When Writers Gather

When Writers Gather

Guest Blogger: Andrea Adair-Tippins

While we are cautiously optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and we slowly return to some semblance of how the world used to be, I hope we don’t discount everything that happened in the past year. I’d like some elements, of the virtual kind, to carry over into the future.

What? Haven’t we’ve all had our fill of Zoom and Webex and Facetime and whatever else people have found to connect with one another when we couldn’t attend in person? But there are some really good things that have come out of doing things virtually.

A virtual win

I work in a library and for each author visit I’ve hosted in the past year, I reached over 2,000 views on Facebook live. Two thousand views! In-person events max out at the room limit of 70 people. Going virtual has been a huge win for the library and my guest authors. In future, I intend to do a hybrid: in-person events while streaming on Facebook live. Something I hope organizers of writer conferences will consider.

Having just attended my second fabulous virtual Surrey International Writers Conference (SIWC) there are some things I’ve embraced about attending conferences this way that I hope will continue in some fashion.

Conferences: a virtual plus

Attendance: You can attend any virtual conference you want no matter where you live. I tried to attend SIWC in person three years ago but it sold out so quickly I didn’t have to worry about convincing my husband I should go! When it switched to virtual last year organizers opened it up to more people and I had no problem getting in.

This year alone, I’ve gone to When Words Collide in Calgary and Write Now!, a crime writing conference in Arizona. It’s a big world but virtual conferences make it feel smaller.

Events are recorded: Many conferences are recording the sessions held over Zoom and it’s fantastic! If you attend a conference in person, unless like Hermione Granger you have a time turner, you can’t physically be at every session.

But with recorded events, you can hit any session you want. With SIWC for instance, the recordings are up for a month and I can watch them at my convenience – even while making dinner!

Transcripts: With live events on Zoom or recorded, transcripts are easily available. While watching live, you can enable the transcript right away and follow along (or go back if you miss something). Zoom also gives you an option to save it. Save the transcript? Yes please!! Save my hands from cramping for an hour and a half session.

And with recorded events, you are able to copy and paste the transcript. You might get 46 pages and some odd interpretations of words but it helps you catch the gist of anything you missed.

You can duck out of recordings: Not every session you attend at a conference is perfect for you. You may be looking for nuts and bolts about how to do something and the presenter takes more of a theoretical approach. It can be awkward to walk out halfway through — but virtually, not so much. It’s even better when it’s a recording. Just end it. Or skim the transcript to see if it does get into more of what you are looking for.

Even more pluses

Pitching: Pitching your book to an editor or agent is nerve wracking, virtual or in person. Doing it over Zoom however, there is a good chance they aren’t going to see how nervous you may be. Yes, you have to remember to look at the camera but sweaty armpits aren’t going to show up across the internet. And pitching, just for the experience alone, is always a win – virtual or otherwise.

Cost: Conferences can be expensive, from airfare to accommodations to meals. Virtual? Well, you miss the adventure of a trip and restaurant meals and hanging out at the bar. But do you?

Many events have set up virtual bars to hang out in. Order food in and mingle. Network. Meet and greet online.

While I hope in-person conferences will resume again soon (New England Crime Bake in November is doing a hybrid event) — I am soaking up everything I can online whenever I can. And having a lot of fun while I’m doing it!

Andrea Adair-Tippins is a children’s librarian assistant. She is currently working on a historical mystery, attending conferences and taking online classes to improve her craft.