Dispatches from AWP (or, Three Days of Melodrama)

melodramaDo you know what I love? Writing conferences. They inspire me. They invigorate me. They connect me with other writers who are as passionate about words and stories as I am.

Do you know what I dread? Writing conferences. They terrify and overwhelm me. They make me wonder why I spend thousands of hours with people (i.e. characters) who don’t technically exist. Writing conferences make me phone my husband, mid-conference, and cry, “As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry write again!”

A few weeks ago, at AWP, I found myself in the throes of this conference-induced, Oscar-worthy melodrama. Come with me, and I’ll share some highlights . . .

Thursday @ 7:30 a.m. The first full day of the AWP Conference: I spend the morning making my kids’ lunches and half-listening to them practice their violin. Trying to look professional but not preppy, writerly but not weird, I try on roughly thirty-seven outfits before settling on a casual dress and a scarf that can hide or reveal (audience depending) my cross necklace. Uncomfortable-but-funky shoes. Black tights.

Now running late, I yell at my kids who are moving at the speed of sloth. I hug my mom when she arrives to stay with the kids. I gather my notes for the panel I’ll be sitting on. I remind my son to get his soccer stuff in his backpack and his basketball stuff in the car. I remind my daughter to talk to her music teacher about choir and her soccer coach about a new jersey. I remind them both to eat their fruit because I don’t pack that stuff in their lunches for my own amusement. I text my husband: I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE, THE JUGGLING OF WRITING WORK, PAID WORK, AND MOM WORK. I hug my mom again, and run to the bus stop. Already my tights are falling down. I am trying not to cry.

8:15 a.m.  On the bus however, I attempt to inhale peace and serenity. I’m better, I text my husband. Thx 4 supporting me. Upon arrival, I feel cheery-ish. Optimistic. But I’m at the conference for only ten minutes when I find myself locked in a stairwell. For what feels like hours, I pound on the door. I start sweating. I worry I’m going to miss my panel, my dinner date with writing friends, my children’s graduations and weddings. I choose to focus not on the fact that I have a cell phone and could simply phone one of my writing friends. Rather, I imagine how, fifty years from now, someone will discover my skeletal remains, my AWP badge still hanging around my bony neck.

But hark! The sound of a door opening. The jingle of keys.

“Hello?” I call. “Help! Hello? I’m locked in this stairwell!”

A man emerges, eyes me suspiciously. “How’d you get in here?”

I point to the door. “There should REALLY be a sign on that door if we’re not supposed to use it!”

He’s still eyeing me, almost as if I’m an AWP terrorist, so I move my scarf to reveal the cross necklace. I hope this will help (not hurt) my case. “I was hoping to get some cardio,” I say, trying to smile. “By taking the stairs.”

Still wary, he pulls out a key and frees me. My hand hurts from pounding the metal door. Sweat marks stain my dress. The crotch of my tights is around my knees.

8:30 a.m. Pulled mostly back together, I attend a fabulous session where I learn the importance of plot structure.

9:30 a.m. Pulled 100% back together, I attend a fabulous session where I learn the importance of ignoring plot structure. Yes! Instead, I’m to focus on Character, on Subtext, on the Hum and Beckon of the story. These panelists are all at least 100 IQ points smarter than I. I have never heard of them or their books.

10:30 a.m. I sit on my panel where I try to offer something to the lovely audience members who have chosen to spend 75 minutes with us. Really though, as the only unpublished panelist, I can only offer humor, humility, empathy, and, I hope, hope.

12:00 p.m. Buoyed by post-panel endorphins, I sit my introverted tush on a comfy, semi-hidden couch, eat my home-brought PB&J and satsuma oranges, and try to find the Plot AND the Hum and Beckon of my work-in-progress.

After an hour, I’ve found neither. 

Plotless and Humless, my hands sticky from satsuma juice and strawberry jelly, Ron (the mean-voiced, not-real dude who sits inside my head and whispers mean stuff), starts in: Why are you even here? Why are you trying to be a writer? You can’t even keep your tights up!

1:00 p.m. In the restroom, I wash stickiness from my hands and give myself a pep talk, after which I hike up my tights and head to the Book Expo where hundreds of smaller publishers have their beautiful books on display. Wandering the aisles, it occurs to me that some day I might have a book on a table. Enter Ron. Really? You think you can ever be an author? Look at how many books there are! You think someone’s going to notice your book?

