Meet Online Friends
One of the coolest things about going to a huge conference is the opportunity to meet online friends. This past ALA, the whole reason I went (besides the Poetry Blast) was to meet the Poetry Princesses, a group of 7 of us who have collaborated on a few poetry projects. And we had a completely wonderful time, forging deeper connections and laughing and eating our way through DC.
Even if you’re not traveling/rooming with other people, I think it’s fun to arrange a few specific meet-ups. Otherwise, I go with the grand idea of connecting in person, but then I end up just collapsing in my hotel room. If I set up things beforehand, I’m guaranteed to get out there, get out of hiding.
Marilyn Singer, me, Tricia Stohr-Hunt (The Miss Rumphius Effect)
So, post online that you’re going to ALA and ask who else is going. Ask on any email lists you’re on. Check with your Facebook friends. However you connect with other writers, now is the time to do it. And then make some plans (make sure to exchange cell phone numbers and tell each other whether you text or not). I had fun meeting Amy Thomas, who took one of my online classes, in person, both at my signing and at the ALA Banquet.
Meeting for breakfast is great since there’s not much else going on. After breakfast, maybe you’ll hit the exhibit hall together. Or pick an event to go to together. Heading to Kid Lit Drinks Night in DC was much less stressful because I went with my online friends. I would force myself to go introduce myself to strangers, too, but I had the comfort zone of friends to go back to.
Or maybe you’ll just meet in the exhibit hall and browse together for a while. That can be so overwhelming, and it’s nice to walk around with someone.
And the great thing about meeting up with online contacts is you meet their friends, too. I had breakfast with Nikki Grimes, which was a blast on its own.
With Nikki Grimes
And then Nikki’s friend Libba Bray joined us, and the crazy stories flew even faster.
It’s hard to imagine attending a conference of 20,000 people and not connecting. But it can be done—I know from experience. Setting up a few one-on-one or small group meet-ups makes the conference feel so much more like a community.