The people you know: Networking for writers

Most people think of networking as going to events and meeting new people.  This is just one way for a writer to meet people.

You do other things besides writing so don’t forget the people you meet outside of your writing life.  They are resources you should not overlook.  One of the great aspects of being a writer is that your resources may appear at any time and in any place.

Two examples:

I made a trip to Ravenna, Italy to meet with professors at the Universitâ di Milano in the history department.  They were extraordinarily receptive and eager to help.  I learned about weapons, verified the type of ships in use at the time of the story, got a grip on trade and economics, food distribution, and the like.  Two questions I had went unanswered.  What did they eat? The reply was a modest shrug and nobody knows. Where did they store the grain that was made into bread that the king distributed? In caves.  Where were they?  Nobody knows.

One day I was between appointments with two different professors.  I had an hour so I went across the street to the bookstore and browsed. I picked up a mystery, searched for a Roberto Saviano book which was unavailable.  I told the owner that I collected cookbooks, she took me over to a table in the back.  There right on top Ecco! At the table with the Lombards and Goths. Recipes!  In use during the 6th Century, the time period of my story.

After days of trudging from historical masterpiece to museum to current historical event, I wandered out of the town center and found a small corner bar.  One old fellow sitting out front, nobody inside.  I walked in.  A sign above the mirror behind the bar read SPRITZ. Over come with nostalgia for Venice I called my daughter; we chatted.  The bartender of course overheard.  When I got off the phone he smiled and asked me if I wanted a spritz.  I told him about making up the first person plural verb “spritziamo.”  He chuckled. I told him I would be outside.  He asked why I was visiting.

Two days later I returned to the bar after another day of trudging. The bartender asked, “Spritz?” I nodded. He said, “I thought you might like to read this magazine, it’s about local history. There is an article in here about the bar.”  That was cool.  I took the magazine and went outside.  There was an article about the bar, but there was also an article about a coffee house/bar that used to be.  In an underground cave.  On the street that used to parallel the river (now filled in and paved over).  An underground cave. By the river. The main transportation route of the time. By the main road that led to the palace.  Ancora, ecco!  I found the grain storage cave where my noble hero gets into trouble.  I thanked the bartender profusely in my broken Italian and told him he had solved a mystery the professors could not answer.

Are you getting the idea? People that you meet can help you.  Not one person is exempt from a writer’s quest to put a story together.

Recently my co-writer and I have been developing a new story for a suggestion by a producer.  The protagonist is a woman. We wanted her super smart. We made her a medical biologist doing research on an important project for world health. Neither of us knows anything about medical research.

I got in touch with a friend of mine who is a medical biologist. I told him about our protagonist and the situation we wanted to create, the problem she faces, and the resolution we envisioned. Wow! In an hour’s conversation, he had her, her situation, the problem and the resolution nailed with lots of detail. How do I know him? From my photography group.

Networking isn’t just about planned groups where people chat and exchange business cards.  For a writer, networking is about life.

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