For the record, I took this picture with my new friend Alison at the Glorieta conference. I really enjoyed meeting her--she is just as nice and interesting as she seemed from our internet contact! This picture doesn't really look exactly like her because it's taken at a funny angle, so Alison, if the one from your camera came out better, send it to me and I'll post it instead! (Sorry I was talking about you in the third person, Alison, but I couldn't figure out another way to phrase it.)
Another new friend, one of the professional writers, asked me to sing the real historical song that appears prominently in my novel. That was a real moment of kinship: how many people would actually care what this forgotten nineteenth-century song sounded like? Even other writers usually don't care about that stuff! During that same conversation, I ended up describing to her the most tragic moment in my novel, which is always a dangerous topic for me because talking about it tends to make me choke up and get tears in my eyes. The fact that my novel is based on real people makes their suffering equally real to me.
It was an indescribable feeling, then, to see that my new friend was equally moved by the story, in a way that would only be possible for another writer who cares about the same things I care about.
These are the kinds of conversations that make it worth going to writers' conferences.