Face to Face Encounters: The Very Best Kind

Author Kathy Pooler invites her readers to gather “around her kitchen table” for weekly discussions on her blog post. Readers of Laurie Buchanan’s blog know she usually posts on “Tuesdays with Laurie.” Most bloggers publish posts on specific days of the week which their subscribers have come to anticipate. It is a call for intimacy among kindred spirits in the often impersonal environment of cyberspace.

Yes, there are helpful forums available online that attempt to add sight and sound to the interaction. For example, author/writing coach Sonia Marsh and writing organizations like NAMW (National Association of Memoir Writers) frequently schedule Google Hangouts and tele-seminars that combine live voice and Skype-inspired imagery, adding another layer of intimacy to enhance the exchange of ideas.

Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterist all allow postings of photos with text. Facebook often seems like a picnic with “likes” for yes’s, and sometimes offers back and forth conversation like a game of ping-pong. And I think of Twitter as a kind of hors d’oeuvre party with guests flitting like bees from one cluster of flowers to another, sipping nectar here and there.

Flickr Image
Flickr Image

Yet it’s true. Without the internet, I would never have even met writers whose friendships have been cultivated from countries all over this planet– Australia, Canada, Sweden, South Africa, or the Philippines. And unfortunately the chances of meeting these fine folks for coffee or tea any time soon seems pretty remote. When possible though, face to face encounters add a three-dimensional quality that is hard to duplicate online.

This past October, I was invited to share breakfast with Shirley Showalter, famous for her memoir BLUSH, in her home overlooking the Shenandoah Valley near Harrisonburg, VA during Homecoming at EMU.


This past Saturday in June I met blogger Traci Carver, teacher and writer extraordinaire, as she breezed through Jacksonville on her way further south, meeting for lunch at Cozy Tea in the Riverside area of Jacksonville. Though a generation apart, we found common ground discussing teaching English, Downton Abbey, European travels, our families, other shared interests. Her award-winning blog claims she is from the cotton pickin’ South, yet she has an international world view having lived in Southeast Asia for several years. A story-teller extraordinaire, she spin tales from the cotton of everyday life into pure gold.


In each case, the encounter was only an hour or two in length, but a level of intimacy develops in face to face encounters that online encounters are hard-pressed to duplicate. Obviously, non-verbal cues and nuances of personality and facial expression are often masked by the limitations of tiny pixels on posts.

Despite claims by science fiction writers, the phenomenon of transmogrification seems a long way off, probably a good thing! Thus, many writers find writing conferences in glamorous cities a great way to meet, greet, and even bond over coffee or lunch.

In the meantime, we can hope for serendipitous encounters along the way with our fans and fellow writers. I know I do!

*  *  *

Have you had a face-to-face encounter with someone you have known only through the internet?

Someone whom you’ve known for a long time, but haven’t seen again until recently? Any other special encounter?



46 thoughts on “Face to Face Encounters: The Very Best Kind

  1. I was thinking about this same subject and plan to write about it soon, Marian. Great minds! 😉
    I met one of my good friends through email exchanges. She had responded to a call for articles for one of my edited collections (I accepted her excellent article). We started exchanging long emails and sharing our personal lives–and finally got to meet. We’ve continued to exchange emails, phone calls, and an occasional meeting–she and her husband are coming to our daughter’s wedding this summer!


    1. There you go! And literally too. I believe a meeting of the minds happens long before the face to face encounters as your great example illustrates.

      I look forward to your “take” on the topic.


  2. How lovely Marian! I have made a few good friends via blog posts and it would be my dream to meet a few of them! I love your description of Twitter ‘…as a kind of hors d’oeuvre party with guests flitting like bees from one cluster of flowers to another, sipping nectar here and there’.
    Thank you for this and the lovely photographs!


    1. Imagine how wonderful it would be bridging the gap between South Africa and Florida. It’s possible. Maybe we should put that on our bucket lists. Thanks for the comment, Susan.


