The Secret to Networking: the Four C's
When you hear networking, it sounds like business-speak, doesn’t it? All transactional, like a salesperson trying to expand their client list to sell another widget. But here’s the thing: it’s really another way of saying, no writer or artist can do it alone. As a creative person, if you want to improve your craft and become traditionally published, and not fall into despair along the way, the key is to find your community.
Because I like alliteration, here are my four C’s for networking and finding community: Curiosity, Compassion, Curation, and Connection.
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It all starts with being curious and open to new ideas. Instead of approaching networking as a way to develop your brand or sell books, think of it as connecting with all the interesting people. One great thing about social media is finding people who share your interests. I have a private Twitter list called “always interesting” that includes mapmakers, ocean explorers, funny AI accounts, and esoteric historians. When you keep an outward focus, you can’t help but enrich yourself.
The TV show Ted Lasso has a pivotal scene about this, but I won’t ruin it (HOT TIP: go watch Ted Lasso ASAP, it’s one of my top shows of 2020, hilarious & full of heart).
It’s been a tough year. You never know what someone is going through, so a good rule is to be compassionate. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This can be difficult when we face deep injustices and urgent issues (environment, politics, Covid-19, racism/sexism/etc), but the point is, you don’t have to engage with toxic people. Uplift and surround yourself with those who are making the world a better place; find the people who will support you and your creative efforts.
The corollary to being curious and thinking of others is you’ll want to curate your social media. Keep the good stuff in and leave whines or vents in drafts. We’re all human, so HOT TIP: find at least one trusted friend with whom you can be as petty and snarky as you want, in private channels.
While the above can help you network, how do you actually find your people? Here’s a rundown on some great writing & illustrating communities (mostly kid lit, some cost $ and others are free, and look at all the Cs!):
In addition to learning craft, classes let you connect with others at the same stage in your career. Some of my best CPs have come from classes. I highly recommend:
Pre-pandemic, I loved connecting with writers through conferences. Most have moved online. A few favorites:
The best way to improve your craft is to get honest feedback. Some places to find CPs:
CONTESTS & MENTORSHIPS
A great way to connect with others is by entering contests or applying for mentorships and supporting fellow applicants. For example:
Here are some of my favorite creative communities:
Finding community doesn't require a huge group. Having just a couple good writing friends and CPs can be enough. So much of building connections is informal. I've made friends on Twitter (one of my new author friends and I bonded over our love of Battleship Galactica), giving feedback to applicants to AMM or PW, doing writing sprints in Slack groups, and more.
Also, don't get hung up with connecting with people who may be "important" or who could help you in your journey. The people who will grow with you are truly the best networks. In August I wrote about my PB critique group & how we all started out unpublished and un-agented and now most of us are both. (I connected with them 8 years ago after seeing the FB posts of a writer who seemed to be my twin in outlook on life - Teresa R! - I asked her if she was in a writing group, and the rest was history).
To read more from my January newsletter, including a roundup of my favorite 2020 reads, go to The Secret to Networking: The Four C's. To receive notice of new content, subscribe to my newsletter: