Do you attend a lot of writer events?

Q&A With Shay Each Sunday

Q: Do you attend a lot of writer events?

A: No, but I’d like to. I got to thinking about this more after going to a writing conference last week in the Columbia area through SCWA. The workshop was on the business of writing, so they covered topics such as publishing, marketing, and promotion. I try to read a lot about these topics when I come across articles online or in PW magazine, but actually going to events is a good exercise, even if you know a lot of what they cover. It’s beneficial to be surrounded by other people with similar goals and common interests and to hear new perspectives.

Given my shyness and social anxiety, attending writer events is extremely difficult for me, especially if they are events where I’m expected to participate in a way other than listening. I usually find myself avoiding these situations due to this. However, it is something I’ve been working on and although I still feel the anxiety and awkwardness, I like being part of a community that I care deeply about. (If you haven’t read about my shyness and selective mute struggles, you can read my personal essay “Don’t Quiet Down Please” here or read my blog about selective mutism here.) Even though I didn’t network a ton, or anything like that, at this last event, it really wasn’t terribly scary and I’d like to push myself to find more of these opportunities. Networking is great, but so is listening and observing and simply being present.

I have gone to readings in the past where I’m only expected to sit and listen. I have also attended a few writer conferences and workshops over the years, where that well-known anxiety kicked in. Workshopping has always been really hard for me, especially when it’s a group of a lot of people, because speaking in front of too many people can feel impossible. I talk more about this in my essay mentioned above where I faced A TON of these feelings in my graduate program at Sarah Lawrence College. I haven’t participated in a workshop in many years, but perhaps I’ll feel up to it again soon. I have been a part of starting a critique group in Columbia through SCBWI, where (currently) three of us meet monthly to workshop our projects. It has been really helpful to have this monthly engagement and meet other writers, and especially to have some outside eyes on what I’ve been working on—so thank you to my group!

At last week’s conference I found out about some other happenings in the area that I’ll definitely be making an effort to attend, and I’ll keep an eye out for more writing conferences in the future. Being shy has held me back from a lot of things over the years, and I accept that it will most likely continue to, but I also know this about myself and find ways to muster the courage for social situations, however infrequent they may be. What happened to the days where writers were just writers, right? Now, we have to actually emerge from our writing caves and go into the world? I guess that’s okay—we’re all introverts anyway, so I’ll just assume we all feel awkward.