Apparently Ron sneaked past security without a green lanyard and badge. 

I tell Ron to go suck it. I remind myself that I want to talk to several publishers who might be a good fit for my books. I hand Ron a poop-flavored lollipop and a copy of The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe so he’ll be silent for a few hours, and off I go.

Some editors are kind and savvy, people I would trust with my books. When they ask to have my agent send my work, hope pushes green sprigs through cold, wet ground. Editors want to see my work!

But other editors act like I’m chewed gum on the bottom of their shoes. They don’t care that I have an agent. They think I’m not edgy enough. See these funky shoes? I want to tell them. Tell me these aren’t edgy! But the hipster-editors have gone back to studying their iPhones. 

I, an edge-less shmuck, wander until I arrive back at my semi-hidden couch. Hiking up my sagging tights, I hear it, the gentle whisper of not-Ron: Go listen to writers reading their work. 

Oh. OK.

I do. I listen to Amy Tan and Erik Larson and Janna Cawrse Esarey. To Karen Finneyfrock and Peter Mountford and Bonnie Rough. These are writers who believe that Story is holy, a necessary part of being human. Hearing their words helps me remember why I have chosen this profession. Their voices help me trust I will find Plot and the Hum and Beckon of my work-in-progress. I will.

Isn’t that what’s most strange and exhausting about writing conferences? That we can experience an hour of fist-pumping gratitude and excitement, followed by three hours of terror and whelm?

Or maybe I’m the only one.

But based on the faces of many conference-going comrades, faces that look like they’ve been buckled into a three-day roller coaster, I don’t believe I am the only one. And for that I am grateful. It is terrible to be alone in a locked stairwell, but it would be far worse to be the only drama queen at a writing conference, the only one with saggy tights, with changeable emotions, with a penchant for melodrama.

Now you! How do you successfully ride the waves of writing conferences? Do you struggle to juggle presence at a conference with presence on your home front? What’s the best thing that’s come out of attending a writing conference? Please share!

Photo courtesy of Flickr’s Kirby York.



About Sarah Callender

Sarah Callender lives in Seattle with her husband, son and daughter and is currently working on a novel titled BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE ORANGES. Sarah is a terrible house-cleaner, a lover of chocolate and hats, and a self-professed cheapskate who has no trouble spending money on good chocolate and hats.


  1. says


    I’ve lost track of how many writers’ conferences at which I’ve been a presenter, panelist, workshop leader, keynote speaker and public bathroom hostage. (Yes, I’ve been pitched at urinals.)

    I’m a regular guy (ask my son) but conferences are my 15 minutes. Before the hotel shuttle returns me to the airport, I enjoy the high. I have stuff to say, craft to share. People listen and say nice things to me.

    At conferences I do not have a Ron following me around. But I see plenty of writers who do. They hesitate to approach me, act honored when I sit at their lunch tables, apologize for taking up my time, and sheepishly ask me to sign my books as if such a thing is a favor I’m granting. Some shake with nerves. Some cry.

    All that humility is ridiculous. Those Ron-burdened writers have it backwards. I am not doing anyone a favor by participating, its they who are doing me a favor. I’m just an agent. They are the writers. They think they’re attending to meet me, but in fact I’m attending to meet them.

    Stratifying into social status clusters is a human behavior. It happens with every group, in every institution, in every town and throughout the world. Even in a democracy where every vote is equal we still venerate royalty and worship them each year by staying up late to watch a mock-solemn awards show on TV.

    I mean, seriously? Actors are royalty? As ridiculous as that sounds, the same thing happens at writers conferences where agents, editors and published authors get green rooms, hospitality suites and minders to shoo away pesky writers.

    It’s all so backwards. You, Sarah, are the writer. You are the star. The conference honors you not the GOH, accomplished as he or she may be. None of it happens without you.

    If you attend a workshop of mine and learn something, or are inspired by a keynote I give, then it’s not I who have elevated you but you who have elevated me. Your participation is my reward. I’m lucky that you’re there.

    And if you say something nice me like thank you, that’s nice but the thanks belong to you. You are a writer. I am nothing without you. Never feel small.

