When I first started getting my writing “out there,” as we say, this was my view of networking: a morass of ugly blue tentacles, reaching out and UP, always UP, taking my soul (which might look decent in a clump but gets a little stringy all spliced out) and channeling it away.
I’m here to tell you I’ve had a change of heart.
It dawned on me over a few years, starting at an AWP conference. (If you want to attend AWP this year, it’s in Minneapolis, and you can read about it here.) A few of us had gathered for drinks after a wonderful day of panels, speakers and book-fair meanderings. In the group were peers: friends and fellow-mentees (from a Loft Mentorship Program, which, btw, is open now for submissions) Rebecca Kanner, Chrissy Kolaya and Chrissy’s friend, Adam McOmber. At the time, none of us had published a novel.
Nothing has changed in my relationships with these friends, these writing peers, since then but this: each one (save me, but I’m getting closer!) has since sold a book–and Rebecca has sold two. We got together and stayed in touch because we were friends. We’re still peers and friends. Now, between us, we actually have some significant professional achievements.
Here’s my best bet for networking: Find writers you like, and whose work you like. Support them in their writing process, buy and read their books, go to their readings, put their blogs on your bloglovin’ feed, spread the word about them and their work to the people in your writing and other circles. Help them when you can: with referrals, with a friendly ear, with a critical eye.
Networking, the easy way. And the only way, I think, that works.
Here’s another example.
In summer 2011, I attended the Tin House Writer’s Workshop in Portland, OR. My workshop leader was the amazing Ben Percy, with whom–as a result of months of preparation and a week of hard work–I forged a long-standing professional relationship. Every writing day, I use what I learned from Ben Percy at the Tin House Writing Workshop. I try to replicate his work habits, his skill with plot and building tension, each time I sit down to write.
I also built relationships with the other ten or so people in our workshop. It was a lively, mixed group and we taught each other, as well. When the week was over, some of us remained in touch. Over the years, I continued to correspond with only one, Karen Stefano. We shared, via email, our publishing successes (which for Karen include a Pushcart Prize nomination and a soon-to-be-published story collection,”The Secret Games of Words.” Read more about Karen and her work here.) We got together for lunch last spring, at AWP in Seattle.
And then yesterday, Karen emailed me with a wonderful opportunity. She has recently assumed the role of Fiction Editor of an online literary magazine, Connotation Press. Would I, she asked, consider submitting a story? A first, ladies and gentlemen: a solicitation to submit to a literary magazine! Of course I said yes, and I may even be lucky enough to be a featured writer, including an online interview with Karen.
And guess what? I just plugged Karen Stefano and Connotation Press. Send them your best work, too! And tell them Donna Trump sent you.
Networking. Brought to you by…friends.