Writers Conferences: The Spell Called Networking


As I start this on Monday, I am tired, having foot pain (pretty sure now that it’s been broken for a week) and back spasms, going on three nights of poor sleep, no exercise, and fried foods. Yet, I am so excited that I feel like electric joy is running through me. Even though I am home from ConCarolinas, I can’t sleep for more than a few hours without waking up. I find myself smiling for no reason. It was that kind of conference, rare and magical and … vampires don’t sparkle, writers do.

First, a huge thank you (THANK YOU! J ) to all the MW fans who showed up at ConCarolinas. At one point over the drop-in, three-hour-lunch we had 5 tables and some 20 MW fans, plus us. It was a ball!

David said: … at Boardwalk Billy’s … Faith ate what appeared to be a miniature Kraken soaking in a tumbler of Tequila.  Seriously.

I will never live that down. I should *never* order food while talking. It seems I pointed to the Tequila shooter instead of the raw oysters appetizer. The shooter had one raw oyster in Tequila. I never shoot my tequila – the good stuff deserves to be sipped, not gulped. I fished the oyster out and ate it; I sent the fishy Tequila back to the kitchen. Ick.

While I won’t share with you (yet) the coming changes at MW, I do want to share a very important How To. Here are MW, we have built a rapidly expanding reputation by teaching budding, unpublished or newly published writers the How-Tos of this business, from, “how to write a sentence,” to “how to pitch to an editor”. One thing (I think) we have not written a How-To about is networking. It sounds like a business deal, this networking, and it sounds easy. It is both. And neither. And it is difficult to explain with a list of “Top Ten Ways to Network.” So I want to share a “how it happened” story and walk you through an example of the perfect moment of networking. It will sound like a chemical reaction in many ways. Or a magical spell. It will be very businesslike and very personal. Take notes. Not that taking them will really help you. Because we are talking magic here. And though I am giving away the spell for free and explaining the chemical reaction, it is arcane and mysterious and full of … magical words.

MW started out at a writers conference back in … maybe it was 2008? Misty Massey was there and we had been hugging and gossiping and passing in the hallway and waving and comparing clothes and shoes and jewelry (girl stuff {or guy stuff. Chihuahua heads mounted on the office wall, anyone?} is also part of networking). My agent Lucienne Diver was there, and she introduced me to David B. Coe. There was something magical about that meeting. (Yes, you may get sick of the words magic and magical. I refuse to use my thesaurus for this post when I have two perfectly good words for spell writing.) I am telling this from my POV, and David may disagree about all the particulars of that first meeting, but I know without asking that he will agree in principle. Though I admit I would like to hear his version.

Meeting David was a bit like falling in love. Now before you start getting weird ideas and our spouses start to wonder why we put our heads together so much at cons, let me add, it was also nothing at all like falling love. There is simply no word in English to describe the kind of relationship-moment I am talking about. So I going to describe it and maybe make up a name for it. That will be the title of the spell for networking. When I was a little girl I’d meet a group of girls and instantly gravitate to one. Just one girl out of the whole group. It was like gravity or magnetism in that it was most often mutual and two girls would be pulled to one another across a room and would then spend the rest of the event whispering and giggling. It was like BFFs but different. David knows what I’m talking about (because he was there) and because he has girls.

David and I kept seeking each other out during the conference, chatting and joking and letting this weird attraction ferment. We kept saying things like,
David: (Shaking a finger) “You knooooow, we should do something together.”
Me:     (Nodding, intrigued) “Yeah… What?” Long stare. Both brows furrowed.
David: (David looking excited, then stopping.) “I got nothing. Something.”
Me:     (Mutual laughter)  “Yeah. Something.”

We brought Misty (already my BFF) into the spell as the third ingredient. She and David had the same magical attraction. It started to simmer.
So the spell’s title is … Grav-magnet-fun. NO! WAIT! Better… Zeppelin. Perfect name!

After the con, we three tossed around ideas, and Misty brought Todd into mix. Todd can make websites. Todd was the fourth ingredient. The spell began to simmer faster, with that little hiss the very finest cauldrons make. Step one of Networking Zeppelin: Gather the ingredients. Step two: Brainstorm.

We four quickly came up with MW, from concept, to image, to description, to name, to registering the domain, and finding a hosting provider. Todd was the website mage, stirring his magical scepter into the cauldron, muttering, offering up thoughts, ideas, and powerful possibilities. David offered his photos to the site. (David is a magical photographer in the Real World.) We had a website, a name, a look, and a concept. But we three writers and Todd were not enough for the spell to work the website.

