As an indie writer, it’s sometimes hard to find your tribe. The majority of my writer friends are traditional published. We can geek out about writing together but that’s where it ends. Most of my concerns are with what happens AFTER I publish rather than before. One of the reasons I love the Sterling and Stone guys is that they really know how to build a community. They’re based here in Austin and so that’s where they throw their Smarter Artist Summit. This year, I made it a point to go.

I got a lot of publishing stuff from the event but I know you guys don’t care about that stuff. Here are the real takeaways:

There are levels to introversion.

I was sitting across the aisle from another attendee on day two when she looked around the room in wonder and said “And they all said they were introverts.” I immediately understood what she meant. All around us people were talking and smiling and basically doing all of the things we introverts aren’t really known for doing.

But the thing about introversion is that there are levels to it. For me, I’m fine interacting with five to ten people at a time. I can be funny and articulate and engaging. But if you put me in a room with 45 people, it’s an entirely different story. And in a room with over 200 people, some of which seem like they know each other pretty well. . . well forget about it.

But I eventually found my footing and I did have some one-on-one conversations with some interesting people. Hopefully they remember me and want to continue those conversations because I friended them on Facebook the next day.

Lunch time is the best time.

Speaking of one-on-one conversations, lunch time was probably the best time I had the entire conference. Yeah conferences are supposed to be about the panels but some of the best info you’ll get is in the hallways or at happy hour. On the first day, I didn’t plan very well. I still had client work on my plate and I was already exhausted from a long week of work. So, I ended up spending lunch alone finishing some work and then reading for a bit to recharge.

On day two, this happened:

Fortunately, I fell in with a couple of local writers and anyone else who wanted BBQ. Between bites of jalapeno bacon mac and cheese, we talked about so much stuff. I felt like it was the start of some really cool long term relationships.

Parking garages aren’t my friend.

I hate driving, y’all. Besides a couple of friends and some family, the only thing I miss about New York is the ability to go places without driving. (I got so much more reading done there because I never had to be responsible for steering.) During my normal life, I rarely drive anywhere but the conference required me to drive downtown and actually park. (By the way, parallel parking is not a skill of mine. I literally don’t know how to do it.)

Fortunately, there was a price conscious parking garage near the conference hotel. Unfortunately I blew past the ticket machine and didn’t realize that until I had parked my car. In parking garages you have to pay for the entire day plus a little extra if you don’t have ticket. Ummmmm, you guys know how cheap I am! I just couldn’t let that happen.

I ran down to the attendant and explained my lack of parking ticket. “I know everybody lies about these things but I swear I’m tearing the truth. You were sitting right there when I drove past. I know you saw my shitty car. You can’t miss it.”

“The brown one?” he asked without even missing a beat.

“Yeah, that’s the one. I just drove in here.” He gave me a new ticket just like that. And that my friends is why you need to drive an old, shitty car. People will remember you.

On the second day of the conference, I narrowly missed locking my keys in the car. Thank God I didn’t, though. That’s not a call I want to make to Hubs. For a short time in our marriage, I was known for letting my car’s battery die every time I drove somewhere and I don’t want to give him a reason to ever bring this up again.

Your seat matters.

On day one of the summit, I was sitting in the back of the room sandwiched between a couple of people. Although I could hear, I couldn’t always see and I felt a little claustrophobic. None of these little things were particularly overwhelming but I let them affect my enjoyment of the presentations. It was like if you have a tiny pebble in your shoe and you let it ruin an entire hike. The ironic part is that it was my fault. I’d gotten there in plenty of time to choose my seat. I’d chosen the back because I felt more comfortable observing than participating. I was afraid that if I sat up front someone might notice I was actually there.

On the second day, I made it a point to sit up front and choose an end seat to give myself a little more room to breathe. My enjoyment of the panels increased significantly. Suddenly I was taking a million notes. Suddenly I couldn’t stop coming up with ideas for things I was going to do when I got back to my desk. Now, you can say that might have been because the content was different on day two but I know for a fact my seat had something to do with it.

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Princess Jones

Princess Jones is a fantasy author with an obsession with the stories we tell ourselves over and over. For more talk about books, connect with her on Goodreads.

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