  3. Marian, what a lovely post. I happen to have a GREAT track record conneccting with folks I meet on the Internet, starting with my husband. Yup, 1993 we began a conversation, although we’d both been on the same forum back in 1989, so he already had a “reputation.” We married in 1999. I’ve been fortunate too, to meet with a dozen or more folks internationally too. It can be done! More recently, I met up with Kathy Pooler at her home on my way west. And, (I was not surprised that) it never felt like we were meeting for the first time, for, in fact, we were not.
    I’m considering attending the BEA in NYC next spring, after reading Shirley’s post on it. And one big reason is that I just might bump into you. Hmmm? So many good images in the post, Marian. Pixels on posts; ping pong matches on FB; bees flitting from flower to flower on Twitter. Lovely. great way to start the morning.


  4. You love metaphor as much as I do. I think it may be because we like pictures as well as words floating through our mind-scapes. I am happy you have had so many fine encounters. I’d like to hear more about your husband’s and your early encounters. Is that a blog post from the past that I’m not aware of? – or perhaps an idea for a new one. Thanks, Janet!


  5. Thank you for this great subject. I have never used the internet for anything other then to read my emails and and research for information. Thank you Marian for inviting me to your blog. You have opened a whole new world for me. I love the topics the reading and so look forward to meeting people. It is wonderful to meet for tea or coffee for conversation and for prayer.


  6. Marian … There are quite a few folks I’ve met online that I’d love to have a spot of tea (or coffee) with. Yourself included. Too many, it seems, are glued to their electronic gizmos and miss this face-to-face encounter even when it’s right in front of them. Maybe, your inspiring post will motivate them to look up and reach out.

    (BTW, I usually post on Saturday, but a recent vacation threw my timing off.)


    1. I believe a lot of timing will get thrown off this summer. Simply because it’s vacation time and we’ll just have to give each other some latitude.

      Looking forward to seeing you and some new friends from the Blog Tour online sometime soon, Judy. Again thanks for keeping in touch.


  7. Marian — like a butterfly flitting from petal to petal, you’ve really gotten around to meet so many beautiful blossoms in person!

    I enjoyed a face-to-face encounter with a writer I’d only known through the internet. Heather Shumaker is the author of “It’s Ok Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules.” Here’s a link to her website: http://www.heathershumaker.com. We met at the Writers’ Institute at UW-Madison.

    I also enjoyed a face-to-face encounter with Sam Juliano, film critique extraordinaire. He brought his wife and five children to visit us when we lived in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Here’s a link to his wonderful website, “Wonders in the Dark” http://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com.

    You’re right — meeting in person adds a whole new wonderful layer to a relationship.

    I’m in great hopes of meeting Shirley Hershey Showalter in Seattle on July 9 when she’s speaking at “Third Place Books” as part of her blog tour. It’s still tentative, but the chances are looking pretty good!


    1. You too have the gift of friendship with a chain of new friends to prove it. Thanks for the links – I’ll have to check them out.

      I do hope you meet Shirley in Seattle. She is as engaging in person as you sense her online. Thanks for contributing to the conversation today. And for the Tweet!


  8. NEXT time you get to Harrisonburg, I’d love to host you at MennoMedia/Herald Press. I may get to north Fla. eventually since my brother lives down there but now with grandbabies, my best destinations are in their directions. If you are acquainted with Jennifer over at mamas minitua blog, http://mamasminutia.blogspot.com/ she actually hosted a blogger party at her place a couple years go. Sounded like a great idea, even if also great work. I think she had someone from the West Coast come east.


    1. Thank you for the invitation. I would love to take you up on it when I get to Harrisonburg, perhaps for a class reunion.

      Thank you too for the link to Jennifer’s blog. The circle widens and I’m thrilled to be part of it.


