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What I Learned About Networking at AWP

I am woefully behind on everything this month after going out of town for three long weekends in a row. I took a lot of notes at AWP, however, and will be writing several blog posts as a result, one of which is “Is it Worth It to Get an PhD in Creative Writing?” I also want to tell you what I gave up for Lent—or rather didn’t give up. Although I haven’t been a practicing Catholic in 27 years, after overhearing someone say they were giving up alcohol for Lent, I thought, “I want to do something for Lent too!” So I did. More on that in a post to come. Meanwhile, here’s one I wrote for my Networking for Introverts column over at SheWrites:

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 about your experience there?

7 comments to What I Learned About Networking at AWP

  • annerallen

    Fascinating insights and good tips. And those business cards–I now carry them at all times. You never know when you're going to meet a potential reader!

    • Meghan Ward

      I do too, Anne, but ran out at the wrong time. I try to take a big stack to conferences. Oh well, I had a big stack of postcards, fortunately!

  • Great advice, Meghan. I’m headed to the Northern Colorado Writers conference in a couple weeks and appreciate the reminders!

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