Hey there, party people,
Networking. For the writer, who is often a slightly odd, socially awkward creature, it can be a major source of anxiety. Networking means getting out (in person or online) and meeting people, plain and simple. It’s said that writing is a solitary pursuit, and that’s true of the actual writing part. As far as the career side of things go, it pays to know people in the industry. In my experience, it’s an invaluable part of your professional growth as a writer.
I know it can be difficult, but you’ve got to put aside you urge to hermit, and make nice with folks. (Don’t be disingenuous, though.) At my very first conference, the 2008 Romance Slam Jam held in Chicago, I was a shy, nervous thing. I’d left my 18 month old son, who was my first child, with someone else for the first time. I knew no one except my traveling buddy, and spent the first day tailing my writing idol (Beverly Jenkins) around the hotel’s first floor. But by the time the conference was over, I’d pitched to agents and editors, learned a ton of valuable information, and gained a mentor and several lasting friendships.
Places to Network
If you’re particularly shy and adverse to being in proximity with others, start out online. Use the power of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to reach out to industry folks. See an awesome tweet? Reply to it. Guffaw at the latest clever meme on you news feed? Give it a like. This is the easiest way to network, and I recommend it to those of you who wish to network without getting out of your PJ’s and bunny slippers (although I would refrain from discussing your attire with your contacts).
Check out your local library bulletin or newspaper, and consider dropping in on a writer’s group. Be sure to adhere to their policies, and you should be golden. When you go to a meeting, introduce yourself. Resist the urge to hold up the wall or watch in silence from a dark corner- this will make you look creepy. You should do well, as writers tend to understand each other’s quirks in most cases, so get out there and press the flesh. I myself am an active member of my local Romance Writers of America chapter, and there’s just no substitute for the camaraderie and juicy industry gossip.
If you’re a bit more of a social butterfly, try out a larger gathering. There are a number of conferences available for you to attend, geared toward nearly every type of writing. At these events, you’ll find other writers, as well as literary agents, editors, and industry professionals. Go to workshops, take good notes, and absorb it all. Also, don’t discount the importance of sitting at the bar in the evenings- you’ll often make connections there that are either the start of lasting friendships, or provide some awesome professional benefit. In 2013, I attended the RWA national conference, and in previous years, I’ve attended the Romance Slam Jam, as well as my local RWA chapter’s all day workshops. These events can be a lot of fun, so if you can deal with being in a crowd, take advantage of them whenever you can.
As you’re reading this, I’m off to Richmond for the television premiere events of Iris Bolling’s series, The Heart. How do I know Iris, you ask? I met her at RSJ 2010, and took the risk to go up and speak to her. Now, she’s a dear friend, and I’m so happy to share this exciting event with her.
Networking. Get on it.
Until Next Time,