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Lessons from a Convention Turned Upside Down

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

An Introvert's Surprises and Successes from Convention

#IntrovertConvention #BirthdayBoy #INaturevsNurture #JennuineExpressions #BeyondIntroversion #Networking #InSearchofCourage

The last convention I attended was an Asphalt Conference in Miami in 2017. A bunch of fringe oil patch veterans rekindling old friendships, hustling to spark new business for the future, and enduring some informational sessions to balance off the meals and cocktails.

This past week I attended the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) in San Antonio. I knew this would be different but suspected some of my old shy introvert challenges would be tested once again.

Before I arrived last Wednesday, I crafted my last blog, Crowds, Chaos, and Cocktails Hours, sharing a tumultuous experience from the past and my 4P's to guide a better experience at AWP:

1. PERSONAL PRIDE: Be true to myself and use my renewed strengths to have a positive experience

2. PRIORITIZE: Focus on my objectives of learning, exploring resources for future publishing, and networking with other writers

3. PREPARE: Plan and gain comfort with my schedule, venue, and self to meet my priorities

4. PRIVACY: Ensure I have personal time to wind down and also to gain energy and inspiration

Knee Brace & Name Tag - Ready to Scan the Venue!

I proudly brought my list and cased the convention hall out the night before. Twelve thousand people were expected so I wanted to be as best prepared as possible.

I am a consummate planner...I plan out my writing, my blogs, our vacations, and gives me comfort and control. But as they say, best-laid plans...

As the conference opened on Thursday morning, I was ready! Until I saw the monitor outside the first room..."CANCELLED". Well, I'm a pretty good problem solver, so I hopped on the app and searched for alternatives. But as I scan the list, I see a lot of "CANCELLED" notices! I find another session and head off to the other side of the Convention Hall. This quickly began to underscore my next challenge of the week. I somehow twisted my knee on a run earlier in the week. The swelling had gone down but I now sported a noticeable Texas "hitch to my git-along." I knew I was in trouble when I spotted distance signs. Truly, I've been on shorter runways. I must have walked, neh hobbled, at least 5 miles each day.

This became my week... canceled sessions due to Coronavirus and limping commutes across San Antonio.

Now, I'd like to share 5 new realizations that I hadn't mentioned in last week's prologue

  1. Escape! Almost regardless of the quality of the conference, I love these events because they provide the opportunity to escape...escape day-to-day tasks that can clutter the mind...and foster daydreaming of new projects and ideas.

  2. Moderation is the key. This has been another personal focus this year. Pursuing extremes...going all oftentimes easiest - just focus on doing more! Unfortunately, the repercussions of such unattainable perfection have been too destructive for me to bare. Here, I practiced moderation. I did talk to some people, I did ask questions in some sessions, I did go to a couple of cocktail hours (well, more like cocktail half-hours for me), and for all that, I felt accomplished.

  3. Knowing ourselves sets us up for success. For most sessions/meetings, I am apt to get more involved if I get there early, introduce myself to the leaders, sit toward the front (which shrinks the room to a cozy chat for me), ask a question early, and contemplate my curiosity. Yet, I also give myself permission to sit toward the back or to leave early if I feel so inclined.

  4. Diversity is beautiful. Diversity at the old oil patch conferences was often the degree of whiteness of the conservative, American, golf-hacking men in the room. But diversity in the arts is clearly much different. Every version imaginable...people of color, all versions of gender, LGBTQ+, young and old, tattoos, colored hair and no hair at all. It's wonderful but, admittedly, requires a personal reset from my oil industry branding.

  5. Let my conscience and morals be our guide. I was in one session on writer impostordom (all writers, to some extent and at certain times, feel they don't belong in the writer community). We compare ourselves with the most accomplished top 1% and convince ourselves, at least momentarily, that we are impostors. I went to a session on impostordom with a panel of four women of color. They spent almost all the time talking about their struggles and challenges to succeed as women and minorities, but little time talking about the subject of the session itself. When asked if male writers may suffer from impostordom to the same degree, the panel was inclined to discount such struggles from the 'privileged'. Now I'm still melding into this diverse creatives community, but I was not ok with that response. So I tactfully challenged the lead panelist that they should invite a guy to join the panel next time to help bring that perspective and perhaps help flesh out the different experiences across gender. But the panelist became defensive and felt I'd missed the point. I was proud to get my voice in the room and left the session with my head held high. The takeaway I had was that even diversity is through the eyes of the beholder!

Before the conference began, my lovely extroverted sister and husband sent me s