I am mouthy (my special magical talent, which can be used to my advantage or to my detriment and has power of its own to take off and screw up my life upon occasion, but which I try to use for good and not evil.)  I took my courage in hand and wrote to CE Murphy and asked her to join us. She said yes. That was the final magical ingredient, the energy bomb that set it in motion. And Magical words was born. It was the beginning of something fantastic that could grow and evolve and change our world.

Zeppelin (Okay, it’s an inside joke. But still a great title.)
Step one :  Gather the ingredients.
Step two :  Brainstorm.
Step three : Come up with the magical idea.
Step four :  Add in magical energy ingredient (More on this in a moment)
Step five :  Go to work. (A lot of people forget this last step. Once you have an idea for making use of all the people with whom you have networked, you have to go to work. This spell is magical, but it ain’t a miracle.)

That was 2008. MagicalWords.Net was born. We started out offering chatty little posts about our lives, families, manuscripts we were working on, but we never ignored our readers. We noticed that you responded most often to the How-To posts, and we began to offer more of those than other things, though we never forgot that we have more to offer than just knowledge – we have lives and wisdom that go beyond writing. MagicalWords.Net developed a unique voice. People in the industry started to notice.

Individually, we knew and met other writers and began to have guest posts. Jump ahead to last year at ConCarolinas. We met AJ Hartley and Stuart Jaffe and Edmund Schubert, (some of us knew them already) and asked them join us for guest and / or semi regular posts. The magic kept getting stronger, more coherent, more predictable. The spell was stable, much like that chemical reaction. Even when Catie (CE Murphy) dropped out, and the mix of writers changed, the reaction was stable. In fact, though we miss Catie dreadfully, the energy got even better. Now we had three regular posters, two permanent part time posters, four monthly posters, and many guest posters. MW was moving into the industry as a power.

We started throwing around ideas for taking MW to the next step. LOTS of ideas. We asked our readers to add ideas of their own. Now we had mega-lots of ideas. The spell of MW was ready to try having offspring. But there was no magic yet. Something was missing. A year went by while this was taking place, and ConCarolinas came around again. The primary posters at MW were going to be there, all in one place. It was a chance to take networking to a higher place, to kick around the ideas and see where the spell might be expanded.

In every chemical experiment, (and in every magical words spell) there is a catalyst (the magical energy ingredient I mentioned). Before the catalyst is added, the chemicals just lie there, inert, ready to do something, waiting. Then the catalyst is added and everything changes, energy is released, and a new thing (or several) is born. That chemical catalyst is always magical. The chance for the MWers to get together and visit and plan at CC, to talk eye to eye, brought all the ingredients together in one test tube. The test tube was my RV on Friday night (late) and Saturday night (even later).

We sat around, sipping our own magical spells, chatting, brainstorming, tossing around our ideas … And it began to generate energy. We could all feel it happening. We were all falling in love. Zeppelin started to happen all on its own. Literally, we could each see the energy flowing around the room. But it had no direction. Until one of said the magical words. The catalyst? The magical energy ingredient? The one who said the magical words?!?

Edmund Schubert was the catalyst MW needed to find direction and energy and a kick in the butt and get us jumpstarted on better, bigger things. This weekend MagicalWords.Net will offer the birthplace of the first of the MW offspring, one of three (so far) that are in the works. You’ll have to read MW this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, to see what is coming. The posts will be by Edmund Schubert. A quick bio:

Edmund R. Schubert is the author of about 35 short stories, one novel (Dreaming Creek, Lachesis Books 2008), and an assortment of articles and interviews. He has served as editor of the online SF and fantasy magazine Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show since 2006, edited an anthology by the same name (IGMS, Tor 2008), and several business magazines. However, he considers his greatest accomplishment to be the time a college professor taught a class about him – in abnormal psychology.

Step one :  Gather the ingredients (people with whom you can fall in love)
Step two :  Brainstorm (magical libations are optional but often recommend)
Step three : Come up with the magical idea.
Step four :  Add in magical energy ingredient (Human catalyst)
Step five :  Go to work. And take with you the people who will make it happen.



