the business of writing

Being An Introvert In An Extroverted Profession

I attended yet another writer’s convention about a week ago, and I am still exhausted. Conventions are hard work! I talked up other writers, discussed my books, spoke on a panel, shared little plastic glasses of sparkling wine I had brought with me, and ate saugies in the quad at night. This con was held at a university. Saugies are delicious hot dogs found in Rhode Island. They are not your average hot dog and they are a fixture at this particular convention.

I did all this while being an introvert.

Writing is an odd profession for an introvert. On the one hand, it’s a very isolating vocation. A writer spends hours, days, months alone in front of a computer (or typewriter, or notebook) clacking away while creating new worlds. You live inside your head. It’s a very comfortable space to be in if being around people normally gives you the hives.

On the other hand, writers these days must self-promote if they want to make a real go of things. Most writers I’ve spoken to are introverts, yet they are required to read excerpts in public in front of people. Crowds! Panic may easily set in. Then they are expected to sell books at tables at conventions, all the while talking up the people who stop by in the hope that they will buy your books. Talking up strangers! Panic may easily set in. They socialize at parties even if they suffer from crippling social anxiety. Your mouth turns to dust while you stand there trying to figure out what would make a good start to a conversation, hoping you don’t sound like a blithering idiot; especially when you’re either talking to someone you haven’t seen in months or someone you know only through Facebook.

It’s not easy.

I like having an ice breaker, and lugging around a bottle of bubbly asking people if they’d like some is a great way to open a conversation. Last year, my husband and I brought homemade limoncello and we used it to talk people up. When folks heard “homemade limoncello” their eyes went wide and they said, “Oooh, I’d love some!”. Then I asked them how their latest book was coming along. That’s an easy question since writers like to talk about their work. Most people like to talk about themselves. I’m a good listener, too, which helps me when I suddenly clam up and I have nothing to say especially about myself.

The on and off nature of socializing when you’re a writer can be very off-putting and exhausting. Being an introvert, I needed time to decompress. I did that by returning to my room and taking a nap or surfing the web. I had a glass of wine. Relaxed a bit. Once I felt replenished, I returned to the con to socialize some more. It wasn’t that hard once I got my lips working to form a few coherent words.

Little voices ran through my head, saying things like, “I don’t feel like talking to anyone. I want to hole up in my room and never come out.” Those voices were wrong. I did feel like chatting up people. If I stayed in my room for a long period of time I’d get bored. My husband was with me and that helped. He’s more gregarious than me. We approached people we knew together and when they smiled and their faces lit up that was enough to bring me out of my shell. Sometimes they were in a crowd of people I didn’t know so introductions were made. Sparkling wine was passed around. We made new friends.

Although I always feel alarm before attending a convention, book reading, or publishing event, once I get there and chat up a few people, I calm down. I actually have fun! That’s the key above all for me – it is fun to be around people. In small doses. But I have a great time and it’s good to touch base. Then I can return home, inspired by my convention experience, and write refreshed.

Then I wait for anxiety to set in for the next public event. Rinse and repeat. But in the end it always turns out well.


Elizabeth Black writes in a wide variety of genres including erotica, erotic romance, horror, and dark fiction. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her two cats.

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A Forest of Dead Trees

[Note: living trees look more inviting.]

by Jean Roberta

The most recent topic of discussion on another writers’ blog, “Oh Get a Grip,” was “chaos.” Each contributor interpreted this term differently. Some discussed the chaos in the world which can be inspiring to a writer, some described the chaos in a writer’s mind which can lead to unexpected connections which form a plot, and some talked about the apparent randomness of a writer’s luck in getting published (or not).

I’ve been dealing with the physical chaos in the second-story bedroom that my spouse and I call “the library.” It used to be filled with books in bookcases made of particleboard that were buckling under the weight. When I got a new, shelf-lined office in the university where I teach, I moved our whole fiction section there, along with much of the non-fiction. The empty bookshelves at home were so decrepit that I took them apart and recycled them.

Taking three-quarters of the books out of the “library” should have created more space, but it simply cleared more room for more stuff. At this point, I can’t remember how I managed to keep all my stuff in an apartment.

The home library has become an unofficial storage unit for stuff that doesn’t clearly belong anywhere else: paid bills (which might be needed as proof), framed artwork (which we haven’t decided where to place), two sewing machines (one a treasured antique from 1916 which first belonged to my grandmother), thread, ribbons, pins and fabric, a filing cabinet for important legal/financial documents, musical instruments (spouse comes from a musical family), greeting cards, stationery, envelopes, etc. Every few years, I reorganize, yet my organization plans don’t last.

Lately, I started sorting out the stack of papers related to my writing. One of my filing cabinets in my office at school contains numerous containers for correspondence with various publishers. One of my shelves is labelled “Dead Publishers,” and it includes material I can’t bear to throw away.

In the home library, I have two envelopes for two publishers I’ve dealt with at home during my time away from the classroom. One of them is Excessica, the writers’ co-op run by Selena Kitt where I have several pieces for sale, and really should post more. I also keep a running list of calls-for-submissions with deadlines which I keep updating and reprinting. Under that, I keep a list of my fiction pieces (short and long stories) in alphabetical order with word-counts, listed by content (het erotica, lesbian erotica, bisexual and ménage erotica, gay-male erotica, realistic-contemporary, historical, fantasy). I keep two lists of submissions: fiction and non-fiction, with dates and the places where I’ve sent them. When/if one of my submissions gets accepted or posted, I circle it.

Atop all this, I had a large pile of blank sheets of paper on which I had scrawled useful information: email addresses of writers and publishers, buy links for books, event listings, promo information, research notes. In the last week, I’ve managed to turn most of this handwritten material into files in my “Documents” on the home computer.

I probably sound well-organized, but I still feel lost in a paper forest. Any serious writer needs to stay on top of the business of writing while also making time to write and revise material for publication. I’ve noticed that several of my stories have been rejected once and haven’t been sent out again. Clearly, that needs to change, but I need to decide whether to revise them, and if so, by how much.

The last three years’ worth of fiction submissions show me that several editor/publishers gave me vague promises that they wanted to hang onto my stuff for publication sometime in the future. How soon should I send another query, and when should I give up hope and send these pieces somewhere else?

Or should I put everything else aside to write stories that need to be submitted SOON because deadlines are speeding toward me? I don’t have much time left before I have to start teaching three classes and marking assignments.

The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas described writing as a “lonely craft,” and I’ve seen it visually represented by images of empty boats and boats with one person in each, surrounded by vast bodies of water. These visual metaphors are not encouraging.

However, writers’ groups such as Erotic Readers and Writers bring writers together to critique each others’ work, kvetch, inform, and compare notes. I’m curious to know how other writers organize writing-related material so that everything can be found when needed.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt

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