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Posts Tagged ‘networking’

I’ve attended and participated in many writers conferences over the years. When I return home after spending a day or more surrounded by other people who love writing and books as much as I do, I usually feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the stack of writing projects on my desk (and floor and bookcase top…)

Sometimes, I’ve managed to take helpful notes. If so, I try to type those up while my memory of the workshop or presentation is still fresh. The longer I wait to type those notes, the fuzzier my memory of the extra details I didn’t jot down will become.

Sometimes, I’ve made a few interesting contacts. And I’ll have a stack of business cards ready to add to my contact file. Lesson learned over the years – always jot a note to yourself on the back of each business card so you’ll remember why this person is important to you. Again, as soon as you get home, expand those notes so in a few months the networking contact will still have meaning.

Sometimes, attending a conference will lead to another presentation opportunity. Follow up on the contact as soon as you’re able to do so. You might remember, but the other person’s memory of the offered (or mentioned) opportunity will soon fade. Networking only works when you follow up!

When presenting, sometimes the presentation doesn’t go as you plan. As soon as you get home, review why it wasn’t as good as it could have been. Come up with ideas to improve the presentation for the next time you’re asked to speak on that subject.

A note here – my worst presentation wasn’t due to anything I did in particular! My presentation time slot was the last of the day, the room was stiffling, there was a loud fan directly beside me, a librarian kept moving around behind me, there were too many people crammed in the room… I tried to adjust for the circumstances, and veering from my planned presentation made me anxious and eager to “just get it over with.” If this conference asks me again to do a presentation, I’ll request an earlier time slot and a more spacious room. I’ll also “stick to the plan,” so I feel more relaxed.

An interesting take on making the most of a writing conference can be found in this Build Book Buzz article.

Hope to see you at a writing conference!

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Networking, that ambiguous term that means a friendly chat that may or may not result in a career opportunity, works. I’ll give you a few examples to prove my point.

About 10 years ago, I was selling my books at the now non-existent Bel Air (MD) Book Festival on a sweltering day that ended in a cloud-burst. A woman looked at my illustration & book display, asked for contact information, and said she was thinking about starting a magazine. I smiled, chatted with her briefly, handed her my number, and never gave the conversation a 2nd thought. Several years later, I got a call from that woman, Fran Johnson, who was now editor/publisher of Harford’s Heart Magazine, and she offered me the chance to write the magazine’s book review column. And how I even came to be at that book festival is another tale of a friend of a friend suggesting the festival organizer contact me.

 Nearly 30 years ago (yikes, I’m dating myself here), I was standing next to a woman in an aerobics dance class and she was complaining about the illustrator she was using for a cookbook she’d written. I said I could do the job. She asked to see samples. And that was the start of not only a multiple-book working relationship with Bobbie Hinman & Prima Publishing, but the opening of a door that led me to The Vegetarian Resource Group. And  in addition to doing design & illustration work for VRG books and pamphlets, I’ve been illustrating The Vegetarian Journal for 25 years now. Perhaps most importantly, my children’s book, Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales, was published by the VRG.

 In 2009, as President of the Maryland State National League of American Pen Women, I was putting together an Arts Day. I needed women editors for a literary panel. Fran (see above) was busy, but I called a few women I knew who edited literary magazines and a friend who was working for an e-publisher, and had a wonderful group of women for the panel. (All of whom I met through networking). But I still needed a woman editor from a commercial publication to round-out the panel. I looked at the magazines on my shelf, and with little hope of a “Yes,” called Kim Cross of Faerie Magazine. To my delight, Kim agreed to come to the Arts Day and participate on the Women Editors panel. We amicably chatted that day, and have since developed a friendly relationship.  And because of that networking opportunity, I’ve contributed both fiction and nonfiction to Faerie Magazine.

 Which brings me to the newest bonus of networking. For years, I’ve help lead Balticon’s Poetry Workshop (Balticon is the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s Annual Convention). There, I met author & editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Danielle was editing an anthology of short stories about dragons for Dark Quest Books, and agreed to let me submit a story. The story was selected, Dragon’s Lure was published, and then the book was reviewed by Professor C. of BSCReview — now, BoomTron. Professor C. loved my story, so when my new book, The Greener Forest, was published, I asked him if he’d be interested in reviewing it. He said, “Yes.” And the resulting review and interview can be found on the wonderful BoomTron site: http://www.boomtron.com/2011/04/the-greener-forest-by-vonnie-winslow-crist-review/  and http://www.boomtron.com/2011/04/vonnie-winslow-crist-interview/

Would any of these things have happened without networking? Maybe. But I think writers, illustrators, and anyone looking to expand their professional opportunities need to keep their eyes and ears open to networking possibilities. You never know who might be next to you in line at the grocery store or where that conversation at a meeting might lead.

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