the power of networking for writers

This week I’m gearing up for next week’s trip to Toronto for the MagNet conference and PWAC annual general meeting, so I’m going to talk about networking.

When you attend a writer's conference, take advantage of the fun activities in addition to the professional development.

When you attend a writer’s conference, take advantage of the fun activities in addition to the professional development.

If you’re a Canadian freelance writer, you should be a member of PWAC — the Professional Writers Association of Canada. I’ve been a member since 1997 and it has truly helped build my career. I’d say that 70-80% of my work as a professional writer has resulted from my membership in PWAC and the connections it has enabled me to make and build on. For more on PWAC visit www.pwac.ca.

PWAC has partnered with MagNet for the past 2 years and held its national conference in Toronto to coincide with Canada’s major magazine publishing event. But the interesting thing is that although most of PWAC’s members began their careers as magazine or periodical writers (in fact, the org used to be called the Periodical Writers Assn of Canada) in the current marketplace, not many of our members actually make their livings from periodical work. Most have branched out in other forms of writing including corporate work, online writing opportunities, and book authoring. But they still dabble in periodical work … because, for the most part, it is a very pleasurable form of writing. Unfortunately, it is no longer all that profitable because so many publishers have enforced all-rights contracts that limit the author’s ability to earn a reasonable income stream from his or her work.

Thus, an ever increasing importance of networking and professional development in the life of the professional writer. MagNet has made its programming very flexible and includes professional development sessions on “Transitioning from Magazine Byline to Book Author,” “Blogging for Money,” and “Building Your Net Worth by Building Your Networks” among other stimulating topics for writers, editors, designers and publishing administrators. The MagNet conference runs from June 1-4. For the full schedule see, www.magazinescanada.ca/magnet/.

For my thoughts on last year’s MagNet conference, please take a look at the June 10/09 post on this blog at: http://doreenisthewizardofwords.blogspot.com/2009/06/magnet-was-blast.html. And if you use the search tool on this blog, you’ll see that there are no less than 5 posts on the theme of “networking.”

There is no question that networking has been — and will always be — a huge part of my life. It has advanced my professional life, helped me forge strong friendships and alliances, provided me with fascinating volunteer opportunities that have taught me new skills and provided me with the fodder for my latest book. For more on “Before You Say Yes …” please visit my website at this link:
www.wizardofwords.net/.

What about you? Are you a big believer in the power of networking? Has it helped build your career? Introduced you to some terrific new friendships? Made you a better person? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

18 Responses

  1. Dorothy Griffin-Farish says:

    Hi Doreen,

    I am very impressed by your web page and your list of accomplishments. I am from Prince Edward Island and have been a member of PWAC for a number of years, but most of my work has consisted of small articles for newspapers, newsletters and the like, although this year I became editor of a seniors’ brochure and did it on a web page for the Seniors’ Safety Network. I have been the editor of three anthologies (between 1997 and 2003). Because I could only work for short periods of time due to caregiving committments I did not develop a web page or blog or get on Twitter.

    Now I have more time to devote to writing, so I will be studying your web page articles with great interest. Any suggestions you can give to someone who loves to write but who is not terribly technically-savvy would be much appreciated.

    All the best with your writing.

    Sincerely,

    Dorothy Griffin-Farish

    • WizardOfWords says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Dorothy. I definitely recognize your name from PWAC. Were you a member when we had the AGM on PEI? That was SO awesome!

      I, too, balance caregiving commitments with my work. Always have, as my father had Alzheimer’s, my aunt (godmother) had dementia, my cousin had terminal cancer, and my husband’s health has been failing these past few years. It’s all about working when you can, and trying to draw as much enjoyment as you can from the projects you take on so that work is actually pleasurable vs just something you have to do. I must say, the chocolate book certainly fits that bill!

      I’m not that tech-savvy either, and actually pay someone (a very lovely woman I met via Linked In) to keep my tech needs up to date. She has taught me how to keep my blogs up-to-date and looking good and I am very grateful for that. You’ll find blogging to be fun if you try it. I certainly enjoy it. Ciao for now, and do come back again soon.

  2. wizardofwords says:

    Hi Bon:
    PWAC is great for writers of all stages.

    As long as you've had one article published for which you rec'd payment, you can qualify for the Associate member category. Or if you're still a student, you may qualify for the Student membership.