35 comments to Writers Conferences: The Spell Called Networking

  • Mikaela

    Now you have made me curious, Faith! . I guess I will have to wait until the weekend, though. There are times like these I wish I lived in the States, or at least had enough money to go to cons. I am happy with my life, though. Especially now that summer has arrived 🙂

  • South Carolina Writer’s Workshop Annual Conference. October 27, 2007. Myrtle Beach. Not that I remember it that clearly…. And yes, the rest happened pretty much the way Faith describes. My daughters have the remake of the movie THE PARENT TRAP — the version with a young and still-innocent Lindsey Lohan. I remember the old version with Hayley Mills. But that’s what it was like meeting Faith. It was like discovering that I had a (fraternal) twin I hadn’t known about. It was electric. And then I met Misty and we were triplets. I’ve still yet to meet Catie Murphy in person, but I feel like I’ve known her for years. Stuart Jaffe is my Life Circumstances Doppelganger; we have so much in common it’s truly freaky. I dare ANYONE to spend ten minutes speaking with A.J. Hartley and not come away thinking that you’ve just met the funniest, nicest, most erudite and talented person on the planet. Edmund and I have known each other for several years now and all I can say is that if Stuart somehow isn’t my doppelganger, then Edmund is. Magical Words is more than a blog site for us. It is a family. Corny as hell, I know. But it’s true. I would walk through fire for every one of these people and I know that they would do the same for me. Working with them on this site is one of the great joys in my life.

  • Speaking as the person who inadvertently gave birth to the zeppelin (the name, not the thing: no one wants to give birth to a zeppelin) I have to concur. The rightness of the chemistry positively steams off MW and I’m delighted to have been invited in to such a gracious group. Onward and upward.

  • What, no “Step 6: ????? and Step 7: PROFIT!”?

    Well, you’ve stated your intention and you’ve raised the appropriate energy. This is the part where the magic is released into the universe. 😀

  • Honestly, I had goosebumps reading this post. I wish I could have been there for the magic, but perhaps another time. I think I would rather go down to your con than one in my own state (I’m from a small town and New York City – where all these cons seem to be – scares me).

    I can’t wait to hear about your secret plans. You are all so inspiring to newbies like me. Thanks so much.

  • **Bouncing up and down in my seat**

    Anything that comes together with that kind of chemistry simply *has* to be good. I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with!

    BTW – sorry for the absence on the site the last couple of weeks. I’ve been reading, but the day job has strangled my life. Yeah, that bad.

  • I haven’t posted here in ages, but I couldn’t let this post go by without saying how awesome it is.

    Looking forward to seeing what comes next.

  • I have tears in my eyes every time I think about this past weekend. It was electric, vibrant, joyful, fullfilling, utterly positive, and well … magical. This next year, as we reveal the new stuff at MW, you will see why it meant so much to me. I have a fallen in love with these people. And from that will come … new things.
    Zeppelins, Y’all!

  • To those of you thinking about this from a networking point of view (still on my mind from my last post), take a look at how many years went by before this past weekend’s magic. These things don’t often happen overnight. But since we were all patiently networking, the ingredients were there in pieces just waiting to come together. Thankfully, they did.

  • mudepoz

    Being reenergized, being with like minded people, sounds like everyone has sparks of magic between them.
    Looking forward to the new direction someone who thinks his greatest accomplishment was having a class in abnormal psychology based on him sounds, er, intriguing? Scary?

    I suspect networking is something that is better learned by doing, rather than reading though. Then again, that would be me. I learn by doing not reading.

  • Deb S

    Ooo, Saturday. I can wait. I’m a Mets fan, well used to torture. I’m going to the Mets/Orioles game on Sat, in fact.

  • Bill Hause

    Here I am, AJ. I promised I would no longer be a lurker. Faith, it was so wonderful to see you and David at the con. It was also exciting to meet AJ and Misty. The magical part is not too hard to believe, I could see the connection among you at the con. I look forward to the announcements…

  • Argh! Out of town again. Guess I’ll have to take the laptop and find a wireless connection where we’ll be so I can see the fireworks, so to speak. 🙂

  • Well, the zepplins are flying now, aren’t they. At least there’s no pressure on me for this Saturday…

    I had the time of my life this past weekend. The con was fun, but who knew you could pack so much magic into a single RV?

  • I was going to write a post and then just watch what happens but I can’t. Mouthy-me.

    Mikaela, I was only in the UK once, and it was April, an early spring and it was wonderful! We stayed in London in the White House (the white, cross-shaped hotel). It was lovely. Happy sigh….

    Clearly, I should have asked David the date. *Maybe* he would have remembered… 🙂 And the idea of us being family is not corny. It happened. It is real.

  • AJ, when you say “Onward and upward,” it sounds so elegant! And so very true.

    Moira, the steps that follow are what will be introduced by Edmund this weekend. Weeeelll…. The first step, at least. Many others will follow.

    EKCarmel, there are many Cons. Very few have the energy that you get from being around the MWers, and energy is what really drives a Con. An MW Con might be in the future. If you guys want one, your own energy could drive it higher on the list.

