Conference Jitters for a Shy Writer

Please help me welcome romance author Vivi Andrews. Vivi was born and raised in Alaska and still lives in the Last Frontier when she isn't busy indulging her travel addiction. She writes fun and flirty paranormal romances as well as smoldering shapeshifter stories. For more about Vivi and her books, please visit Also on her website, you can find details regarding Vivi's "Have a Heart" promotion, supporting the Children's Heart Foundation.

HERE'S VIVI: You know that moment in Wayne’s World where Mike Myers and Dana Carvey fall to their knees and cry “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” as they bow to Alice Cooper? That’s how I always feel at writing conferences. One look at some of my writing icons and I turn into a simpering fangirl. I simply cannot think of myself as their peer.

I had a bunch of I’m not worthy moments at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Columbus last month. (There was much gushing “I love your books!” on my part, though thankfully I managed to stop myself from the actually bowing and fawning.)

I find conferences daunting on several levels. I’m nervous around the big authors I admire, I’m spastic around the editors and agents because oh-my-god-they-could-totally-make-my-career-if-they-wanted-to, and at RT there is the added intimidation of the readers – who may or may not have read or be interested in reading my books. It’s enough to make a girl want to hide in her room all week.

The good news is almost everyone at the conferences is just as introverted as I am – so at least I’m in good company. The not-so-good news? I have to muster up the courage to network.

I’m terrible at networking. I love talking about books, but I shudder at the thought that I, as an author, am a commodity I have to sell to editors, agents & readers. Sales has never been my forte. I have a hard time touting my books when more often than not I’m still stunned they got published in the first place. (I’m not one of those confident writers…)

Success at conferences (as I gauge it) involves overcoming my natural instincts. At my very first writing conference, I didn’t know anyone. I’d never been to an RWA meeting or any sort of writing conference. I’d never seen a best-seller or an editor or agent in the flesh. I sidled away from Sherrilyn Kenyon like she might bite me, I clammed up when I realized midway through a fun conversation that I was talking to the Wild and Untamed Agent of the Species, and generally made an idiot of myself in my pitches by being so nervous I could barely breathe. I was tempted more than once to hightail it up to my room and hide.

But I didn’t hide. I sucked it up, fought my flight instinct, and walked up to a table with an empty chair and asked if it was taken. It wasn’t. I sat. Or rather, I huddled there in mute terror until I slowly began to realize the other women around the table were just like me. Aspiring writers, industry pros and devoted lovers of books – especially books of the romance persuasion. They got me.

At that table, I met some of the most wonderful women I’ve had the pleasure to know. I’m still in touch with several of them. I partied with one of them until the wee small hours at RT. They have become my invaluable writing buddies, the best support system a hopeful writer could have, and I would never have met them if I hadn’t manned up enough to take that seat.

These days at conferences I’m better at making myself socialize, though sometimes I still have to fight down the I’m not worthy imposter feeling. But the these people get me feeling that always hits at some point during the conference is worth all my silly jitters.

The moral of the story? Conferences can be terrifying for the shy writer. But if you can get up the guts to crawl out of your shell, the rewards can be amazing. And just remember – your fellow writers are like spiders. They’re just as afraid of you as you are of them.

And if that fails, just picture everyone naked. ;)

Current Release: The Sexorcist
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  1. Vivi, thanks so much for visiting with us today. I hope you're at my next conference--I'll know that at least one other person is feeling exactly like I am. Although, like you said in your post, a lot of writers are just like us.

  2. Awesome post! I'm going to my first conference in July, RWA National, and though I'm excited, I'm also terrified.

  3. Thanks, Vivi!! Ah, the perils of being an introvert (and I think most writers are on the introverted side) dropped down in a milieu that demands extroversion. And the presence of beloved authors and Industry Power Players definitely makes it worse.

    At Nationals last year, I had a very nice and friendly conversation with Stephanie Laurens while we shared an elevator and then looked for the same conference room. I had my glasses off, so I didn't REALIZE it was Stephanie Laurens until almost the very end, and then my throat closed up on me and I couldn't say another coherent thing. Sigh.

  4. Lisa - You'll do great at Nationals. I went to my first in DC last year and whoa, baby, it was overwhelming but an absolutely amazing experience.

    Elisa - Even with my glasses on I've mistakenly chatted with some big names only to run in fear when I realize they are Rockstar Authors. Look at it this way - One day people will be tongue-tied around us, right? :)

    Becky - Thank you so much for having me here today! Introverts unite! ;)

  5. I get that way too! I'm really afraid of gushing so I say nothing and probably come off as a total ice queen to the authors I love. It's kind of like when you like a boy on the playground, you gotta play it cool...don't let him know...

    I'm getting better at socializing at conference though. Mainly because it's one of the few times I get to go out and see actual people! The "glamorous" writing persona helps too. :)

  6. Hi Vivi,
    Great post! I liked how you talked about fighting your flight instinct. That's exactly how it feels sometimes.

    I treat socializing like this as a game. I plan ahead of time and come armed with a few "generic," small-talk type questions that would pertain to anyone. It helps break the ice. Then I really listen and ask follow up questions, trying not to think about how nervous I am.

  7. Great post Vivi-I admire your bravery! And the "picture everyone else naked" part is always most excellent for a relaxing giggle! I'm attending my first RWA meeting in July as well, but I'm more outgoing, which means I'll likely make a total ass out of myself-lol! Also nice to put a face with your name. Your book sounds absolutely ***steamy***! I hope it doesn't cause my Kindle to burst into flames! Best to you, Marianne

  8. Jeannie - LOL. Yeah, I'm soooo glamorous. ;)

    Laurie, that's a great tactic! My next conference I'm totally writing ice-breakers on my palms.

    Hi Marianne! Good thing those Kindles are flame-proof. ;) You're lucky to be outgoing! You're going to shine at RWA in July.

  9. It's all in the preparation, I really have to psyche myself to be in a group of people, though fellow writers are easier, cuz they're as weird as me. (ok, maybe not really but close) Having a few questions ready like Laurie said is good. But that picturing naked thing, that's a little too much for my imagination. I'd rather picture them in pink polka-dot underwear. :)

  10. You were there at my Janet Evanovich moment at last year's National convention. I seriously carried one of her books with me from home, and yes, had it with me. Took all my courage to ask for an autograph. What a dork.

  11. I'd be a nervous wreck as well! I'm not far enough along in the process yet to make going to a conference worthwhile - but I hope one day to get to one. Or more. :)

  12. I'm the person who talks to you while we wait in the grocery line, but when it comes to writer conferences my tongue ties in knots. Why is that?

    I feel a lot like you do, Vivi.

  13. Vivi, thanks for sharing your story. I know exactly what you're talking about here because I can be a wreck at conferences, too. Like Diana, I have to psyche myself up. I'm so afraid of saying something idiotic, though! I know I should just relax a little. I'm sure lots of people feel the same way.