Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tanya Egan Gibson: On Networking

Leading a Redwood Writers Conference workshop on networking, Tanya Egan Gibson insisted you don't have to be a good networker; you just need to bring yourself to the table. As an example, Gibson chronicled her novel’s unpredictable path to publication. Though she started writing How To Buy a Love of Reading in 2000, it didn’t hit bookstore shelves until 2009. Working as an English teacher and then a full-time tutor, Gibson finally quit her job to write full time in 2004. That same week she became pregnant. Undeterred, she attended the Squaw Valley writers conference, hoping to impress a particular author whose agent she had in mind for her book

Gibson had gone there in 2002, dragging along her full manuscript. She had spent over an hour in a container store choosing a box that “needed to say two things: I care, but I’m not trying too hard.” The boxed book, of course, remained in the trunk of her car.

This time, to her dismay, the author told her: “Just three to four rewrites and a final revision and it sounds like your book will be ready to send out.” When, in 2006, she was truly ready to query his agent, she emailed the author first. “I don’t remember what your book is about, but I do remember you,” he told her. “You were nice, and funny.” He agreed to contact his agent, and the rest was history. 
photo credit: Lisa Keating
 That’s when Gibson had her epiphany: networking is about putting oneself out there, but being nice about it. Consider the behaviors that make you flee after meeting a new person at a social event: monopolizing the conversation, bragging and name-dropping, for starters. “If you think of yourself as a writer and meet others as part of the literary world, you won’t come across as a desperate, rabid twit. Obewon, you’re my only hope,” she joked. “It won’t be ‘Book in the Box.’ ”

The same “manners” apply for online networking, which is “like a giant cocktail party.” Making an important distinction between networking and self-promotion, Gibson warned, “Be part of the conversation, but don’t jump in as the expert or be rude,"-- just as you shouldn't hijack a live dialogue.

It isn’t uncommon for people to make mean comments in online forums (see Ann Patchett Incites a Riot). As antidote, Gibson sends a card to or emails another author about why she likes their book-- an idea borrowed from Carolyn See. “You counteract negativity while becoming part of that author’s literary legacy,” she said.

To share your story about "how reading changed your life in some way, or even 'saved' you" (the subject of her novel), go to Gibson's website here.

1 comment:

lakeviewer said...

A simple, beautiful examplar.

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