As the world truly starts opening up and we get to hang out with other people in real life again, J Thorn and Crys Cain talk about how to make the most out of in-person writer events, even as an introvert.


Crys: Hello and welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my cohost J Thorn. 

J: Hi Chris. 

Crys: How’s it going? 

J: It’s going great. You can’t see me smiling at you right now. I like when  you get tongue tied and you correct yourself. It’s funny. 

Crys: Yeah. It’s let’s see. I did right then my brain goes faster than my mouth. A lot of the time. And it’s really funny when my mother and my two sisters and I get together, cause we all do it and no one can understand us except us. We can understand each other seventy-five percent of the time. 

J: That’s all that matters. 

Crys: How’s your writing week?

J: Good. Good. I made progress on a few projects this week. It felt good. 

Crys: You said something interesting in our Slack about having finally written your first good episode of one of the serial projects you’re working on. And what episode was that? 

J:  It was episode seven, and the more I thought about it, it wasn’t all that surprising because it was about, I’m going to say, maybe 10,000 words. 

And whenever I write a novel, it’s hard for me to start feeling the groove until I get about 10,000 or 15,000 words in. So it was interesting then it happened at the same point. 

And I think what I was saying in the Slack group, and I don’t know if I don’t know if it was helpful or not, but I felt I had this idea for this serialized story, I had the world, I had the characters, I had the premise, I kinda knew where I wanted the end of a season where I wanted the end of the first season to end. And I started writing it. 

The first six episodes, I was just, as I’m writing them, I’m like, this isn’t any good.  I should just scrap this. Or I don’t know, it wasn’t clicking it. Like it was feeling forced. 

Something happened in episode 7 where I just was, I was in the zone. And then I finished 8, 9 and 10 all in the same day. Cause I was like, I had so much momentum that I got all those written in the same day.

So now I feel really good about going back and revising the first six to get them up to that standard. But yeah, it took me seven episodes to go, oh yeah, this is cool. 

Crys: I love that you shared that because I think that just makes the writing process feel real. For other people who are like in that same grind phase of figuring out the flow of a story.

J: Yeah. It’s a good reminder that you can’t rush it. That feeling of being in the zone or being in the story or being really tuned into it, no matter how much you prepare. If you’re a hardcore plotter, it doesn’t matter how much you prepare. It doesn’t mean when you sit down to type that first scene that you’re going to just be in the groove.

I find that I have to find the groove for every single story, whether I plot it meticulously or, like in this case, I am totally pantsing it. I know how I want the first season to end. Other than that, I don’t know anything.  I had my characters and I had the world, but I really didn’t know what was going to happen.

It’s a good reminder that no matter what you do writing is messy, no matter what your method is, and sometimes you just have to be patient. 

Crys: I had a realization last week and I don’t know if it was our conversation on burnout that kind of prompted it in my head or what it was, but I realized that after I write the books that I am currently committed to to finalizing series on that I am done with romance. My brain has decided that there is no spinning up more romance just for money. I’m just done. And that’s terrifying. 

J: Completely done? Co-writing and everything?

Crys: Not co-writing in general, but completely done with writing romance. So I have two series in my co-writer’s and my world that we’re wrapping up. We have a third book that we are finalizing for a trilogy that’s been a long time waiting for the third. And then I have maybe three or four books in a solo series that will honestly probably take me two or three or four years to finish out, but I will finish out for the readers. Unless I figure out a way to wrap it up in two.

But those I will just write in more of a joyful space because  I won’t be dependent on them for income, and there will not be a timeline on when I have to get them done. I have nothing lined up. Other than TASM.

J: But, but in all honesty, I know it’s a different genre, but  you know what to do. You know how it feels like you have systems in place. And I don’t, I’m not saying that’s a guarantee and I totally understand why you’re a bit terrified, but you also, you’ve built a strong foundation that you can hopefully build on.

I don’t know if that gives you a, if I’m giving a little pep talk or not, but I would bet on you. That’s what, that’s all I’m saying. 

Crys: I know that I’ll be fine. That I will get there. And one of the things that, and this is why I love indie publishing or publishing in general, it’s not the only way to do this, but those books that I’ve written, those 50 plus books that I’ve written will continue to provide passive income over months and years. 

I have one series of books, it was the first four books I ever wrote on my own. And I wrote them in 2017. That penname is pretty much dead now, I think. I don’t think my former co-writer is publishing on it at all. I could be wrong. 

But it sits out there and makes that those four books make, I don’t know, 50 bucks a month? They’re wide. I make more money wide from them than I do on Amazon, actually. And they just sit there and pay for a good meal out every month. And that is what all of these books will continue to do. The more books you have, the more consistent and larger that number of money that just gets deposited in your account every month will be.

I think that I will still, for several months after stopping writing romance completely, still be able to pay my rent with just the romance books. 

J: That’s great. That’s a great bridge to your new thing. 

Crys: So still terrifying, but also such a relief because I’ve been working towards this ever since we met.

I am, so far, fairly in capable of building up one project to safety while continuing on a larger project that is safety. I just have to be kicked from the nest. 

And so I’m kicking myself from the nest and get those little wings out and fly. 

