Brooke Warner (right) and me (left)

1. Bloggers dress up, writers dress down

Unlike at the BlogHer13 conference, where women donned dresses and heels despite the fact that 99.5% of the attendees were other women, at AWP most people wore jeans. And being in Seattle in the middle of the winter, most wore boots too. Even though there were men present. LOTS of men. 

2. You must always carry business cards!

While I remembered to bring the 50 postcards I had printed to advertise my new book, Runway, I completely forgot my business cards. And you need both because it's not always convenient or appropriate to hand someone a postcard. So have a box of business cards printed before you attend a conference and be sure to include links to your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) as well as your email and website. I use PS Print, whose prices are very reasonable. That said, if you do have postcards or bookmarks made, be sure to include your contact info on those as well, so they can double as business cards.

3. It's important to connect with people right after you meet them

At BlogHer last year, I traded business cards with many people with the intention of later following them on Twitter and friending them on Facebook. Then I got home and...life happened. Seven months later, I still haven't connected with many of them. At AWP, I followed people on Facebook and Twitter within a half hour of meeting them because I knew that otherwise I'd forget.

4. There's no substitute for meeting someone in person

As much as I love social media, and much as I value the relationships I've kindled through Writerland and on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, there's nothing like meeting someone face-to-face. I had the pleasure of running into a lot of old friends (from my MFA program and from the San Francisco Writers' Grotto) and well as meeting some wonderful new writers, including Janna Marlies Maron of Under the Gum Tree and authors Hannah Tinti (The Good Thief) and Chad Harbach (The Art of Fielding). Once someone has met you, they are more likely to remember you and to respond to your emails, blog post comments, tweets, etc. 

5. You have to give something back

No one likes an attention hog. While you're out there hawking your wares, give some Instagram/Tweet/blog love to your fellow writers. Buy their books, fund their Kickstarters, share their work with your friends. You can't expect others to read your book if you don't read theirs. You have to give in order to receive!

What about you? What writers' conferences have you attended? Do you have any wisdom to share with us about your experience there?

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Comment by Meghan Ward on March 8, 2014 at 2:12pm

Kelly - I wish I could block out two weeks after a conference! Instead I'm catching up on all the laundry, dishes, etc. that didn't get done while I was out of town :) #2 is a great idea. And wow - great story about open mic! I don't know if they even had open mics at AWP (maybe because it's so big). If they did, I missed them. But that's wonderful advice for writers going to conferences.

Comment by Karen Szklany Gault on March 8, 2014 at 2:05pm

Great post. Haven't been to a writer's conference yet, but hope to soon.  Thank you!

Comment by Kelly Hayes-Raitt on March 7, 2014 at 7:12am

Great post!  Here are tips I'd add from my experience at the San Miguel Writers Conference:

1.  Block out a week (or 2!) after conference to implement what I learned.  Treat those weeks as if I'm still out of town and refuse to let life intrude.

2.  Spend 30 min each night emailing everyone I met that day.  Add them to my email list, friend them on Facebook, etc.  Next day, they were impressed with my networking, plus I could throw away their cards -- less paper and clutter to haul home!

3.  Immediately sign up to read something at every open mic.  Learned this by accident.  I read at first open mic to a room of about 30 people (out of 100s at the conference).  That night, at a public plenary where Margaret Atwood would speak to a room of nearly 1,000, I was looking to connect with a literary agent I knew was in attendance.  Someone pointed her out.  When I introduced myself to her, the woman sitting next to her gushed, "You're Kelly Hayes-Raitt?  I heard you read at the open mic.  You were terrific.  I can't wait to get your book!"  True story.  I got the private meeting with the literary agent!  (She didn't sign me -- still looking!)  Open mic can open doors!

Kelly Hayes-Raitt


Mosey on over to my web site and download that 4-min essay that had that woman gushing -- a story about my meeting a beggar girl in pre-war Baghdad.

Comment by Judith Gille on March 6, 2014 at 9:08pm

Actually all you have to do is watch girls who go to all girls school (i.e. my daughter) to know 

that they're really trying to impress each other, not the boys. 

Comment by Meghan Ward on March 6, 2014 at 8:59pm

That's interesting, Judith. I wonder if, overall, women tend to dress up more at all-women's events than at co-ed events. It may also be a blogger vs writer thing. Bloggers are more conscious of how they look since many do video blog posts.

Comment by Meghan Ward on March 6, 2014 at 8:57pm

Jane - It's easy to forget #5 when promoting a book!

Comment by Meghan Ward on March 6, 2014 at 8:56pm

Great to see you, too, Brooke! Thanks for reading!

Comment by Judith Gille on March 6, 2014 at 3:25pm

RE: #1 Contrary to popular belief, women mostly dress up FOR OTHER WOMEN>not for men who most of the time don't even notice what women are wearing. ;) 

Comment by Jane B. Moore on March 6, 2014 at 12:27pm

Good advice, particularly number 5.  Thanks, Megan.

Jane Moore

Comment by Brooke Warner on March 6, 2014 at 12:09pm

Good photo of us! So great to see you, and I always so appreciate your tips. Thanks, Meghan.


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