As writers, sometimes it is hard to remember that networking is important. We get so engrossed in our own little worlds of words that we forget that there are thousands of other writers out there with various levels of experience and success that we can potentially connect with.
I had one of those times this weekend. LitQuake came through the San Francisco Bay Area (where I currently reside) this past week. It’s a literary festival with readings, workshops, Q&A sessions with old and new writers, and resources for all genres. I was so caught up with trying to keep up with school and writing that I had totally forgotten about the annual string of events. Until the weekend. My fiance had heard of the LitCrawl, which is a string of readings at 80+ different venues in San Francisco on the last day of LitQuake, followed by an afterparty to finish it all off. She asked if I was going to go, and when I said, “no, I really have to get through so-and-so many pages by Monday,” she told me that it’s also important that I go out and meet other writers/agents/publishers/potential readers. She’s in marketing, you see, and at times has a totally different way of thinking about success. Which can be a very good thing.
I was hesitant about giving up my day of writing. But I looked up the events and saw that there was an ‘Art of the Novel’ panel at 4pm featuring one of my Creative Writing instructors from Stanford (Andrew Altschul). I saw this as a sort of sign, and closed my laptop and hoped I was making the right choice. I took a train from Oakland into the city for the panel, and afterward attended the readings that I thought would be interesting in relation to my own writing. Suggested by my fiance, I handwrote about 8 ‘business cards,’ simply with my name, my twitter, blog, and my position at Scribophile.
I have to admit, I was a little bit out of my element at first. My fiance suggested that I simply walk up to a group of people, introduce myself by saying it was my first time at LitCrawl, and then see what people were about. This wasn’t easy for me. I was alone, and it felt awkward just barging into conversations. But as the night went on, I was able to come out of my comfort zone, and meet some interesting people. Some were with writers, others just enjoyed a good tale. I gave out my ‘business cards’ and made sure to joke about how professional they were.
There was this one science fiction writer who had printed out her short story, made a little booklet, and was handing it out to people for possible critiques. As a Scribophile blogger and a member of a writing critique group, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity not only to work on my critique skills, but to network. I talked to her about online venues like Scribophile and also gave her my card. I also thought her idea of handing out her story was a very good one. I won’t feel bad about stealing it next year 🙂
The readings themselves were pretty awesome. I went to some where the focus was obviously on more literary fiction, where the language takes over most of the art, and then I went to a horror reading where the crowd cheered for zombie chase scenes. I got something from both, and listened to the readings with interest. I tried to see where my own writing related, and where I could do better. I chatted with authors afterward and had extensive conversations about Harry Potter vs Twilight with readers.At the end of the night I had given out about 6 cards, and was energized by all the creative energy in each of the venues.
It’s the ‘morning after.’ Am I behind on my writing? Yes. Am I better equipped with writing contacts? Well, not exactly. My experience was awesome, but it was my first time and I only went to one day out of several. But I fully regret not taking advantage of the festival and will surely be more proactive in the years to come. I even plan to submit some short stories for possible readings. And I will be ready with real business cards. You know, the ones that aren’t folded and torn by hand 🙂
It might not be too late for you, however. LitCrawl is in three cities this year: New York, San Francisco, and Austin. New York and SF are done for this year, but Austin is next weekend. More information here.
Do you have any writing conference/festival/workshop experiences you want to share? How do you get in your dose of networking?