Lisa Wingate on right and me at Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.
Back in the archives of this blog somewhere, no doubt is a blog urging writers to network, but hopefully I’ve learned some more about the task as the years have passed.
When I first began writing the first thing I did was find someone else who was writing too. For a long while she and I met once a week in my little art studio where I painted on other days. She read what she’d written and I did the same. Then we brainstormed and shared what we’d each learned either in magazines and books, or from other writers. This might be thought of by some as critiquing, but I feel it was a form of networking, for we were learning from each other.
As time went on, we searched for a group and attended a few without really getting much out of it. None of them were for us. Then we joined the Ozark Writers League in Branson, MO, a quarterly, all-day meeting that called for writers to share with each other. No one had any money in those days. I recall that five of us got together to attend our first all day meeting that called for an overnight stay and we shared one room. Another time we rented a camping trailer that was available on shares. I think there were six of us that weekend and we had a blast. We gained what others taught us and we also gained more writer friends.
By then a bunch of us had formed our own weekly writer’s group. In the early days we took turns taking food to the meeting so that those who came directly from work would could share supper with those of us who didn’t work outside the home. That group grew steadily. Often I think people visited just to eat some of the delicious meals we were preparing. But still, we were sharing what we learned. One person can learn a lot from reading articles and books, but six or seven people can share all that they’ve learned so that everyone goes home with more information than they came with. There’s been a lot of turnover in the group, but we’re still going strong today, some 25 years later, with many talented writers as members.
Not having much money, I chose for my very first conference, a small one called Ozark Creative Writers. It was held in Eureka Springs, Arkansas about an hour from home, and attracted around 100 people. It didn’t cost much, but the guest speakers were published authors and a few local editors. I met a lot of writers at that conference, and today, some 23 years later I attend that conference every fall. It’s like old home week. Now the group attracts published authors, editors and agents from New York and we have the opportunity to pitch our work to important people who can help us.
I sold my first nonfiction book at Ozark Writers League to a small publisher and sold my first fiction to a New York editor at Western Writers of America when they came to a nearby town to hold their huge conference. Many of my friends who were with me during this time are published authors now. People like Lisa Wingate, Jodi Thomas, Dusty Richards, Linda Apple, Jory Sherman, W.C. Jameson, Mike Blakely, Radine Trees Nehring, and on and on, have built their careers together, some ahead of me, others alongside me. We all did it by networking.
Since those early times I’ve been asked to speak at many of these conferences and have 10 published books under my belt plus two more due to come out this spring. If I had chosen to stay home in my office and write and write and write without ever getting out and mingling and networking, I can’t say I might ever have been published. The romantic idea of a starving writer in a cold garret struggling to write the great American Novel has long gone by the wayside.
We can’t do it without each other. So make sure you do what you can afford to do, money wise and time wise, to network with those in your field.
Such good advice. I think I am overwhelmed on where to start and then there is the fear factor. I may look into the Ozark group. Thanks as always!
Velda, you are so right networking is the most important part of going forward,continuing to learn, and promoting ourselves as writers.
Thanks. Very helpful advice. And encouraging.
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