Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category:
Chicago is a great city even in my total dozen years of living here (95-97 and 99-present) I haven’t even explored half of it. I like when the El rumbles above my head and to run across the street dodging cabs and busses. I love the variety of people and places. And the lakefront. I mean, have you ever seen Chicago’s lakefront? I don’t think you could row, row, row your boat across this lake.
But alas, I’m in the suburbs. I could lie in the middle of the street for an hour with nary a worry of being trampled by anything other than a wayward bunny. The only lake around here emerges in a nearby park after a heavy rain. There is a strange, congested traffic flow in our little downtown area when school lets out, but otherwise, this in no way resembles a city. And yes, this is really where I live.
And that’s a good thing in many ways. People know your kids and your cars. It’s a great place to raise a family with blue ribbon schools and a culturally diverse population.
But it’s not a great place if you’re looking for writers to hang out with because (no offense to my very-long-research-paper-writing friend who reads this blog) they don’t exist here. Most people here are writing grocery lists or names on place cards or else they’re writing checks. The working moms are working and the at-home moms are at-homing, but no one here is writing.
I’ve googled and yahooed looking for writer groups nearby — and I am one kick-ass internet researcher. Nada. I’m not looking for a critique group (no worries, those don’t exist either) more for a gathering of like-minded people who know what a character arc, blog, agent and ARC are. All the groups I’ve found are well over an hour from me, and they are either 1) academic or 2) RWA. I’m neither, nor can I travel 90 minutes on a weeknight to go to a meeting or a reading or a roundtable, even if they promise brownies.
Last night I put a post on Backspace dot org and so far have found one writer about 30 minutes away – so time will tell if she and I are a literary match.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate my online writer pals – it’s where I do and get my critiques and ponder the worries of imaginary friends and foes. But real life is good too – as is conversation over a cup of coffee or glass of Savignon Blanc or a shared plate of Asian nachos at a local bistro.
Yes, we have a bistro or two. They both close at 9 on Saturdays.
Do you have real life writer friends outside a metropolitan area? Inside? How did you find them?
The secret to doing laundry? Get your first-ever gig on the radio because you’re a writer.
I blog about once-a-month for Huffington Post Chicago, but yesterday the post I wrote landed on the national site, in the Living section. As if that wasn’t fabulous enough, I received an email from a radio producer at WABC AM in New York, asking me if I’d like to talk about Facebook with Curtis Sliwa on the radio. I did a little internet digging just to make sure this producer was for real, which took all of seven seconds, so I wouldn’t end up talking to a fake Curtis Sliwa — and I said yes. Then I contacted some media savvy colleagues and friends, asked for advice on Twitter, blasted my news on Facebook and I waited.
And while I waited, she wrote on my Facebook wall.
When 10:30 pm was coming around and I was waiting for the call from the producer, do you know what I did to stop the pacing and quell the nerves?
I folded towels.
Edited to add:
CLICK HERE for the podcast version of The Curtis Sliwa Show. My segment starts at minute 33, and if you move the “ball” slightly to the left of the center of the line (very technical terms, folks) you’ll be right there. My 13 year old said I sounded like I knew what I was talking about, and that I didn’t sound stupid. I consider that high praise.
If you think I sounded stupid, you can take it up with her.
I have given myself over to Facebook. Once you do it, there’s like no turning back. I have chatted with people I haven’t thought of in 25 or more years. And while I really don’t care (let’s be honest, neither do you) what most of them are doing at this particular moment in time; the photos of their kids, the way they look today, and sharing crazy memories is a blast at 11pm or 6am or, of course, when I should be doing laundry.
I also use Facebook as a way of connecting with my world today, my online friends and as a marketing tool because I’m a writer and in the newspaper/magazine/fiction publishing climate today, it’s all about branding and name recognition and getting yourself out there, your stuff read. I realize most of these people are not agents or editors or publishers but you just never know. You also never know who will be that one person in the cyber game of whisper down the lane, when it comes to the all-powerful, revolutionary marketing tool: Word Of Mouth.
Another thing that Facebook has done for me is serve as reminder. Yes, a reminder that in 1980 my jeans were very, very, very tight and that wallpaper was very, very, very ugly. But in addition — it’s a reminder that things are most definitely not always as they seem.
I was looking at photos of a girl — now a woman — with whom I grew up. Forget about the fact that she was always a lot younger than me and now she’s not (you know how that works). She had beautiful, color-coordinated outfit family photos posted on her page. She has picture-perfect children and since her husband was also in matching clothing in each photo, I was pretty much sold on the fact that he was picture perfect too. They looked like the faux families you get with picture frames.
She sent me a little private, instant message and we started chatting. How fun was that? Very! I commented on her lovely family. She commented on mine (no matching outfits, but we are indeed, lovely in our own way). We traded stories of how we ended up where we are both living. She is “doing well” by conventional standards — she is married, works hard, lives in a big house, has friends and family nearby. Then all of a sudden she told me about a myriad of problems with one of her children. Problems I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Problems that might be unsolvable. Problems that could last for years. Problems that have made her angry. Problems that have made her sad.
I didn’t see any of that when I looked at the picture. I looked again. No hint of what was behind the smiles and picturesque backdrop.
And while I let her talk, and I offered encouragement I thought about stories and how those twists and turns and what we don’t expect is what makes it most interesting. I was saddened by what she told me, but it made for a more intriguing conversation than had she not shared it all with me.
That being said, I love when a book surprises me. I don’t like thrillers or mysteries, per se, but fiction that turns right when you’re expecting a sharp left. The kind of twist that makes you think about what led to it, how the author dropped hints along the way but not so blatantly that you saw it coming, but just enough so that it totally made sense.
One of my favorite literary surprises is in Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed, (spoiler ahead, folks) when Cannie finds out that she is pregnant. I read that and was flabbergasted. I actually needed to catch my breath. It changed the course of the rest of the book but did not fall into the “jump the shark” category where it’s done just for effect or because something is in fashion or to save the day…like when the Brady family welcomed cute little Cousin Oliver because the bunch was growing up.
When I read GIB — and again thanks to Facebook — I realized that element is key for me in writing a full length manuscript. Elements of surprise remind us that things are not always what they seem…sometimes they’re better. Sometimes they’re worse. But they’re always fun to figure out, twist around, and write down.
What are your favorite literary twists and turns?