You never know when you’re going to meet someone who can help your career. That is true of any job and is especially true of writing. That particular point was driven home last weekend when I was volunteering for the Calgary Young Writers’ Conference.
This was the fifth consecutive year that I’ve volunteered to help out as a host. I remember thinking the first year how cool it would be if I had the chance to present at the conference. It was so long ago and I remember how big a stretch it seemed, how far from my reality. Today, it seems so much closer, the dreams so much more real.
Each year that I have gone I have met new authors and this year was no different. I was acting as a host for Darren Krill, the Manager of Corporate Communications for the Edmonton Oilers and an author with his first book out. I attended both his sessions with the students and we were both amazed at how involved the students were. When he asked the question “How many of you are writing a book?” nearly every hand in the 28 students (in both sessions) went up. Darren’s enthusiasm and stories really drew the students in… and I must confess, I was pulled in too.
Darren is something of an anomaly in writing circles from what I know. The publisher that signed him up for his book immediately snatched him up for three more in the series. He knows he will have four books published in the next few years.
So how does knowing Darren help me?
The first thing I want to emphasize here is I do NOT meet other authors with the question in my mind being “What can they do for me?”. I am more interested in learning about their journeys towards getting published and how they approach the craft. In many cases (most certainly with Darren) I get the motivation to continue plugging away.
For any of you who have ever struggled to keep going you know how very important that motivation can be. I also often gain a cheerleader which I also know I’m getting from Darren. This is a benefit I’ve gotten from many other writers I’ve met in the past too. You have no idea how nice it is to have a published author walk up to you and ask how your book is doing.
I’ve also learned a few tricks from the various authors I know: lots about self-promotion, approaching publishers, tips on research and many more. I hope that I have been successful in passing a few of these tips on to you. I’ve also learned a very simple truth, one that applies to me as well: “Authors love to talk about their work”.
If you remember nothing else, remember that. It will help you to break the ice when you meet an author. If you’re nervous about approaching a writer, fear not! They are probably as worried about meeting new people as you are.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s easy for Mike to suggest that because he doesn’t have any trouble walking up to people and saying hello. Trust me, nothing could be farther from the truth. There was a time when I would have run from the room at the very thought of mingling. Now I only think about running. I force myself to meet people. The minute I tell them that I’m a writer, the talking gets so much easier.
I plan on going to two big conventions this year with the sole purpose of meeting people. Some will be readers, some with be authors and some will be publishers. Every one of them will be able to help me in some way, whether it’s learning about the craft from them, getting more people interested in reading my stuff or perhaps even getting some interest in publishing one of my books.
If I’m passionate (and I like to think I am) about getting my books into print I’ve got to do it, no matter how scary it might be. Sometimes you just have to stare down your fear and do what needs to be done. You never know, you might just learn something in the process.