This week, the question comes from Kelly, who asks:
How do you guys build your networking skills and form a sort of relationship with fellow writers in YA Lit? Is it possible to do so even if you’re an introvert in reality?
In this day and age, I think it’s easy for anyone to appear as an extrovert online. The key is to make yourself available. Twitter is a really great resource for getting to know people in the business, and for those introverts out there, it’s perfect because you don’t have to say much at all! Loads of agents, editors, publishers and authors are on there, and many of them will respond to people who make the effort. I met a few people through my internship, but Twitter’s really been my biggest ally. I know it’s daunting to tweet at some of the bigger names out there, but it’s definitely worth a shot if you’re serious about networking. Plus, the internet still provides some amount of anonymity for those who are too scared to reveal their actual identities.
Writing and/or reading groups are also a good way to meet people. Those are more often done in person, so it requires a greater effort, but I think you may benefit the most from it. Groups like RWA, SCBWI, and others are also places to meet people. I haven’t been fortunate enough to attend any conferences as of yet, but those are obvious places to network. And don’t forget blogs! I follow a few pretty religiously, and sometimes leaving a comment is all it takes to make that connection.
Sammy is right about Twitter — it takes some practice, but it’s a great way to start conversations with other writers. I’m a HUGE introvert, and I find Twitter is the perfect amount of chatting (140 characters!) without being overwhelming.
The same goes for the groups Sammy mentioned. I’m in both the RWA and SCBWI. In the RWA, we have some really fantastic chapters that interact entirely online through YahooGroups. For example, the YA-RWA (young adult chapter) is really fantastic, supportive, and active — plus, there are some really big names in there! You never know when Simone Elkeles or Marlene Perez will be the one to answer with you posts!
Two more groups through which I’ve connected with other writers are Savvy Authors and YALitChat. I like Savvy Authors a LOT because of it’s many fantastic & cheap workshops, experienced (and newbie too) writers, and its various support networks. I did a NaNoWriMo boot camp with them, and it was a blast! Made some new friends and got 50,000 words! 😀
YALitChat is also a great way to connect (I met both my crit partners there), but be wary about “quality” on YALitChat. What I mean is this: there are a lot of “newbies”, and while that’s not in and of itself bad (we all have to start somewhere!), oftentimes the feedback can be less helpful/accurate than a more experienced group.
Finally, interacting with blogs is a great way to connect! I follow so many blogs, and while I don’t always have time to comment, I try to comment and open conversations as often as I can. I’ve met a few beta readers that way, and I’ve become a beta reader for more than one person too!
Since I’ve turned into Super Long-winded Sooz, I’ll shut up and end with a link: http://shrinkingvioletpromotions.blogspot.com/. This is a GREAT marketing/network resource since it’s geared toward introverts!!
I think what the others have said about twitter is very true. It’s a great way to engage in conversations with people in a totally safe way, and perfect for introverts. If you email an agent or author about writing, you might come off as a little bit odd — but on twitter, you’re expected to follow and tweet people you don’t know.
For me, the biggest thing in terms of social networking with fellow YA writers/authors was joining AbsoluteWrite. That forum is a great resource for writers in general, but for me it also unintentionally became a place where I met a lot of other YA writers. I found my lovely critique partners, over there. One of the things I’ve noticed about people in the YA lit community who I’ve befriended, is that we’ve gone through things at the *same* (roughly) time. You’re all in the query trenches together, and that gives you something in common — it also kind of bonds you through trauma (forgive me my nerdy reference, but you know in Harry Potter when Harry and Ron face the troll with Hermione, and then become friends with her, because of that? Querying is like the troll).
So, my answer on how to connect is probably just to communicate with other writers who are at the same stage as you. Chances are, they’ll want to communicate with you, too (you have a love of writing and a love of YA in common — it’s a brilliant friendship waiting to happen), and will welcome you with open arms 🙂
I don’t have much to add, really, except that I think that at the start, what people don’t realize is that things like blogs and twitter are incredibly addictive. They start becoming what you turn to when you’re bored. And if you’re bored a lot, you eventually swallow your insecurities and just go for it. Because it’s so casual, as long as you don’t troll or start any drama, the responses themselves should be casual as well. And if you keep up casual responses with certain people for a little bit, you start feeling more comfortable with saying things like “Oh man, me too! Didn’t you love that fight scene?” in response to something like “I LOVE this book”. If you can show people you have similar interests as them, they’re likely to check out your own profile or blog and maybe strike up a friendship. Then eventually you meet their friends, and then their friends…
I will just add that back in 2006 when I discovered online writing communities and started my blog, I truly *WAS* an introvert. Somehow I just found that the more I put myself out there online (where it was easy– less risk of rejection or making myself look silly/awkward), the more I began to grow as a person. I started networking with writers in real life and yes, I was nervous and felt funny at first, but I soon realized that when you have the writing world in common,
it’s INCREDIBLY EASY to talk for hours and feel comfortable. Now I constantly set up little lunches or go to signings to meet fellow authors, and I have a blast. I never would have done that without trying it out online first!
To start my networking, I just found a few modestly successful authors– particularly debut authors– who were just ahead of me in their careers. I read the blogs they read (on LJ, it would be their “friends” page) and started commenting here and there. I launched my blog and put myself out there…and soon those people commented on my blog too. Some of my strongest writer friendships began in 2006 when I was a nobody.
If you go in truly looking to make friends and be a part of things, it grows pretty organically.
Do you enjoy networking?