My question this week for us, doesn’t actually have anything to do with passive income, other than that it is writing focused, but we have an event coming up, I think two weeks after this comes out it’s with The Career Author, you and Zach. And we were supposed to do this last year when we, this got delayed? And it is the Witches of Salem world-building weekend. Yes? 

J: This one, if I’m remembering correctly, this one is, was not delayed. I think this is the one we had planned. 

Crys: Oh, excellent. I can’t remember at all. Last year was a  blur. 

J: Yeah. Yeah. But luckily we plan it so far in advance that that we’re in good shape now. So yeah, we lucked out with this one, but it is the live event that’s coming up in just a few weeks from the time we record this.

Crys: And so my question for us is how do you make the most of in-person events? 

J: Yes. Timing wise, it works out pretty well for what we’re about to do. But clearly you and I have both not only hosted events, but we’ve attended many and definitely attended dozens and dozens prior to when I started posting my own and I continue to be attendees at other ones. 

I think the first thing you have to do to make the most of an in-person event is you’ve got to go. 

And I know that sounds really dumb, but hear me out on this: I’m a bit worried that the pandemic has left some lingering ideas about around events that I don’t necessarily like. When it hit, we had to immediately pivot The Career Author to a virtual event. And it worked and we did it well, and we were proud of it. 

But it’s not my preferred method of attending an event. It’s if there’s no other option. And now I think what’s happened because of the pandemic is there’s a bit of an expectation that events can be attended both physically and virtually, and that those experiences are the same.

And they’re totally not. So if for some reason you sign up for an event and there’s a virtual option and you have to take that virtual option, then you do what you have to do. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but it is not the same thing as being there. 

When you go to an in-person event, the things that you can’t replicate online are the things that are not programmed. They are the conversations you have over a cup of coffee there, the group chat that you’re having at a table in a bar at happy hour, or it’s the chance encounter with someone who you ended up having lunch with. 

Those are the kinds of things that happen in-person events that you can’t just replicate that serendipity virtually.

So it might seem a little bit obvious on the surface, but I think that the first thing you have to do is you just got to get out and go to them. 

Crys: And I would like to just have a side trail here because I’m really interested in accessibility. One of the great things about everything going online is that a lot of people who are not physically able to go to in-person events for whatever reason, suddenly had a lot of things available to them that were not before.

So there is a giant need for online events, but there’s also a vast difference between events that are engineered to be in-person and events that are engineered to be online. And I think that we’re really advancing and the events that are engineered to be online so that they do provide a unique experience that you can only get online.

But the thing we’re going to be talking about are the things that you do get out of the person. And those things, like you mentioned those spin up meetings, those are engineered for in-person events. 

J: Zach and I had been having these ongoing conversations and although we decided we could offer a virtual Career Author Summit, which we did. And we’re also offering it for the Career Author Summit 2021. There are other events of ours that we do that we were like, no, we can’t do that virtually. And Witches of Salem is one of them. 

The world building weekends that we do, the big attraction to those is that  it’s a destination event that ties into the work that you’re doing.

We’re going to meet in Salem, Massachusetts, and we’re gonna be there for a few days and we’re gonna go to the witch museum and we’re going to hear lectures from historians and we’re going to explore Boston. And you just can’t do that online or virtually.

So you’re right. There are accommodations we can make. And there are events that we can build that are a 100% virtual, that work, but there are some that just won’t. And I think it’s important to know the difference between the two. 

Crys: I have a tip for my fellow introverts, as they’re about to attend, whether it is a large group or an intensive weekend, like this will be a fairly small group that meets in Salem, but it will be a very intensive weekend. We’ll be spending a lot of time together. And I get exhausted when I spend a weekend together with four of my best friends in a cabin. 

One of my things that I do before an event is I take time both before and after to not deal with others. I tell people beforehand, “Hey, I am preparing for simply attending an event. And so I’m not hanging out with people because I’m storing up my social energy so that I can be full on the weekend that I’m at this event.” 

J: Yeah. And that’s really, that level of self-awareness is really important.

On every personality test, I score way in on introversion. I’m an INTJ, and so I totally understand writers who are predominantly introvert. So I think that’s safe to say, most writers are introverted. 

Sometimes it’s important to not use that as a crutch or an excuse to not engage or to not be part of it, so I think your suggestion to build in buffer time is great. 

My family and I, my family is coming with me on this event, and we’re going to take a few days after to just go on the beach or, to explore Boston. We’re not doing that with the group. And I think when you’re at the event, there are things you can do too.

I’m sure it will happen in Salem. What’ll happen is people will be at the bar and someone will look around and go where’s J? And people will be like, I don’t know. He must have left. 

What I do at events is I hit a saturation point and I’m totally exhausted. And I don’t even have the energy to like, go around and tell everyone goodbye.

I just totally ghost. 

Crys: I love the ghosting method. 

J: Yeah. People know that. Zach knows that. Like Zach would be the first one to go, oh yeah, he’s done. 

But I’m really clear about it. I’m like, it’s not personal. It’s not that I don’t like you, but the people who get recharged at the end of the day, by being at the bar, they’re happy to stay at the bar and they certainly can. That’s not me. 