  • Megan, I’ve missed you!!!! And you missed a great CON!

    ItRev, thank you. It is going to be a great year!
    One small hint… We may be able to arrange a conference call interview with all of us and all of you can listen… MAYBE!

    Stuart, thank you for saying that! I had tea today with Kim Harrison, and she counted back the years to the very beginning. Before I met Kim. Waaaay back when Misty and I first met. It can take years of networking to find magic.

  • MindyMud, you got it. You have to *do* to learn to learn how to do.

    DebS. Do NOT start talking baseball in front of this crowd. OMG, the ball-chat!!!!! We almost didn’t get around to MW talk!

    Bill, good to see you as a non-lurker. It was great to meet you!

    Daniel, don’t miss it! (Or at least tune in when you get back!)

  • Edmund, Edmund, Edmund….
    No pressure at all. None. Not a bit. Nope. No way…

  • Tom Berrisford

    I’m excited to see what you unleash on us, the unsuspecting MW public. And I’m already feeling the first tingles of the magic! Now, time to follow David’s advice from this weekend and work on my BIC skills. 🙂

  • Tom — yes. Feel the lash! Work, man! Work! BIC!!!!

  • Beatriz

    AJ says “Speaking as the person who inadvertently gave birth to the zeppelin (the name, not the thing: no one wants to give birth to a zeppelin). . .”

    Great. Thanks a LOT for that image, AJ.

    I can’t wait to see what the magic unleashes!!!!!

  • HarryMarkov

    Now, I am hooked. Can you believe I can feel residue magic from this post? Why do we have to wait?! I want to know now!

    Anyway, wildly excited.

  • Mikaela

    Well, I also been to the UK once which was nice. I have some plans going to P-con next year if I can find the money. Or, I save the money I will get this month and go to Con Carolina. Hm…

  • mudepoz

    I’ve been to the UK a couple of times, once for a month (weird and strange things happen to me, short version, best friend getting married, I was to be best man. Waited to last moment to decide, found out colleagues parents were going on the bride’s side (Chancellor at Uni there) so gave me room and board in trade for gardening. With waiting got a cheap ticket, and went. Oh, the University I worked for was a very small Silo Tech. I love my life.)
    Can’t write it, but I live the strange. What’s P-Con?

  • Melissa, I agree. Aowie!

    Harry, while I would love to tell, (mouthy, remember?) my lips are muzzled! The story is Edmund’s, as he was the magical ingredient.

    Mikaela, I was trying to say that the closest I have been to your part of the world was the UK. Didn’t come out right now that I reread… 🙂 Come to CC!!!!

    Mud, yes, your life is strange. But you enjoy it, which is what counts.

  • Looking forward to hearing what’s in the works!

  • Barb C-M

    Faith, looking forward to see whats up this weekend.

    I went to my first Con the last weekend in May, while it was not quite what I expected, it was fun. Di and I are talking about WorldCon in Reno next year. Maybe SpoCon next month. It’s fun to meet the authors of the books I sell.

  • Wayne McCalla

    Being around Faith, Misty, David, AJ , and Stuart (at least when he was there on Saturday) you could feel the energy when they wee together in whole or part. I do go to many cons throughout the year and do not remember another quite on this level… Except for last year’s ConCarolinas and that one did not have quite the same amount.

    Just seeing them all with so much energy and excitement after their conversations was a sight to see. The animation and pure enjoyment that they all had made it a pleasure to be around them.

    As a fan of all and friend to some of them it was great to just being around them and sharing in all the energy and fun that they were producing. And each seemed to be inspiring to each other.

    I have a wonderful time while around them all…too bad it’s just for one weekend out of the year…

  • Mikaela

    P-con is held in Dublin every year, in March. I had planned to go this year but it collided with a skiing trip. I would love to go to both P-con and ConCarolinas, but I can’t afford it. I have time to make up my mind

  • Barb, Wayne (great to hear from a reader who loves wrhters!)m, Christina and Mikaela, We do ahve good stuff! Stick around for a while. The new stuff in the next 4 weeks will be mind boggling.

    (Not quite sure what a boggled mind is, but looking forward to it!)

  • Horrifically off-topic I know, Faith, but this was the only way I could find to contact you and thank you for those lovely arrowheads you gave me and Angela at ConCarolinas.

    Thanks so much!

  • Hi Gerald. It was good to spend tiem with you and Angela at the Con and I am delighted that you like the arrowheads! (Very JY!)

  • Barb C-M

    Okay, I missed saturday, what was the big surprise?