>Last week I received an e-mail from a local newspaper publisher. He said he had an exciting new project for which his editor had recommended me. Now, I worked on staff with that editor 10 years ago, but we have been in touch off and on through the years. I asked the publisher what the project was. When he said he was putting out a new in-flight magazine for the airline that just started serving our city, I made an appointment to meet with him the next day. I get to write as many stories as I can stand for SeaPort magazine and help recruit other writers in SeaPort destinations. the pay is decent, and I can use up some of those story ideas that have been piling up in my office for years.
When I got home, I contacted a friend who lives near Seattle, another SeaPort destination. That was Friday. On Sunday, she sent me drafts of her query, which I helped her polish, and on Monday she had the assignment, with another one for the next issue. Now I only know this friend, Candace, online. We have never actually met. But we have been corresponding often. In fact, at least once a week, she has written to ask how things are going with my husband. She also asks for career advice and lets me know about her latest publications, but it’s the personal touch that has stuck with me. I see her name in my e-mail and think, oh, there’s a friend who cares. So, as soon as I heard about SeaPort, I thought, now where exactly does Candace live? Hey, perfect.
I don’t like the word networking. It sounds phony. Think about it as making friends. God knows writing is a lonely business, but the Internet can make it a lot less lonely. If you read a blog you like (not necessarily mine), comment. If you meet someone you enjoy spending time with, whether at a conference or at the dentist’s office, get their contact information and stay in touch. Some of the best things that have happened in my career have happened because I had a friend in the right place.
Oh, and if you happen to live in or near Seattle, Washington, or Portland, Pendleton, Astoria or Newport, Oregon, send queries to Jeremy Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org. Think visitors’ guide. He’s looking primarily for magazine-style pre-stories about upcoming events and things to do in those areas. Tell him you read it on my blog.
>An offhand comment at the dog-training facility where she worked turned Jennifer Keene into a soon-to-be published author. She was in the process of a divorce, which included splitting custody of their two dogs, Moxxy and Sixxy. Her ex noted that she was always talking about writing a book, so maybe she should write about dogs and divorce. When she mentioned it to her friends at Pup-a-Razzi, Deb Wood, author of 10 books and a weekly columnist on pet issues for the Oregonian, said, “That’s a great idea. Do you really want to write a book? I’ll show you how to do it.”
With that, Wood became Keene’s mentor, helping her put together a proposal to pitch to agents at the 2005 Willamette Writers conference. One of the six agents she met referred her to Kate Epstein, who agreed to represent her book. Epstein helped her perfect the manuscript, shopped it around and got a positive response from TFH Publishing, which specializes in dog books. We Can’t Stay Together for the Dogs: a Dog-Friendly Divorce and Break-Up Guide is due out in March 2008.
Keene, who is still working on her English degree at Portland State, can’t believe her good luck. It’s a hot subject that could bring national attention. Once upon a time she wanted to be an actress, and many people have told her she looks like Drew Barrymore. At the suggestion she could end up on the “Oprah” TV show someday, she sighs. “If I could get a national minute on something, I could die happy.”
The moral of this story? Speak up. You never know who might be listening. Be bold and put your ideas out there. After all, how do you think Deb Wood wound up getting that weekly freelance column in the Oregonian with the cute picture of her and her Papillion pup? She said, Hey Oregonian, I’m a pet expert and you need a pet column. Bingo.