Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Value of Face-to-Face Networking in a Twitter World

Don’t get me wrong. I love tweeting to my peeps and keeping up with Facebook buddies. I’ve made a lot of connections in the virtual world. My friend list includes newbie authors, published authors, editors, agents, and a bunch of old school friends I’d completely lost track of. I’ve connected with more people via social networking than I ever could have the old fashioned way, including a multi-published ABA author who I consider one of my writing inspirations. Obviously, I’m a fan of the online water cooler.

But sometimes, a writer has to stick her head out of the cave, venture squinting and hunch-backed into the sunlight, and interact with flesh and blood folk. And there’s no better place to do this than a writer’s conference.

I joined ACFW back in April 2007. I signed up for the email loop and began electronically meeting other authors. It was like a whole new world opened up to me. Even though I’d been writing for half my life, I was clueless to the concept of writers supporting each other. Really? There are groups that do that? What an amazing thing.

In September of 2009 I attended the ACFW conference in Dallas, TX. Not only was it my first ACFW conference, it was my first writer’s conference ever. I was more than a little nervous. But from the minute I set foot on Texas pavement, the world I thought couldn’t get any better, did. Standing in the queue for the Super Shuttle, I met other writers going to the conference. In the hotel, the lobby was swarming with excited, chatty writers. I’d fallen into writer-heaven.

Now, everything wasn’t peaches-and-cream-perfect at the conference. I had a very traumatic meeting with an editor. It was my first time pitching a story. It was a story I had written specifically for this house. And I found out my story was totally wrong for them. My spirits were crushed as I walked out of the room. Not because the editor had been mean to me (she hadn’t) but because I felt like a failure. But after I left that meeting, God put not one but three different people directly in my path. Three people who encouraged me, hugged me, empathized with me, and helped me see that my writing career had not just ended. You can’t get that kind of support on Twitter.

That evening, I reported for duty at the bookstore and was paired up at the checkout table with Lisa Richardson. We instantly clicked. When our shift ended, we headed out to dinner. We forged a friendship that night. (The above picture is of Lisa and I at the 2007 banquet.) Now, we critique each other’s work, support each other, share in highs and lows… we even share the same birthday, although I’m just a tad bit older than she is. While Lisa and I might have eventually met via the email loop, or Twitter, or Facebook, I doubt that we’d have developed the same kind of relationship. Only a face-to-face encounter can do that.

So definitely come to the conference to network with agents and editors. It’s one of your best chances to do so. But also come to grow friendships. Your life will be all the richer for it.

If you're in Denver this year, I'd love to meet you in person. Or, you can visit me online here:
My website


Lisa Karon Richardson said...

It's so true! Communication gurus say that 80% of communication is non-verbal. You can come to know and trust someone so much more quickly in person, than on-line. My relationship with Jen has truly been a Godsend. I know that she truly gets me and that is priceless both in a friend and a critique partner. Truly the value of a writer's conference is measured, not in the success or lack thereof of a pitch or two. The success is in the relationships you begin to develop. Those will last a lot longer too!

Jennifer AlLee said...

Amen, Lisa! I was telling someone just the other day, if I got nothing else out of my first conference experience, I gained a sister of the heart. And that's something you can't put a price tag on.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. Can't wait to see you in Denver!