Networking is king, or so we’re told. No use you sitting in your stuffy garret, beating a keyboard all day and night. No use in writing the next literary masterpiece, not now that the traditional publishing gates are grinding forever shut. Writers, like it or not, need to get out there and meet fellow writerkin, publishers, editors and agents.
That was the mantra running through my head as I entered Appleton Tower, that travesty of modern ‘architecture’ seated at the heart of Edinburgh University’s inner-city campus. The Uni was holding its biggest ever creatives festival, a week long bonanza of talks and tabling. This was it, my final-year big chance to make the golden handshake and get that all-hallowed elevator pitch publication deal.
I blame all those Twitter hashtag abbreviations and whirlwind blog posts about the big US publishing fairs for creating unrealistic expectations. No champagne witticisms or business cards for me, only lecture rooms rammed with other sweaty young writer wannabes, giving each other the Evil Eye, or awkward half-conversations over a nigh-on deserted, bare table.
Of course, compared to the big publishing fairs this thing was small fry, but it was still an abject lesson in networking realities. How does one strike up a conversation with an agent, let alone without making it painfully obvious that all you want this person to do is sign you up? The advice is always ‘network,’ less so on how to actually go about it. It doesn’t help that the writer stereotype is one of quiet introversion. Whilst I wouldn’t say I quite fall into those ranks, I’m still young and inexperienced enough to suffer crippling doubt over the worthyness of my work. I still have the newbie writer hangup – I want to write, I don’t want to shove it in people’s faces, especially not for someone who has seen it all before. That’s a case, it seems, of simple immaturity on my part.
Like everything, I’m sure practice will make perfect. I’m hoping on getting a fetch and carry job at Edinburgh’s Book Festival this August – Scotland is a literary nation, and Edinburgh’s its hub, so I really don’t have any excuses for having singularly failed to even attempt some networking in the four years I’ve lived and studied here. The first effort was a bit of a flop, the second… well, we’ll see.