    • says

      Your humility is refreshing. Thank you for attending conferences and teaching writers. I learned so much in your workshop last week, and if I ever meet you at a conference, I’ll probably be one of those sycophantic authors honored to be near you. I probably won’t burst into tears, though. :)

    • says

      Thank you, Don, for sharing these thoughts.

      I have to say . . . when those editors at Hipster Press (ha) pulled our their attitudes, I felt like saying, “Listen you. I am old enough to be your mother. You don’t have to like or want my book, but you DO have to respect me because you will have nothing without people like me. And OK, yeah, you do look INCREDIBLE in those skinny jeans.”

      We humans do enjoy our complex, many-layered social strata, no? We like to know where we fit. And when we feel insecure, we cling extra hard to the idea that I AM HERE. YOU ARE THERE.

      Your comment reveals that you are comfy in your skin.

      Three cheers for agents and editors who want to help writers succeed. Four cheers for agents and editors who don’t see themselves as gods and gatekeepers.


      • says


        Yes, we all seek where we fit…and I’m secretly pleased with myself that I still fit into skinny jeans. I just try to do without the attitude.

        Forgot to say it, but I loved this post. Thanks for it.

      • says

        Note to self

        Do not read ANYTHING by Sarah Callender while eating or drinking, unless you are standing over a trash can or wearing a bib. The aftermath will not be pretty.

        Sarah is prohibited from using the words “Skinny Jeans”. Stop it Sarah. No mas. Abdominal muscles do have their limit.

  2. says

    Sarah, I really enjoyed this post. I used to love attending conferences but then they all seemed to be the same after a while (so many speakers/editors/agents spouting their own agendas and promotions crammed into a 40-minute standing room only), and because of some of the reasons you’ve mentioned I stopped going. But sometimes connecting with other struggling writers can give you a nugget to take home. One rather savvy attendee sitting next to me asked me if I thought writers were secretly in love with failure. She wanted to stop asking herself, will I fail or will this story fail? Instead, maybe we should be asking “how will I or the story succeed?” This discussion opened up a new mindset for me. Inspiration often comes in the places you least expect it.

  3. says

    I’m new to Writer Unboxed, so this is the first post of yours I’ve read. Thanks for the chuckle–and the camaraderie. It’s nice to know I’m not the only slightly crazy, melodramatic, bipolar writer in the room.

  4. says

    As a writer who is just now becoming serious about writing and getting things published, I have yet to go to a conference, but reading your post makes me want to attend one even more. It also reminds me of how much I hate tights. Tights make anything three times worse.

  5. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke says


    Thanks for making me laugh this morning. (And what is it with tights anyway? They always look so funky cool on the models in magazines, but run to catch a bus in ’em and the crotch is around your ankles. )

  6. says

    You have 37 outfits to choose from? Wow! I think I’ve worn the same darn for several years … a shapeless dress that looks like it’s made from hemp. All I need are some flowers in the hair to really look the part, but the dress is so comfortable, I can’t part with it. And it has pockets. Many pockets. Which is very important for a conference.

    I really enjoy conferences. Mind you, I’ve only gone to regional ones which are smaller and more intimate. And kidlit conferences are full of lovely artists and writers who think nothing of having a serious discussion about pink elephants. It’s my tribe and I always leave inspired and some shiny tools to experiment with.

    Nowadays I go as a presenter, which is nice, because you get your own room … best perk ever. I appreciate the chance to recharge without someone trying to make small talk.

    I’m so jealous you got to listen to Amy Tan!

    • says

      Ha. 37 outfits = hyperbole. :)

      And yes, getting your own room must be divine. Just to have a place to escape . . . so necessary when you are an introvert (as I imagine many of us are!).

      Thanks, Vijaya. Happy conferencing to you!

  7. says

    I would love to be able to attend a conference! Like you, I juggle a day job, writing career, and busy household (5 kids!) — I even employ the same scarf strategy! But though everyone says I should attend a conference, no one has offered to pay my expenses or hold down the fort while I’m gone. Getting published was a HUGE deal, even if I did have to do it myself. But this is my networking for now….. though maybe I’ll bump into you at the chocolate shop.

    • says

      Good for you, master juggler! Yes, conferences are so expensive . . . AWP was the first I have been to in years (and I likely wouldn’t have gone if I weren’t on the panel). Add child care issues to that, and you’ve got yourself a challenge. They are not, however, the be all/end all.

