cj Sez: I am excited to welcome C. Hope Clark to Lyrical Pens. Hope authors the well-respected Funds For Writers. (The site has been on Writer's Digest's “101 Best Websites for Writers” list every year since 2000. Yowza!) Today Hope shares her thoughts on why writers should network…and “the magic that happens in a face-to-face.”
You Are Not Alone . . . and Shouldn’t Be
By C. Hope Clark
Writing is a profession of isolationism. If we didn't have internet, we'd be recluses of the highest order. Or would we?
Writing takes considerable alone time, but without the internet we would be out amongst the masses, getting ideas, discussing concepts because, after all, we can’t know it all. Add to that connecting with agents, publishers, editors and the public in general. In years past, writers made a point of meeting other writers, and coming into New York to dine with editors. Agents were life-long friends. Hemingway often socialized with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, Max Eastman, and he was acquainted with the painters Miro and Picasso. He appreciated rubbing elbows with other creators, even if in many circles he was considered their superior. Back in those days they propelled, endorsed, and gossiped about each other, making for great news . . . and sales.
Networking is critical in any profession. While we need the alone time to create, we need feedback on our quality. We need professionals in the other aspects of writing and publishing to guide us. We need to see how those ahead of us got there. Regardless of how independent we think we are in your publishing, which self-publishing has allowed us to be, we still find ourselves needing the knowledge of successful indie authors, graphic designers, formatters, and the people at CreateSpace, IngramSparks, Draft2Digital and other self-publishing resources.
We cannot know it all.
Then there’s the magic that happens in a face-to-face. Meeting people in person comes with its own rewards that are more unobtainable online. Professional organizations, Yahoogroups, critique groups, and conferences make you walk in as a writer and see how you measure up. While that scares introverted types, rarely do we walk away from those experiences without knowledge we would not have achieved otherwise.
Online, we learn what we query, but sometimes we aren’t certain which questions to ask. We search and search, hoping we are hitting the nail on the head, but then nobody is there to tell us whether we did.
In person, we can achieve so much more. For instance:
Sitting in a conference, we hear the best-of-the-best talk about how they achieved their success with anecdotes we might not find in a blog post or magazine interview.
Sitting in a conference class, we hear how-tos and examples, but then hands shoot up. We hear questions we hadn’t thought to ask, which makes us think of additional questions, and we find our own hand rising.
Seated in a room, we grow weary of the silence so we introduce ourselves to the people on either side of us, or across the table. The conversation leads to promotion tactics and publishing preferences, and soon you’re meeting them after class or following them to the lobby, excitedly sharing comparison.
We share business cards and email addresses in person, the eye contact visceral because they have connections . . . or you have connections they want, and in exchange they are willing to make introductions for you, barter editing each other’s book, or promote each other.
We sit next to a writer who has won awards, and we learn how that works. We enter a presentation of panel of authors who’ve made six figure incomes from their talent, and we are able to ask detailed questions as to how those journeys took place.
We sit in a class, hearing the lecture, but that’s not what’s important. The charisma, the passion, the excited enthusiasm of the speaker makes you listen keener and raises your own excitement. This person has done something with their writing, and they are who you’d like to be. You want that feeling.
However, many authors avoid conferences because of the cost. There are ways to diminish that expense.
Share a motel room with someone.
Watch for conferences closer to home, or close to relatives you need to visit.
Volunteer to work the conference in exchange for the fee.
Apply for scholarships. Some conferences have them but do not advertise them. Ask.
Apply to your state arts commission seeking financial assistance.
Ask your writing group to sponsor you, with you bringing back handouts and lesson plans that you in turn will teach them.
Or you could apply to writing retreats, many of which have scholarships and financial aid. They may not have speakers, but they often have other writers on site whom you can still share experiences and knowledge with.
Or you can join professional organizations like Romance Writers of America or Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators and learn from those local chapters or attend their one-day conferences held around the country. That cost is minimal.
Regardless how you network, find ways to step outside yourself and learn from others. If I had not attended a Sisters in Crime chapter one Saturday, I would not have heard about libraries needing writers to teach. From there I landed a contracted gig enabling me to get paid for speaking in three dozen appearances across my state. From there, I was chosen for the SC Humanities Speakers Roster, opening up more doors.
None of this was on my to-do list for the year, but I was willing to make the adjustment. The grant was not on the internet. The roster was on the web, but I didn’t know about it until getting involved with this grant.
Conference and retreat references:
C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com, a resource of grants, crowdfunding, agents, publishers, and markets with calls for submissions. Her newsletter reaches 35,000 writers. She is also author of six mysteries in two award-winning series, with the latest being Echoes of Edisto released August 2016. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com
cj Sez: Thanks, Hope. This is great. Guess I need to do more thinking outside my little box and getting outside of my comfort zone. And best wishes for great sales and marvelous reviews on your new release, Echoes of Edisto.
Readers: Got a thought to share or a question? The comment section is open and waiting for you.
You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.
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