I’ll hang out for a little bit, but then I will hit a point where I’m just like, I am done. And I just walk out. And I think that’s okay too. 

You have to know what your limitations are and if an in-person event for an introverted author is a challenge, then you can just make accommodations for yourself during the event.

Crys: A couple other tips I have for introverts are find one person and say, “I’m going to have a conversation with that person.” 

Someone that you’re like, hey, I  at least know something to talk to them about. Whether they mentioned oh, I like zombie books. I’m like, oh, I like zombie books, too.

And you’re like, hey, I’m going to go ask them what their favorite zombie books. So at least once a day, pick one person that you’re going to go strike up a conversation with.  

The second one is, if at all possible. Find the resident extrovert and make friends with them because they’ll do most of the work at like smoothing over the intro awkwardness of having a conversation and then they will introduce you to everybody else. 

J: It’s so funny. You said that because I was going to be like, I got one more recommendation, which is if you have a highly extroverted friend, bring them with you to the event. Which is kinda, it’s kinda like you were saying. The running joke between Zach and I is whenever we’re in the city and we have to get an Uber, the Uber pulls up and I just go right to the backseat. Zach is going to get in the front seat. 

He’s going to be like, Hey buddy, what are you doing? Where are you from? How has it? And I just, I can sit in the back and I have no pressure. So it’s great having that extroverted friend to be the buffer for you. 

Crys: I keeping intending to create Designated Extrovert stickers to take with me to cons and hand out to the people that I know are extroverts, just so that they can put themselves out there very easily. 

They’re generally loud, so it’s generally obvious, but also just like having that sticker of, Hey, you can talk to me. I won’t bite. That. I think I particularly think about this with Angela in our group. She’s so friendly. 

So within the event, with the things that are happening, do you have any tips for making the most obsessions, remembering information, anything like that? 

J: Probably nothing that’s going to apply to everyone. I just know from being a teacher that people experience and learn in very different ways. So I’m reluctant to say do this because it might not work for you.

And I’ll give you an example of two extremes. For some people the best way to learn is to capture everything. So if you go to an event and you’re in a breakout room and you see someone’s scribbling on a notebook, like that’s the kind of learner they are. They want to capture all the notes, get everything down, so you don’t forget it.

And then at the other end of that learning spectrum, you have the person who just wants to be immersed in it, they don’t want to take notes on or write anything down because they’re afraid they’re not going to be in the moment and they’re going to miss something because they’re too busy trying to write it down.

On one hand I could say never take notes. Just go in and be engaged. Or I could say, always take notes that way. You’re not going to miss anything. But that doesn’t, that’s not gonna apply to everyone. So I think again, just knowing the type of person, you are the type of learner that you are and then do what’s comfortable for you.

Crys: And then my last question: what do you do after the event’s over to continue those conversations or those relationships or the learning? 

J: It’s probably hard for most of us to do, but I would say being proactive and follow up is probably the best thing you can do. Because we all know that the events that we go to are great, but it’s the people there that make it what it is.

Even if you go to an event and the experience is great, you’re really going to be bonded to the people. We have Slack groups from authors on a train events that people still post it years later. 

So I would say, the best thing you could do is go home and maybe the next day just send two emails. Send an email to the two people you think you spent the most time with and just thank them for hanging out or sitting next to you or get you a coffee or whatever. Just do that. 

I think if you do that, it starts to solidify those intense relationships that you might begin in a weekend event that can carry on for years. 

Crys: I sometimes go one step further with that exact thing. 

As I talk to people and interesting things come up that I think I want to follow up with them later, I literally put it in my calendar to message so-and-so about whatever the thing was as a reminder. 

The first one. I’ll put out probably a week after the conference, because that’s about when I can actually have enough social energy to bump back up and have any kind of decent conversation with them.

But then I spread them out. So if there are multiple people that I want to, I’ll put them on a three to five days apart on my calendar and be like, message this person, message that person. 

J: Yeah. That’s a great idea. And especially if you’re organizing around the calendar or using some type of system, just to put it right from your phone as you walk away from the person and you’re you pick up your phone and put it in there, then you won’t forget. And that’s a great idea. 

Crys: We know that the extroverts will already have everybody in their phone and message them immediately. Those of us who are not like that… 

J: They’ll just have to scroll their camera roll and then they’ll know. Yeah. 

Crys: Did you have anything else you wanted to add to this conversation that we missed?

J: No. I think we’ve pretty much covered everything. I would just say if you haven’t done an in-person author event yet, go to one. It doesn’t matter if it’s one day or if it’s your local library or if it’s a trip, but they’re so much fun and they will make you a better writer and they’ll make you a better person and you’ll be with your people, you’ll be with your tribe.

So I would just say, if you haven’t done one yet pick one and do it. 

Crys: My question for folks is:

So everybody is finally getting to the point where we can consider going to events and the world is getting back to some semblance of normal. What events are you really looking forward to? 

J: Excellent.

Crys: Thanks for joining us this week! Drop your answer below, and if you would like to be part of the conversations in real time, you can join us at The Author Success Mastermind.