      For me, I always attend a conference with a goal (pitch to agents; pitch to small presses; learn about indie publishing). Otherwise, it’s just too overwhelming and too easy to wonder, at the end, what I actually got out of it.

  8. says


    You’re like me. Except I’m not awesome enough to writer conferences yet (or sit on a panel! How cool is that?!)

    And I so feel you about texts to the partner. I do that every day. CANNOT DO THIS I AM A FAILURE CANNOT EVEN WRITE AND MOMMY GAHHHH and then like five and a half seconds later Look for my name on the Pulitzer Prize winner list because I am KILLING THIS.

    Is it possible to be only writerly bipolar? ;)

    Anyway, loved your post. If nothing else, it gave me humor and a laugh and hope – even though I wasn’t at your awesome panel. ;)

    And Ron sounds nasty.

    • says

      Yes! Fiction-induced bipolar. I could check that box for sure.

      As for Ron and his nastiness, he did lose quite a lot of his power when I named him. These days, I can usually flick him away with a finger, or offer him a lollie, and he cowers in the corner.


  9. Denise Willson says

    You are not alone, Sarah. I have experienced some of the same emotions at conferences. Ron’s a nasty fellow.

    I do, however, aim to think more like Don. People are people, no matter the career path they choose. It reminds me of the Julia Roberts movie in which she’s a movie star (duh) who cannot find love through the fame. “I’m just a girl,” she says, “looking for a boy.”

    Be proud of who you are, Sarah. You are a wonderful person with so much to share. Wear it with a smile…and leave the tights at home. Roar, girl!

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth, and (coming soon) GOT

    • says

      Thank you, Denise, for the encouragement and the words of wisdom regarding tights. I think I just need to buy a new pair . . . elasticity vanishes in skin and in tights!

  10. says

    2 (I think??) years ago I attended a Writer’s Digest conference in NYC. I drove thru a blizzard to get there. It was my first and I was overwhelmed by the sheers numbers of writers, by the crazy energy, and by my own feeling of invisibility. Then I went and listed to James Scott Bell talk about conflict. Enough said. Thank you for making me smile this morning.

  11. says

    Sarah, you gave me a nice round of chuckles this morning. For a moment there I thought you were describing me. I’ve only been to one writers conference, and it wasn’t nearly as big-scale as the one you describe… honestly, I’m terrified of doing something like that for pretty much the same reasons – getting locked in a stairwell (or something), getting ignored, getting noticed (!). But I have to admit that going to this conference was worth it for the conversations with other writers – that isn’t something I get too often in my current life. Exhausting as it was, it was good, really good, to feel a little less of a lonely soul.

    • says

      Yes! If you are introvertish like I am, conferences deplete me as much as they fuel me.

      As for your Ron, don’t be afraid to talk back to him/her/it. Then try the lollipop thing. Once, when I was “overcheering” at my son’s baseball game, another mother offered me a lollipop (not poop-flavored, thank goodness). It works for overcheer-ers and nasty-voiced doubters. ;)

  12. Charlotte Hunter says

    Lovely post. I just healed from the emotional bruises left by my Ron during the recent Sleuthfest conference, where even the newest of newbie writers seemed filled with boundless confidence and determination, prey to not the slightest doubts about obtaining an agent or the interest of a publisher. Me? I enjoyed the panels, envisioned myself sitting on one and talking about my books, and inwardly groped for a 2×4 with which to beat Ron away from me (‘You think YOU can be published? Ha!). Thanks for the fun read from a fellow Drama Queen.

    • says

      Ah yes. The Youthful. I was one of those once . . . and I don’t envy them at all! (Except for their taut skin.)

      Good idea to carry that 2×4. I’m gonna try that. :)

  13. says

    What a fun post! The tights really cracked me up. Mine either start sliding down or they’re so tight they strangle me… just another of the many perks of being a woman, I guess!

    I just registered yesterday for my second ever writers’ conference in Colorado Springs. I’m not pitching this time, so I feel completely calm. However, the last time I tried to cram so much stuff into each day, I was fried by mid-afternoon. It really is quite an overwhelm… especially for those of us who spend most of our days at home, alone, behind our computers.

    I can’t wait!

