My hands get sweaty and wiping them on my pant leg only gets me so far. Over there in the corner is the editor I really want to talk with but she’s surrounded. I think I’ll stand here in the corner and pretend no one sees me. Better yet, I’ll just leave.
That’s how I used to feel when I went to a networking event. And I’ve done my share! But now I see only opportunity in those forbidding cocktail parties. I’m not always in the mood to be cheerful, yet I see the value of mingling with a roomful of interesting people and wondering what kind of surprises or serendipity await.
I’m not saying talking to strangers is easy. Au Contraire. For most of us, it’s the hardest thing we have to do. In a social media world, many of us have no problems “friending” the President or Lady Gaga or the guy who posted that YouTube video with the singing dog. But actually talking to these people in person?
Networking and making connections is much on my mind these days. Chicago’s literary scene is bursting at the seams and I feel like I’m just running to catch up with all the awesomeness of new readings series and
magazines and publishers.
And with February almost here, AWP is the talk of the town. The Association of Writing Programs and Writers presents the largest conference focused on the art and business of writing. This year Chicago is hosting more than 9,500 writers and readers as they attend AWP. (Registration is closed, but you can still come to the bookfair for free on Saturday, March 3.)
That’s a lot of people to network with.
But I’m bound and determined to meet new writers and authors, some of whom we’ll invite to teach at StoryStudio, and some of whom I’ll want to talk with about my own writing and listen to what it’s like living in a different part of the world.
So how do you learn to talk to total strangers?
First, take our class aptly titled, How to Talk to Total Strangers. It’s taught by networking expert Jacqueline Loewe who has been doing this sort of thing for more than 25 years. It’s on Wednesday, February 8 and it’s the perfect primer for those attending AWP or for those who are getting ready to approach editors and agents. She’ll teach you how to do your homework before you go to an event, how to get over your fears, and how to develop a new professional relationship.
Second, if you are going to AWP, come to the panel I’m moderating called “Only Connect —How to Create New Opportunities through Networking.” I’ll be joined by members of theChicago Literary Alliance, an organization designed and dedicated to helping those in the writing world connect and collaborate.
When I look back at my career—the highs and the lows—I realize it’s the friends and colleagues I’ve made who have brought meaning to my endeavors and who have helped me succeed or gotten me past failure. Almost every one one of these friendships started with an awkward meeting at a crowded event or a quiet conversation over coffee.
StoryStudio Chicago is always here to help you with your stories. But now we want to help you with some of the other aspects of being a writer in the world. The great novelist E.M Forster knew what he was asking when he implored us to “Only Connect.”
Posted by Jill