Recently, I attended the annual Washington Romance Writers Retreat. This convention brings together 150 romance writers (many of whom — indeed, most of whom — write in other genres, including speculative fiction) from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, for a series of panels, meals, lectures, meals, one-on-one pitch sessions to agents and editors, meals, happy hours, meals, games (such as “Romance Jeopardy”, with category titles inappropriate for a family website), meals, etc.
For a handful of lucky authors (and I consider myself very lucky), the Retreat is preceded by a booksigning at Turn the Page Bookstore, the independent store owned by Nora Roberts’s husband. Picture an antebellum Maryland town, with a small house turned into a bookstore, with a tiny side room filled with tables for fifteen authors, including Nora. Then, picture more than 200 readers who arrive more than an hour before the store opens, to buy books from the fifteen authors. Then, picture three hours of authors chatting with patrons, talking about their books, selling their books, smiling, chatting, and constantly being on.
So, basically, picture presenting a positive public — very public — face from 10:00 a.m. on Friday through 1:00 on Sunday.
Sound like heaven? Or hell?
For this introvert, my answer used to be “hell”.
But over time, I’ve developed strategies for coping with so much exposure, with so much human contact. (Remember, a regular workday for me involves bidding farewell to my husband at 8 a.m. and not seeing another human being until he returns at 6:00 p.m. I love that regular workday…)
I’ve learned how to parcel out my energy when I’m an incognito introvert, when I need to present as an extrovert. I’ve learned how to give myself breaks during the day — even if I just sit in a bathroom stall for fifteen minutes. I’ve learned how to fuel myself with caffeine. I’ve learned how to cut back on alcohol (in my current case, to zero). And I’ve learned how to skip out on the handful of activities that are just too boisterous for me to handle (see above reference to Romance Jeopardy).
I had a great time at the WRW Retreat — I learned things, I taught things, and I made a number of new friends.
And I adored the following week at home, when I worked in near-solitude, each and every day.
Fellow introverts? How do you handle conferences, conventions, retreats, and other aspects of the writing life that require you to be “on”? Extroverts? Do you identify with anything I’m writing about? Do you find other challenges with public writerly events?