Monday, March 21, 2016

Cast the Spell and Shatter Shyness! Your Sorcery Lesson for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2016

By: Aaron Michael Ritchey

So I’m going to talk about shyness. If you met me, you might think I’m the last guy who knows about the awkward, shrinking feeling some people get when they are thrust in social situations with people they don’t *gulp* know.

But I grew up painfully shy.

No, it went deeper than that. I was trapped by the evil sorcerer king known as shyness. I was imprisoned.


I was taught a magic spell to banish all shyness.

And nowhere is this spell more powerful than at writer’s conferences. I think it’s because of all the epic fantasy writers.

Get ready, because I will teach this potent, forbidden magic.

It has the three things a spell needs, a verbal component, a physical component, and a gesture.

Yeah, I played waaayyyy too much Dungeons and Dragons. It didn’t help me overcome my shyness. Actually, the sorcerer-king grew ever more powerful every time I rolled the dice or role-played scenarios with my DM while we shopped for Mac n Cheese in a grocery store. Lucky’s, the low price leader.

But do you know what? Becoming a writer did help me slay shyness.

Because of this spell.

THE VERBAL COMPONENT: You say, slowly these words: “What kind of books do you write?”

That’s it. At writer conferences, such as the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, you have an automatic topic of conversation and a question to ask. If there is an awkward pause, you ask, “What do you write?” and bam, the conversation begins. However, there are two other components.

THE PHYSICAL COMPONENT: You close your mouth firmly. You open your ears and listen. You don’t think about the next thing you are going to say, you don’t dig in your pocket for bat guano (which is a component for a fireball spell) or sand (for a sleep spell). The physical component for this spell is that you listen to what the person says and you really hear them.

Most people have trouble listening, so be the listener. Most likely, whoever you are talking with is shy and awkward as well. So to have someone ask them a question and listen to the answer will make them feel good.

And now, for the final part of the spell.

THE GESTURE: Don’t cross your arms, face the person, look at them, and don’t glance around. Make sure they know you have their attention as you listen. You don’t have to make creepy, constant eye-contact. I don’t. Man, sometimes eye contact freaks me out. But I try and make sure they know I am listening.

Then, since you are a writer, and writers are generally curious sorts of creatures, as they talk, you will come up with other questions about their book, and you will ask them, and they will talk, and if they have some social skills, they will ask about your book.

And you will talk about your book, since talking about your book is a skill that is very useful. The Pikes Peak Writers Conference is such a nice place to practice talking about your book, and the more you do it, the easier it will become.

As you practice this spell, your shyness will die as you learn to talk to people, and, dude, authors are interesting people. Some aren’t. Some will bore you to death as they talk about each plot point of their book and you will have to chew your arm off to get away from them. But most of the time, I’m talking like 99% of the time plus, you will meet fascinating people who have done a variety of fascinating things and those fascinating things go right into their book. Which generates questions and conversation.

And yeah, sometimes the conversation slowly withers and dies in front of your eyes. For whatever reason. Maybe someone came up and interrupted, and suddenly you have to re-cast the spell and build the conversation again from the ground up.

If this happens, you have two options: Either cast the spell again, maybe something like, “Oh, so you said your book has the Inuit in them. Tell me more about your travels in Alaska.”

Or, you politely excuse yourself. Even if it’s kind of lame, like, “Sorry, I’d like to talk more, but I have to go stand over there for a while and look at that very interesting wall.”

Then go find someone else you gel with.

Practice, practice, practice.

Full disclosure, I learned all of this from both an ancient necromancer and a comely young maidenly sort of sorceress. The necromancer was my dad, a Denver policeman for thirty-five years. He said most of the job was talking to people, and he learned how to talk with anyone.

The comely young sorceress? Well, dang skippy, I married her.

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer, Long Live the Suicide King, and Elizabeth’s Midnight. His fourth novel, Dandelion Iron, the first book in The Juniper Wars series, will gallop into town on April 21, 2016, published by Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. In 2015, his second novel won the “Building the Dream” award for best YA novel, and he spent the summer as the Artist in Residence for the Anythink Library. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters.

For more about him, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets - @aaronmritchey. 


  1. Great suggestions, Aaron. It is scary to talk to people you don't know, but amazingly, most of the time you survive.

  2. I love your advice to listen. Conferences are exhausting enough, especially for an introvert. I love to start a conversation and do just that ... listen. I'm a writer. I learn so much by that simple act. Thank you, Aaron!


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