Rust City 2016: Why do we go to book conferences?

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Last Thursday, I told my husband I was terrified. I had to drive up to Detroit for the very first Rust City Book Con, and I did not want to go. I wanted, in fact, to curl into a tiny ball and cry all weekend. Instead, I had a four hour drive, followed by three days of panels, workshops, and socializing.

Jake, ever patient, said, “You’re going to have fun.”

Of course, he was right. I arrived at Rust City Friday morning, one workshop already under way. The organizer met me barefoot and with a smile, which made me think, “Okay, if Jackie’s barefoot, I’m going to be all right.” (Don’t ask me why this was so comforting, but it was.) Then, fellow author Cali helped me carry stuff up to my hotel room. I’d made a friend.

I sat in on some panels that morning and learned fantastic things about character motivation and the industry. I laughed with other audience members. During the long lunch, I had a beer and was invited to join a table of women with whom I immediately fit. I could cuss and say silly things, and they laughed. They actually LAUGHED.

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Pin the fangs on Bela!

Over the course of the weekend, I sat on some panels of my own. I gave an 8 AM workshop on planning the novel. I did a book signing. A fan ran up and called me “Ms. Bauer,” which made me giggle because no one calls me that. I organized a “Pin the Teeth on Bela Lugosi” game, because why not? I sold some books, but mostly, I guess I networked.

As authors, why do we go to book conferences? Since Rust City was my first as an official author person (thanks to Bite Somebody), I wasn’t sure going in. Now, I think I’m getting an idea as to why conferences are necessary.

It’s not for the money. I did not come close to breaking even, when you consider travel costs, conference costs, and oh, beer costs. Although I learned a few things, the conference was not about education for me, as most of the topics discussed were things I already knew.

Networking? Yes. I think we go to book conferences to network. I was lucky enough to have breakfast with one lovely lady who plans to refer me to her agent. I met authors who think like me, write like me. I have a cornucopia of new Facebook and Twitter pals, and yes, I found a few new readers.

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Roselynn and me

However, maybe just maybe, we authors go to book conferences to feel not so alone. Yes, as writers, we are “high-functioning introverts.” New soul mate Roselynn had a shirt that said, “I’m Done Peopling Today.” I get it; I hid in my hotel room as often as was appropriate.

Despite our general tilt toward the anti-social, though, we need each other because we need to talk about writing. We need to talk about books we love. We need to talk about rejection and how much it can suck being an author, even once you’ve been published.

It’s wonderful to meet our readers, but it’s wonderful to meet other authors, too, and commiserate. And for those of us who write about sex, how nice to have our jokes actually land.

I made the mistake of leaving Rust City Saturday night. I had a lovely, wonderful dinner with old Detroit friends, until a lady at the table behind us complained about me saying “orgasm” in public. Funny how empty it feels when you’re no longer surrounded by “your people.”

I drove home yesterday completely exhausted and “done peopling.” I have a stack of new books to read. I have new friends across the country to keep in touch with. For my first book con as a published author, I’ll call this one a win, not because I made any money but because I felt the love. I laughed. I connected. That’s what Rust City Book Con was really about.

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12 thoughts on “Rust City 2016: Why do we go to book conferences?

  1. Hi Sara,

    Thanks for your email. I always enjoy your posts, since they make me think and broaden my perspective usually out of my “comfort” zone.

    Have a good day.

    Les

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Great post, Sara. I’m glad you had a refreshing time at your conference and screw the orgasm lady. She hasn’t lived evidently!! Ha! Mitch

    Sent from my iPhone Mitch Tyson

    >

  3. None of your terror showed! I think a good many of us committed readers and writers are solid introverts, but even so, we need to connect, and when we do, it’s *awesome*. And then we need to go have a little lie-down in a dark room, lol.

  4. we didn’t get to meet (bummer!) but I felt so much the same until I got there…then it was all okay. I’m so glad you had fun – and if we ever do meet, I’ll laugh at your jokes, and I won’t be offended if you say ‘orgasm’ in public. 😀

  5. That sounds like a blast! I’m glad you had a great time! I’m horrible at socializing. At the first conference I went to, I think I talked to two people, but at the last conference I did work up the nerve to talk to one of the panelists during one of the breaks. It’s getting easier, maybe? 🙂 I’d love to go as an author one day!

    I can’t believe that lady! LOL! And here I was thinking all the uptight people lived down in the south with me.

    Pin the teeth on Bela is such a great idea for a game!

  6. I have noticed that even though we may be introverts IRL, we become extroverts when surrounded by our own “kind”. *grin*

  7. Sara –

    It was so much fun meeting you at Rust City. Loved your humor. I can’t stop laughing at the thought of an Saquaro Apocalypse. LOL on the orgasm lady. I do hope you told her to “see you next Tuesday.” (see the lasting impression you made!)

  8. That sounds like the perfect con experience!

    I agree with you on the barefoot thing, but I’ve got reasons I’ve worked out for myself, ish, for why it would be comforting like that. Ultimately, it’s a combination of the fact that I’m always barefoot at home, plus a movie with Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart called “The Barefoot Contessa” (not to be confused with the cooking lady). Ava Gardner is the title character, and it’s explained a couple of times, some more specifically than others, that when she feels able to go barefoot is when she feels the most comfortable/empowered/etc.

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