Conference Aftermath

Before I segue into the topic of this post, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who purchased, shared buy links, and reviewed our anthology, The Resistance: United in Love. I get that people are filled with political fatigue because POLITICAL DISCOURSE IS EVERYWHERE. But we appreciate you supporting the ACLU

We were also mentioned in the Huffington Post! Sooooo rad! 

The weekend of March 18th, I attended my first conference of 2017, Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference aka Create Something Magical. This was my second year attending, and it was also my second year being on a panel. On Sunday I sat alongside Damon Suede, La Quette, and Taria Reed while we moderated a discussion titled, “In Loving Color: Diversity in Romance.” The setting tends to be informal, and we leave all the Judgey McJudgeyness outside. We want people to feel comfortable enough to ask questions they may not typically ask because they don’t know who to ask or how to ask what it is they wish to know. Basically, we allow people to be un-PC (uh, with limitations of course). 

We started the panel off with a few questions about reading habits and whether those who read romance tend to flock to their usual faves, or do they actively seek out books written by someone who is of a different race, religion, sexual orientation, than them. We also discussed their thoughts about publishing and how the book world incorporates diversity. 

Diversity. It’s the buzzword we can’t get enough of lately. *buzz buzz buzz*

But that’s not what this post is about; this post is about how networking can help you reach your goals. Didn’t see that coming did ya? 

You see in my profesh life; my current full-time gig is the first job I’ve ever attained on my own. What do I mean by this? No networking! I saw a position that looked appealing, and I applied. In the past, every job I have ever held was because someone saw a listing and thought I’d be a perfect fit for it. Or… someone I previously worked with had a colleague who was looking for someone to fill a gap in their roster, they thought of me, and passed along my resume. I knew someone who knew someone etc. These scenarios are what led to new ventures in my professional life. Because of the opportunities, my jobs have presented me, I’ve learned to use that to my advantage. 

Networking helped me advance my professional career. Although I was hired for my current position without “direct” networking, my references still helped to seal the deal. And those awesome references? Aside from doing a great job, I made it a priority to introduce myself to people I admire. I aimed to make myself memorable. Well, I aim to always be personable in one on one interactions. I always aim to be funny and empathetic. These are traits needed for what I do Monday-Friday 9-5. It brings me so much joy to know my face comes to mind when people get a call about me and they’re thinking, “You should hire her! Boy is she memorable, personable, funny, and empathetic!” 

Since I make it a habit of getting to know people who are doing phenomenal things in my professional life, it makes sense that I would carry over the same mentality into my author life.

In the literary world, I want to know all the people! What makes my professional life different from my author life is social media. I don’t interact with people I work with on social media. People I’ve collaborated with in the past, sure. And that’s only a select few. Social media is a ruiner. You can hold someone to an extremely high standard, and all it takes is one social media post to essentially kill the perfection bubble that surrounded them. 

Networking means striking a balance. It’s not about what people can do for you (although the perks are nice when that works out to your advantage), but it’s about what you can learn from individuals who have been playing in the sandbox longer than you. Who has the success you hope to attain some day? Who is willing to be a mentor? Find yo people! Those authors who’ve reached the milestones you want to target in your career? BOND WITH THEM! Much like in the professional world, not everyone you look up to is going to want to play the role of mentor. Sometimes it’s a dog eat dog world. Sometimes people want to see you fail. Sometimes people are elated to see you sweat. Sometimes the person you held in high regard is an asshole. It happens. 

That’s life, though. An ongoing obstacle course of trying to avoid a shit-show and climbing over the wall to success. You hit a lot of ditches filled with mud along the way, but you jump over those suckers and move onto the next station. 

At Liberty States, I networked my ass off. Not literally. The bum is still there and looking mighty fine. Heyyyyy #teamswole #romancefit I see you! 

For two whole days, I was in a room with authors who have this game down to a science. They write full-time, they’ve been on The New York Times Bestseller list multiple times, they’ve hit the USA Today Bestseller list numerous times, they have movie deals in the works, screenplays are in development, they have advances I could only dream of, and lord knows what else they’ve got in the works. THESE PEOPLE ARE KICKING ASS AND TAKING NAMES! And I wanted to know them. I wanted them to tell me everything. I wanted them to hold me tightly in their bosoms and whisper the secrets to longevity in this business (aside from writing good books because we all know without a stellar product, no one gives a damn about you or what you’re trying to do) and you know what? I went up to everyone I recognized, or I’d seen online, or I wanted to have one on one time with, and I talked. Maybe I mumbled and said something incoherent a time or two, but I talked! I broke the ice and shot the shit with people. I was sociable and vulnerable, and it led to pretty cool things! I pitched a few ideas I had swirling around in my head to a few authors, and they were into it! 

You should also know I wear my heart on my sleeve. What people see is what they get. Harper Miller isn’t a facade. It’s a pen name. A name I use because I want to keep my professional life and my author life far far FAR away from each other, but networking is one thing I definitely want to overlap. When I fangirl over meeting people whose work I love, it’s not a gimmick. I am the person you see online. I do squee in person! I legit lost my cool a couple of times because HELLO, I HAVE THESE PEOPLE’S BOOKS ON MY KINDLE!

Believe me when I tell you there’s power in networking. Because I was sociable, because I was honest, because I speak from the heart, I was gifted with opportunities that will hopefully open new doors for me. My blessings are abundant, and I am grateful. 

So to the author’s reading this post who are apprehensive about attending conferences because you don’t know anyone, or you have social anxiety, or you’re not sure what the hell to do because speaking to strangers is scary, I suggest attending Liberty States. Plan to come next year. It’s a welcoming environment. If you have social anxiety, being at this con won’t send you into a tailspin. It’s full of people who are more than willing to share their knowledge, and outside of RWA, it’s a great conference to hone your networking skills. And the bonus? You get to play Mad Libs and destroy Jane Austen and Kathleen Woodiwiss. If that’s not your cup of tea, there’s Cards Against Humanity. Both panels are guaranteed to keep you in stitches. I pinky swear.   

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