Making Friends at a Writers Conference

Conference time is exciting for everyone, especially those who are looking forward to meeting people they’ve only met over the Internet and reconnecting with old friends. For certain, strengthening relationships is one of the best benefits of any conference.

But what about the person who’s new, who hasn’t had a chance to make lots of friends yet? What about the shy person who doesn’t like social media, and must gather up all her courage even to go to a conference? Conference veterans know to expect lots of hustle and bustle, especially at larger conferences. Experienced and multi-published writers know they have a place. Often, they are sought after and even revered. But what about the newbie who suddenly feels even smaller among all the authors, editors, and agents? What about the writer who’s struggled for years, and is finding he feels even more intimidated amid the brouhaha?

It’s easy to pass around hugs to your immediate group and start chattering away. I know I’ve done this many a time, to great joy. But at conference, let’s all be mindful of the people who need us to step aside enough to let them in to our little circles of friendship and camaraderie. If you see someone approaching your circle, let that person in. You might discover this new person is not an intruder, but could end up being one of your best friends.

If you see me at conference, feel free to tap me on the shoulder whether I’m with or without a group of friends. I’d love to talk with you!

Your turn:

What is your best conference memory of making a new friend?

What is your favorite way to reconnect with friends at a conference?

Who did you meet at conference after being Internet friends?

22 Responses to Making Friends at a Writers Conference

  1. Avatar
    Jackie Layton July 10, 2014 at 4:46 am #

    With much encouragement from Brandilyn Collins, I went to my first ACFW conference two years ago. I found a roommate online, and thought two friends were going, but they both had to back out. So I flew to Dallas all by myself.

    Three ladies who made me feel so much better were Reba Hoffman, Michelle Lim and Beth Vogt. I will always appreciate these three ladies.

    Last year in Indianapolis, I traveled with friends, but I kept my eyes open for those who didn’t seem to be in a group and tried to pull them in. I discovered there’s so much to absorb, and having a friend to talk to makes it easier.

  2. Avatar
    Varina Denman July 10, 2014 at 5:11 am #

    Very thoughtful post, Tamela. I remember meeting you at my first ACFW conference, and your friendliness helped me feel less like outsider. Thank you!

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    Rick Barry July 10, 2014 at 5:14 am #

    Tamela, thanks for such an uplifting start to my day. Yes, making friends is something all writers can do, both newbies and seasoned veterans. If someone shows up with the mindset, “I’m not here to make friends; I’m only here to get my book published,” then that person is missing out and not entering into the full spirit of the event.

    You also give a good reminder for old-timers to be on the lookout for that person who has scrimped for months to attend her first conference, but is inwardly shaking and wondering whether she can truly fit in with this crowd. A cheery greeting and acceptance can go a long way toward encouraging a timid soul who just might turn out to be a fantastic author.

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    Jan Cline July 10, 2014 at 6:09 am #

    Amen Tamela! I appreciate this post. I remember my first ACFW conference was difficult for these very reasons. Even though I had been to conferences before and I’m a conference director myself, I felt lost and alone. I was so grateful for some author friends who checked in on me and gave me hugs. (and thanks to Steve Laube who stood and talked to me even though he barely knew me.) It’s very important to make new attendees feel welcome and part of a smaller group within the masses.

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    Ane Mulligan July 10, 2014 at 6:12 am #

    I met Gian Holmes at the second writers conference I went to and we’ve been crit partners and BFFs ever since. That was over 10 years ago. Over the years, I’ve met others who have become lifetime friends. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    Tedd July 10, 2014 at 6:13 am #

    When entering a new setting I look for welcoming smiles and eye contact. I have been a public speaker for forty years and I still fight the uncomfortable battle.

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    April Savage July 10, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    I love Tamela! Her posts are so encouraging. It is important to make connections and friends in the literary world. You never know when you may need advice.

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    JOhnnie Alexander Donley July 10, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    As I drove to the Florida Christian Writers Conference in 2007, my first major conference, I prayed for a friend to eat lunch with. God multiplied His answer to my prayer, and all these years later, four of my closest friends are the women I shared meals with at FCWC. We email each other almost daily, pray for one another, and encourage one another. I am immensely thankful for God’s generous blessing.

    Thanks for the post, Tamela. I always love seeing you at conferences.

    • Avatar July 10, 2014 at 10:34 am #

      I came to comment just like you did, Johnnie. Our little group has been such a blessing and I know each of us has taken steps in our writing careers we wouldn’t have if we never met up. Tamela you are so right with this post. It does take courage and a little risk taking to reach out to a stranger but I have found most people are feeling the same way.