    Full details of membership categories can be found at http://www.pwac.ca/.

  3. Bon82 says:

    Would you suggest joining PWAC to a first time writer/publisher?

  4. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, Allison. You've so nicely summed up how belonging to a professional assn (like PWAC) can really benefit us as independent, freelance writers. And how we can have fun doing it! I never would have met you (and so many other great writer friends) had it not been for PWAC. Hope to see you next year in Montreal (or before!)

  5. Allison says:

    I received my 10 year pin from the Professional Writers Association of Canada today. It's pretty hard to reach any milestone with out a bit of reminiscing, so here are my Top 10 PWAC lessons/thoughts.

    10. A decade ago, I had no idea how to write an invoice, what to charge a publication or how to write a query.

    9. It's been 10 years since I met many of my PWAC pals. Do I dare name anyone in particular? Kate Merlin and I use to meet at the local park during the summer. Her kids played and I nursed my daughter. Then there was my first AGM in Montreal, when Trudy Kelly Forsythe, Tracey Carr and I — strangers at the time — drove together. Nothing like spending eight hours in a car with someone to get to know them!

    8. Over the years, PWAC has taught me to be a confident entrepreneur. As an optimist who believes anything is possible if you work hard, giving me the tools to be successful in business helped fuel my optimism.

    7. PWAC helped me to think big — outside my town, outside my province, outside my country — there are publications around the world seeking good writers. We just need let them know we're here.

    6. The best chocolate of my life — so far. A large group of us, including Doreen Pendgracs (and is anyone surprised that Doreen was involved?), were in a restaurant in Edmonton on the Sunday night, after the AGM had wrapped up. The chocolate crepe dessert we had that night was, dare I say, orgasmic.

    5. It was through PWAC that I heard about a publishing company looking for writers for this series called Amazing Stories.

    4. It was through PWAC that I learned a bit about how to fight book publishers that go under.

    3. PWAC taught me how to read a contract. Trudy Kelly Forsythe and I, under a committee headed by Kevin Yarr, sifted through writing contracts that PWAC members from across the country sent in. The final report discussed what publishers are seeking in contracts, but the lesson for me was learning the language of contracts.

    2. As the current moderator of PWAC's biz list, I've learned that I can't make everyone happy. I always suspected it, but the moderator's job has cemented it.

    1. Without PWAC's never ending inspiration and idea-generating vitality, I'd probably be stuck in an office somewhere.

  6. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks so much for your comments, Cathy & Alex. And welcome to the blog, Alex! I follow Alex on Twitter and always find his tweets interesting and the warmth of his personality shines thru, even in short, online posts.

    My blog post was essentially about the importance of in-person networking, but you have definitely shown how we can bring a true humanness and sincerity to social networking, and have proven to me that it is just as important as our in-person interactions.

    Tomorrow, I will post something on the blog about the networking I did in Toronto over the past week.

  7. Alex Carrick says:

    It has come as a complete surprise to me how much I like social networking over the Internet. My favourite is Twitter due to the speed, immediacy and access to people all over the world. Hashtag groups (#writechat, #storycraft, #scriptchat) have been particularly rewarding for finding people with the same interests and concerns. I also keep a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn.

    It's amazing how many others are out there wanting to connect. I have found that writing for an expanded audience (and in a limited space) has loosened up my writing style and made it more interesting and approachable.

    Donna and I launched ourselves on this journey to promote our books. "Two Scoops" Is Just Right is a compilation of funny stories that I first posted on my blog site. It's the links to these stories that I have pushed out over the Internet.

    In pre-Web times, unpublished authors had to keep their manuscripts under their mattresses. What's the point of that? I write because I want readers. For the first time in history, there are means to disseminate material beyond one's own community in a relatively easy manner.

    Finally, let me say that we are all pioneers in this venture. To our children, it will be taken as commonplace to "build a brand" and "establish a platform." They will keep in touch with old friends and establish new bonds over the web during the course of their entire lives.

    Alex Carrick at http://www.alexcarrick.com and on Twitter as @Alex_Carrick .

  8. Cathy Marynick says:

    Social networking is gaining serious popularity in the lives of everybody. I quickly learned that "social networking" is much better than picking up that phone or walking into a business doing a cold call.
    I hope to use this new method for the various aspects of my life (Toastmasters, Mary Kay, workforce, etc).