  14. says

    Oh, this so made me laugh! I’m so with you. I’m published and still go through all that drama and self doubt (I’m done, I’m washed up, I’ve had my 15 minutes!!!) and second guess myself the ENTIRE time I’m at a conference. I cracked up at the mention of a class on plot and then the class on no plot back to back. That is so true. There is so much often-conflicting information, that it can make your head spin. I try to avoid the craft classes…they just make me question everything I’m doing and make it all seem wrong. LOL. I don’t need all that doubt….I’m an introvert at a conference of introverts, all of us trying to pretend otherwise….that’s stressful enough. I go for the career classes, those are always good for the soul. Good for you for continuing the good fight, and if you see me at the next conference, wave, say hello, we can sit in silence in our own hyperventilating states. And rest assured that I’m wearing slacks because I don’t want to fight the tights. :)

  15. says

    I loved this post. I laughed so hard when I recognized my insecurities when I first started going to conferences. After I started meeting editors and agents from New York who came to Dallas for The Craft of Writing Conference many moons ago – remember that, Donald? – I realized that they do sometimes break into those two camps you mentioned Sarah. But the “too hip for you, Chickie” types were more rare and the approachable ones were the norm.

  16. says

    Sarah! YOU are a writer. I love this so much and I can’t wait to read your book. I’ll be looking for it. Good luck!

  17. says

    Sarah – This was fantastic. I was sweating along with you in that stairwell. I have attended a handful of conferences and it’s always the same feeling, a little dread and a lot of hope. I once lost my pass and was desperate to get back into a workshop. A speaker from a previous session happened to pass by and, out of sheer panic, I clung to her and begged her to help me get back inside. I’m sure she was mortified and ran far away afterwards. But I’ll keep attending conferences. What else can make us feel so many things at once about our craft? Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Yes . . . it’s that dread + hope cocktail that I find so fascinating. I guess we couldn’t survive without that hope though, right?

      The dread, I find, does decrease with age. That’s one of the perks of getting old and saggy.

  18. says

    Oh Sarah. Thank you so much for being a WU contributor. You are such a wonderful part of the weave of the fabric that is WU. The colors you add make us funky fabulous (and funny! in a good way).

    Although I’m told it’s not going to be exactly either a conference or a retreat, one writerly gathering at which I’m sure we will not feel insecure or cry (even when we meet Don) will be the WU Event in November. Really hoping to finally meet you in person.

    P.S. Ron is not invited.

  19. says

    Let me begin by inistiting that I am not the Ron in your head. Though, you’ll be happy to know, every Ron I’ve known has been ruggedly handsome and in possession of infinite whit and charm. We just tend toward negativity from time to time. Here’s how I begin setting the stage for attending the ACFW conference in September: January-mention to wife while she’s distracted by something else that I may sorta like to go to a conference this year. February-bonus check comes and I ask wife to set aside a small, almost trivial, portion for this conference I’ve heard of. March-confess that I may need a bit more than asked for, apparently sleeping in the hotel lobby is frowned upon. April through August – do dishes every night and pretend to enjoy watching Nashville with her. September – “remember” that I also need air fare, put it on the Visa, and be ot of the house before she gets the statement. So you see, it’s a struggle for all of us. Even Ron. Go easy on him.

    • says

      You are brilliant Ron! And yes, all the other Rons I know are the most lovely of people. I just happened to get the Ron who’s a narcissistic sociopath to serve as my anti-cheerleader.

      I LOVE your strategy, and you are right . . . conferences are not cheap. Attending one every few years is a treat for me, and it happens with careful skimping and saving.

      I’m so glad you opted not for the hotel lobby idea.

  20. Kevin Lee Swaim says

    You actually attended. Some can’t even get past that actually attending part.

    Everything else, no matter how great or how bad, was just icing. And, who doesn’t love icing?

    Hmmm…. Icing….

    Wait a minute! Did you offer Ron poop-flavored icing?

  21. says

    Thanks for this funny and insightful look at writers conferences. I find I get the most out of writers conferences when I am not pitching a book or presenting, but how many people at conferences are doing neither?

  22. says

    Sarah, I really think you should have done a presentation in the stairwell—it would have had that edgy, defining, skinny-jeans feeling. But Hum and Beckon? Man, I have wrestled with missing elements in my writing, but I never heard of those. What’s next, Leer and Disgorge?

    Anyway, your stuff is ever delightful.

    PS The last writing conference I attended (W.D. in LA, 2012), the Manhattans at the hotel bar were $18. A crime, so I only had two.