  9. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray July 10, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    Thank you all so much for stopping by. Your comments have warmed my heart! ๐Ÿ˜€

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    Lynn Hare July 10, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    Tamela, a wonderful reminder to us all. I’ve been on both sides – a rookie trying to meet folks, and an established author with friends at the conference. I pray that we allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate those we’re meant to connect with and follow His lead. I personally follow up with an encouraging email or hand-written note to connect with folks right after the conference.

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    Courtney Phillips July 10, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    There are so many people I’ve “met” on blogs that I would love to meet in person. I don’t have plans to attend ACFW this year (unless a few things change), but I hope to attend a conference soon.

    Such a great post. It would be easy to be intimidated by the agents and editors, I’m sure.

  12. Avatar
    Lisa Evola July 10, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    The first conference that I ever attended alone, I’ll admit had me shaking in my boots. I am pretty shy by nature, so having to sit at multiple tables containing no one that I knew was a bit uncomfortable. But by the end of the event I was not only sitting at tables with strangers, I was purposely seeking them out. There is something exhilarating about putting yourself out there like that. It was amazing to meet so many new people, and everyone was very welcoming. I even managed to make a close friend that I have kept up with over the years. Through this friendship I have met several other writers who I’ve never met live, but have joined me in writing daily inspiration on a contributor blog. This October is our first conference sponsored by the blog that we write for, and we will be meeting in person for the first time. We are all pretty excited to see the faces behind the words. We’re from all over North America, so meeting has always been a pipe dream. I’m so grateful for that first conference and all of the stranger tables that I sat at. That weekend will live on through the memories of the friends that I now hold close to my heart. I would encourage anyone to step out and extend a hand in friendship to those who share interests as they likely do at conferences – you never know where it will lead you.

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    Megan July 10, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Thanks for this! I’m headed to the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference in a couple weeks and I would love to make a new friend! Thanks for emboldening me ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Avatar
      Lisa Evola July 11, 2014 at 4:20 am #

      That is the conference that I went to! Enjoy it Megan, everyone is so nice!

    • Avatar
      Shirley Brosius July 11, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      I too will be attending the She Speaks conference. Would love to meet you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Avatar
    Shirley Brosius July 11, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    I have established two long-term relationships through writers conferences, and we still regularly keep in touch. The first was meeting Frances Pasch about 1993. I eventually included her profile in my book on inspirational women. The second was Kayleen Reusser some years later. We both had newspaper backgrounds and we established a weekly time to connect by phone for 15 minutes during which we shared writing tips and suggestions and encouraged each other in our writing. Invaluable to me!!! I visited in Kayleen’s home when my husband and I took a trip west. I treasure my friendships with these women.

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    Tamela Hancock Murray July 11, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    Wow, I’m so thrilled that connections are being made right here on this blog!

  16. Avatar
    Chris Storm July 11, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Do you know what I love about writers’s conferences? Everybody has a story, and at a CHRISTIAN Writers Conference, we all have very similar stories of faith and perseverance to share! My first ACFW Conference I was astounded to discover about 800 people who were just like me!!! Where have we all been hiding? Behind our computers, typing away, of course. Where else would a New York State gal, like me, become instant best friends with two gals from Mississippi and one from Texas? ACFW! My favorite weekend of the year!

  17. Avatar
    Megan Ebba July 12, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    At the Realm Makers conference this May, I had to make a friend immediately, because the only way to get internet access was to get the password texted to your phone…but this rural NH girl doesn’t have a cell phone! Teddi Deppner not only let me use her phone, but sat next to me during the public critique session afterwards so I would have someone to poke in excitement (or agony!) when the panel talked about my piece. Then we gabbed until the very wee hours (like, probably midnight) and have stayed connected via social media. My experience at Realm Makers and also at ACFW was that everyone is willing to talk, and if they are on their way to an appointment or something they will usually let you know and give you a smile and a wave, and maybe you’ll sit next to them at lunch. I have made some friend connections, like Teddi, and some lovely acquaintance-type connections, but I am grateful for all of the people I meet who like to do what I do–write! (bonus points for Whovians…)

  18. Avatar
    Nick July 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Thanks for an encouraging post Tamela. Going to ACFW this year alone and first time… big leap of faith and I am hoping to force myself to be that extrovert and connect with other writers…

  19. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan July 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    Before one conference, another attendee emailed me and said she was anxious to meet me. Excited, I found her before the first session. I introduced myself and she reciprocated. Then we stood there and stared at each other in silence. Since she reached out to me, I assumed she would carry the conversation, but it turned out we were both nervous introverts. Fortunately, a friendship formed despite that awkward first meeting.

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