This post was originally published on the Jane Friedman Blog on March 19, 2019

I’d like to thank writer Sharon Harrigan for her excellent mentorship, and Leigh Camacho Rourks for sharing her fabulous story about her whale-blubber-related happenstance moment at an AWP conference. Without them, this post might not have been written. 

 

Maybe you’re like me, someone with a mile-wide idea shelf but a short, stubby one for people. Perhaps you like your fellow humans generally, but your introvert soul prefers small-group interactions to huge crowds and forced small talk. Or maybe, like me, you grew up in a place where networking was either mentioned with disdain or not at all.

A writing conference may be your first professional networking opportunity. During my first few conferences, my angst could’ve lit entire cities. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. Sensing my discomfort, a gracious mentor debunked the mysteries of networking for me. Studying her at future conferences revealed several tricks I could use to schmooze like a pro, or at least operate like a less awkward version of myself. This gift is one I’ll spend the rest of my life repaying and one I’d like to share with you.

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