Networking. I must do this as a new writer (groan). Learn the ways of the force. Jump into the world of idea and information exchanges. Business card exchanges. Sounds like work.
I was advised to get off my computer, live life for a while. What’s a word nerd to do? Crush on my favorite authors, maybe? Hint: It pays to get out of Alaska now and then.
I attended a book festival in Tucson and a humor writing workshop in Dayton. Sounds nerdy, right? Okay–I’m going to name drop. Yes, I’m bragging, but I had some lucky circumstances.
When the hotel screwed up our rooms at the Tucson Book Festival, they apologized, saying, “We’re sorry, we had to put you on the concierge floor, because no other rooms are available, and you won’t be charged for the upgrade.”
You mean I have to breakfast with celebrity authors who’d played in the Rock-Bottom Remainders concert the night before, where I acted like a teen, jumping up and down to Wild Thing and Gloria—that a bunch of writers played and sang? Where Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club) wore black leather, cracked a whip and sang Leader of the Pack, while Dave Barry rocked his guitar solo?
So, I munched toast at a table next to Amy Tan, Mary Karr, Dave Barry and brother Sam, Scott Turow, Mitch Albom, Ridley Pearson, Alan Zweibel, and Greg Iles.
(More info about the Rock Bottom Remainders band at http://tucson.com/entertainment/rock-bottom-remainders-reunites-at-festival-s-th-year/article_c537278b-0bed-58c2-aedf-f0350700ece3.html
As a new writer, I was star-struck and all I could squeak out was, “Good show last night you guys.” They smiled and nodded as my hard-boiled eggs rolled around on my plate, then laughed as one launched to the floor.
Aware that this was a once-in-a-lifetime situation, I sat and listened (it wasn’t eavesdropping, honest, I just happened to hear their conversation).
What do famous authors talk about? Like theatre people, they spewed about mistakes they made onstage the night before. I related to that, I once went onstage and blanked out, babbling like an idiot until my choo-choo jumped back on track.
I didn’t want to leave. But didn’t want them thinking me a stalker or a serial killer, I was the only other person left in the breakfast room. I forced myself to bow out gracefully, without groupy-ing out.
I learned something: Talk less, listen more. I forced myself to do this in subsequent situations. Being a naturally chatty extrovert, it’s a challenge to shut up and listen. The benefits are astounding:
- At the Tucson book festival, I asked a question of an astronomer that led to his work at NASA and the Kitt and Lowell star-gazing observatories in Arizona. I shut up and listened. He worked with an astronomer who I later happened to meet at the humor writers workshop in Ohio. Chill down the spine: small world.
- St. Patty’s day at a senior center, Payson, AZ. Met a writer who’d toured us through the Zane Grey museum. His wife sauntered over, she’d worked at several NY publishing houses, worked as a foreign news correspondent (she said she trained Christiane Amanpour), was a past editor of Newsweek, and past president of the Arizona Press Club. Told her I was writing a wildland fire adventure romance, and she volunteered to be a beta-reader. No pressure there, right?
- A close friend invited me to their fish-fry in Phoenix, where I met a retired helicopter pilot who said she’d be happy to read the helicopter scenes in my firefighting book. (She laughed when I told her I’d referred to the instrument panel as a dashboard).
- At a California novel writing conference last year, one of the keynote speakers, Heather Graham (the writer, not the actress) sat at a table in her Maleficent Halloween costume, after a book-signing. I approached her and said, “If I buy you a glass of wine, will you impart your wisdom of the best way for a new writer to publish a novel?” She drank the wine, imparted her wisdom, and we found we had something in common: Murder-mystery dinner theatre. Our discussion led to me outlining a story idea on the flight home and the next day I began Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and wrote the firefighting novel.
- In Alaska: I love my writing groups with my homies, Alaska Writers’ Guild and Romance Writers of America. I meet writers from all over Alaska at our monthly programs, I learn from them and exchange information and ideas. They are my lifeline. The friendships are priceless, and we nerd out with each other. I’m knocked back by the talented writers in Alaska.
- Am now a shameless networker: Even my hairstylist is a resource for my novel, turns out she’s a burlesque dancer, and I happen to have one in my book. She volunteered to be a beta-reader 😊 A friend of a friend introduced me to a female firefighter who worked on the CA fires last year and she also worked on the Yarnell fire where 19 firefighters perished in AZ. She offered to beta read the firefighting novel.
- Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Workshop. It was an unbelievable experience, got to meet and learn from peeps like Lauretta Hannon, Monica Piper, Rita Davenport, Allia Zobel Nolan, Wendy Liebman, Kathy Kinney, T. Faye Griffen, Patricia Wynn Brown…on and on. A generous group of people who welcome new writers into the fray. The emphasis was building relationships, not just exchanging business cards.Time now to dig in again and FTFN: Finish the flippin’ novel. Take everything I’ve learned from all the exposure I’ve had to write true and funny, without fear.That’s GOLD to a writer, Jerry, GOLD! (Think Banya from Seinfeld).
© Lois Paige Simenson and The Alaska Philosophaster, 2018, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Alaska Philosophaster with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.