  9. Marian, it certainly was delightful, though all-too-short, to share breakfast with you in Harrisonburg. Some day I’ll come to Tallahassee. Probably during a month that has an “r” in it. 🙂

    I absolutely agree that face-to-face is the best way to meet, learn from, and encourage other writers. Thank you for including a link to my blog and for introducing me to the many new friends you’ve made along the way. You have a gift for community.


    1. Smart lady to avoid May – September, all hot-hot months in Florida. October through April it’s a breeze, and I can promise you no blizzards!

      I have a friend in Tallahassee and would love to have a Meet-Up with you when you come south. Indeed, the circle widens, and I’m so glad to be part of it.


  10. It was such a treat to meet you in person, Marian, and I hope our paths will cross again soon. I still giggle when I remember my boyfriend saying,”What if she turns out to be a 300 pound trucker who’s stalking you?” So glad you turned out to be delightful Marian 🙂


    1. It’s 7:11 p.m. and just a few hours ago we landed in PA after a long day of travel. I needed that laugh!

      God help me if I ever transform into a 300-pound trucker. I’d say you have a keeper in that boyfriend of yours. Whenever you breeze through Jacksonville, a Cozy Tea meet-up sounds fine with me.


  11. Marian, I’m finally getting around to responding to your lovely post on a topic near and dear to my heart–meeting online friends in person and feeling like you’ve known each other all along. I’ve had the distinct pleasure many times, most recently with Janet as she mentioned and today with Susan Weidener.i certainly hope we’ll get to meet some day. You continue to gather a wonderful community through your blog and I’m enjoying the conversation ” around your kitchen table.” Thank you for your generous link!


  12. I had a face-to-face encounter with a Mennonite through the words of a friend (before the Internet). Our initial meeting went so well I eventually married her… and she even became a writer!


    1. Between England and Sweden I’m guessing you have met quite a few. If not, I hope some great connections for you will happen in the future. Thanks for stopping by today, Lady Fi.


  13. I too enjoy face to face meetings with those whose blogs I follow. I was lucky to met Alison from England (See My Travels blog) who was visiting the west coast of Canada. We met at a coffee shop and chatted for a couple of hours. I would dearly love to meet all my blogging friends but I know that can’t happen.


    1. I’ll have to check out your travel blogs, but you sounds like you met Alison on your trip to England and she returned the favor. I like when that happens. To see more than one at a time, my guess is that going to a writing conference would be the best way for that to happen. Cliff and I love Canada and have enjoyed travel to Alberta and British Columbia. Thanks for dropping by and commenting today, Darlene.


      1. Alison’s blog is called See My Travels. (I can see the confusion now that I reread my comment). I had not met her before she came to Canada for 6 months, but had been following her blog. When I heard she was coming to Vancouver, we arranged to meet. We found we had a lot in common, especially our love for travel.


  14. After almost a year of daily online ‘chats’ with members if my weight loss group I met three of them for the first time in London when we all took part in our first London Moonwalk. Of course I’d seen their photos but it does add another layer when you meet someone face to face.


    1. I have to ask . . . were there any huge differences between the online photos and seeing your friends in person? After all, it is a weight loss group 🙂 I am surprised and pleased that so many commenters have met their blogger friends in person. Maybe it will happen to us too!


      1. It was mostly about height. One was much shorter than expected and one much taller. The third is an American from Boston living in the UK so her accent was interesting. If you ever find yourself in Southern England let me know 🙂


        1. Cliff and I love the British Isles. We actually drove all over England, Scotland and Ireland without crashing into stone walls in the countryside or other cars in the roundabouts. Where in southern England do you live?


  15. I hope to meet social media contact friends when I move around a bit more to promote my book this fall. I already have a few meetings arranged at conferences and one invitation for a longer visit. My hearing loss makes social media a wonderful way to make contact because I’m not at a disadvantage in writing, but there’s nothing like face-to-face, catching the raised eyebrow or the gentle hand gesture. And, of course, I watch everything because I read lips as well as listening. Thanks for sharing yourself and your friends.


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