  23. says

    You never fail to give me hope, and a sense of belonging, because I’m right there with you for the ups and downs of conferences. I haven’t attended one in a while – for a variety of reasons – but the camaraderie is enjoyable. As long as we don’t listen to our Ron’s, of course. :)

  24. says

    You have made me laugh, cry and gasp! Yes, all in one reading of this most important post. It’s the first of yours I’ve read, and it’s awesome. And yes, timely. I’ve signed up for a writing workshop for this coming Saturday. A small, local, absolutely miniscule workshop compared to the conference you describe. However, Brunhilda (my own personal harpie) has pointed out she doesn’t know why I’m going. Do I think I’m a writer??? Yes, I’m even published six times in anthologies. What’s her problem? Actually, what’s mine? I’m already dreading meeting new people, a new leader, AND having others read my work. What if I look stupid? What if they tell me the first few pages of my memoir stink? These all raised by Brunhilda! But even on a small scale, I think we all fear these things. It’s the fear of being judged by others, don’t you think? Appreciated the words “Story is holy, a necessary part of being human.” Going up on my writing cave wall.

    • says

      Yes! I do think we fear that judgement. Yet I am seeing more and more evidence of the generosity and encouragement of other writers and agents (as opposed to judgement). I am trying to focus on THAT group of wonderful folks. :)

      Have fun at your conference!

  25. says

    I call hipster-fraud. In my world, the iPhone is so 2013. It’s got to be Android or it ain’t a-okay.

    Hilarious post, Sarah, and eerily similar to my experiences. (Though it was my waistband that sabotaged me, not my tights.) Funnily, when I let my Ron win, when I no longer felt like I had anything to lose, the conference became about learning and connecting rather than maintaining an illusion.

  26. says

    I think every author has their nay-saying “Ron” in back of their heads. Ignore him. You can do this.

    I haven’t attended any writing conferences, so I can’t really judge that, but trying to juggle home, family & work isn’t easy. I suggest deep breathing and vodka (or wine). Okay, kidding on the alcohol, but take a moment, breathe and go on. Take time to focus on what you are doing NOW.

    And just so you don’t feel so bad about your sagging tights, that’s me all over it. Which is why I now opt for pants and knee high stockings or socks, because I’m not a fan of having the crotch of my tights at my knees. I swear that’s the default setting.

  27. says

    Sarah, you had me laughing out loud with the tights, PB&J, etc. My oldest child will be 40 in June, so I don’t how writers with kids at home do it. As far as conferences, I attend the MWG each spring in the St. Louis area. Terrified in 2012, I walked in alone and made some friends! Calmer in 2013, I actually volunteered at the conference. Laid back in 2014, I’m going to see my writer friends. I’ve pretty much decided I don’t want to write another book, but I love the people I’ve met in the last three years and love the spring conference.

    At my age, it’s all about what makes me happy TODAY!

    Again, great post. :)

  28. Thea says

    great post! a couple of conference tricks that work: I hire people to come up at conferences and ask me for autographs. I do this within site of the agent/editor tables. I also wear sunglasses at night. So really, I have got the conference nailed. However, getting up and sitting on a panel with the experts – well, that rons me all out.

  29. says

    I’m late to this post, but I love what you’ve written, Sarah. Thank you. And to Don Maass, your comment is spot on and true. Thank you thank you thank you. Excellent posts, WriterUnboxed. Thank you!

  30. Alisha Rohde says

    First, Sarah, thank you for reminding me to check the state of my tights–not even kidding: I’m off to a writer’s conference in three weeks and have spent most of the winter in work-at-home clothes. I’d rather get the bad news now!

    Second, this was entertaining, as always. :-) I realize that while I’m an introvert at heart, I have learned to be a functional extrovert when necessary. Credit the preacher’s kid upbringing, a bit of theatre training, and a decade of academia, including academic conferences (think all the stress, MUCH less creative uplift)! I hope that this time when I go I will do a better job of being *gently* friendly/chatty with my fellow writers instead of inspiring that faint panicked expression when I take a deep breath and introduce myself to them. I cringe, because I get it.

    On the plus side, I did find the functional extrovert was my great ally in talking with editors and agents; my big discovery last year at the conference was realizing that hey, these folks are really nice after all, and pretty interesting too. (It’s a small, midwestern conference, so the hipster quotient was lower.)