how to avoid the foisting bellybutton-gazing magna nincompoopus

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Photo & Collage by Vicky Lorencen

Photo & Collage by
Vicky Lorencen

You, my lovelies, are brilliant, radiant writers. You are warm and kind, and most days you smell pretty good. But even the creamiest of the crop can slide down the sloppy slope into that abyss of abysmal behavior. How do I know this? Um. Well. Okay, enough about me.

Consider this list of Don’t Do’s and Do Do’s (smirk):

The Foister–you’re at a conference. It’s social hour. A new person walks by. You reach out and touch his arm. He stops. “Here’s my card,” you say. He looks at the card. He looks at you. He looks at the card, stuffs it in his pocket and walks on. Look. Another person approaches. She sees you reaching for a card and does a U-turn. At the end of the night, you see your card left under wine glasses (My card’s not a coaster!) or, worse yet, populating the trash bin. This is not good. You’ve been pegged as a Foister.

What to do: Take your postcards and/or business cards with you to the conference, but use the social time to talk to people. Scary, I know. But you are not an apron-wearing sample distributor for Costco. Your job is not to see how many units you can move by the end of the night. You want to network, make new friends and enjoy. So, when it comes to cards, wait until someone asks you for one. This takes patience and self-control, but it’s the right thing to do. And it’s the most effective way to share your cards. Handing your card to someone who actually wants it is a time honored way to do a bit of networking and build relationships. And for the love of 12 pt. font, don’t forget to ask for their card too! You can do this, my little figgy pudding.

The Bellybutton-gazer–when a presenter asks for questions at the end of her talk, this is not your cue to raise your little pencil grabber and then famble on about how you’re having trouble with your middle grade novel’s subplot because it’s based on your uncle’s dairy farm in Minnesota and you’re afraid of cows, but it’s crucial to the part in the main plot about the twins who own a cow circus and blah-blah-blah . . . NO! This is not good.

What to do: phrase your question in such a way that others could potentially benefit from the answer. Do not ask three more follow-up questions, and thereby monopolize the Q&A session. Wait until everyone has had a chance to ask a question before posing a new, carefully worded question. You can do this.

The Magna nincompoopus–you’re been to every conference, retreat, workshop, book talk and poetry slam in the tri-state area. You read Publisher’s Weekly, weekly. You’ve taken online classes, joined a critique group, and you have your own blog for gosh sakes. So, now you’re at yet another conference. You could practically teach the thing (or so you think). Before you know it, you’re commandeering conversations, over-talking/under-listening and taking condescension to new depths. You’re behaving like a magna nincompoopus.

What to do: set a goal for yourself before you ever leave the house–today I will meet and listen to three new people. I will only offer advice or information, if asked. And, even then, I will be to the point. I will learn three new things. I will be intentional about finding opportunities to encourage others, especially if they are new, or nervous or human. You can do this.

I can do this too. Now, let’s have a cookie.

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. ~ George Carlin

6 responses »

  1. I think my brain would spontaneously self-combust before I became a foister, but I know I’ve been guilty of over-talking during at meals at writers’ retreats. I HOPE it’s been more a case of I’m-so-excited-to-be-talking-shop-in-person rather than know-it-all.

    Like

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