  9. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks for joining the conversation, Lisa. I never pictured you as being shy! Perhaps we first spoke under the influence of some mood-altering libation last year. Looking forward to seeing you at MagNet.

    Thanks for chiming in, Lorina & Gary. We know that 5 Rivers is now publishing long-time friend of PWAC, Paul Lima. It will be interesting to see how his books do under your wing. There is no question that new forms of publishing and marketing are necessary for both authors and publishers who want to stay on top of the changing marketplace. If you will be at MagNet, I hope we will have a chance to meet.

  10. Lorina and Gary Stephens says:

    As an indie publisher I'd have to say networking is vital. We don't have the deep pockets of legacy houses. What we do have is flexibility and the understanding we must be accessible to the public. So, Five Rivers Tweets, Facebooks, blogs, Goodreads, LibraryThings, etc. all in the name of getting out the word we're publishing some great authors and great books.

  11. Divawrites says:

    PWAC membership was the best investment I've made in my career.

    One of my goals for 2010 is to do more networking so that I feel more comfortable doing it. I'm fine by Twitter, Facebook and e-mail, (and I don't have to tell you, Doreen, that the PWAC List-serves are one of the best benefits of PWAC)but to actually have to *gulp* talk to someone, especially an editor that I admire and want to work with? yikes.

    See you next week!

  12. wizardofwords says:

    Fantastic tip, Amanda! People should never forget that each and every contact you make could be the next important one. And agreed! I never go anywhere without my business cards. I'm surprised how many times one encounters someone in business who doesn't have a biz card on hand. To me, every day and every moment is an opportunity to make an important connection. And that's what networking is all about: making connections.

    Thanks for your comment as well, Veronica. Looking forward to seeing you next week at MagNet. And you're right! The wine tour will be a lovely icing on the networking cake.

  13. Amanda Le Rougetel says:

    Yup. Networking is important. I do it every day! Conferences are great (tho' I haven't been to one myself for ages), but connecting with people is something we can do over the garden fence, at the grocery store and during a social event of any kind. That's why I always have my business card on hand, ready to use as my 'introduction prop'. Of course, focused conferences bring us together in a professional setting that has major advantages for networking, but for those of us not able to attend, don't be shy about introducing yourself to that person down the street today! You just never know where a new connection can take you.

  14. Veronica says:

    Hi Doreen

    You are right the networking at PWAC AGMs had increased amazingly with the inclusion in MagNet
    Its a little pricier but certainly the returns are greater. My room is booked the railway ticket bought my sessions chosen and I've a seat on the bus for the wine tour. It should be a great five days.

    Veronica

  15. wizardofwords says:

    Thanks, Christine and Heidi, for starting the conversation on this topic.

    I'm like you, Christine. Not much of a gardener (although I do love flowers) but I love to nurture relationships and watch them grow and flower into something beautiful.

    And yes, Heidi. Save up now for next year's conference. I've never been to a writer's conference that I thought was a waste of time or money. You always learn something, make a great new friend or business contact or walk away with an idea that likely never would have come for you had it not been for the inspiration you rec'd at the conference.

  16. Heidi Turner says:

    Wonderful post, Doreen! I'm not going to MagNet this year, but I agonized over the decision. It came down to not having the funds to go. But, you've convinced me that I should attend next year, so I guess I should start saving!

    Have a fantastic time. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the conference.

  17. Christine Peets says:

    You are so right about the need for, and the power of networking Doreen. When I teach or write about Career Communications, networking is an important component of that course. I talk about the benefits of both in-person and online social networking (the pros and cons of each), and how to overcome shyness, which as you know is a *huge* problem for me. I'm such a wall-flower :}:}
    I also talk about the circles of networking–from close family and friends to friends of friends of friends. You never know who might be in a circle that will hire you.
    Reaching out can be time-consuming, but so worth it.
    I look at networking as planting seeds. For a non-gardener like me, it's always a surprise if and when they flower, but they do–and not always when or where I expect. Same thing with networking. I've had people call me for work more than a year after I've met them. They kept my card, remembered our conversation, and voila–I get a call or e-mail to do some work.
    Networking has always been important especially for self-employed creative types, but now, it is even more important. I'm glad to have you in my networking circle of close family and friends.

    See you in Toronto.

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