by Sarah Archer
Some of my earliest memories are from preschool, where there was an old cast iron tub, with rubber ducks painted on the sides, sitting in the middle of the room. The tub was filled with stuffed animals—and books. While the other kids ran around me and played, I just wanted to sit in that tub and read.
Growing up, I was always the girl with her nose in a book. The life of a writer seemed perfect, because not only did I love to read and write, I enjoyed living inside my own head. When I went to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting, I faced an abrupt awakening. It turns out screenwriting is a very social career. The adage that it’s all about who you know is true. Screenwriters work collaboratively, take frequent meetings, and pitch themselves at every opportunity. I later learned that publishing is similarly social, albeit in different ways. Authors have more solitude during the initial writing process, but are responsible for the lion’s share of promotion. Engaging over social media, giving readings and interviews, and utilizing beta readers are all key.
My kneejerk reaction to all this was “Excuse me? I did not become a writer to talk to people. I became a writer to sit alone in a turret and gaze out the window.” I considered being like Emily Dickinson: hiding all my work in my bedroom, then posthumously becoming one of the most lauded writers of all time. But I had to concede that there is, after all, only one Emily Dickinson.
So I did what I saw other screenwriters doing: I networked. I did drinks with anyone I could in the industry. I attended mixers and workshops for aspiring writers. I joined critique groups. I kept in touch with people I had met, offering to read their work or help in any way I could. Later, when I wrote and published my first novel, I joined writing groups hosted by bookstores and libraries, and discovered the rich community of book lovers on Instagram.
All of these efforts have taken time, and, particularly for an introvert, the social aspects have required energy. But over the years, building a community of writers and readers has become one of the most rewarding parts of my writing life. I’ve learned about the entertainment and publishing industries, gotten invaluable feedback, sold books and scripts, and been hired for writing and teaching jobs. I’ve also found many of my best friends within the writing world. I even met my husband at a networking event.
Building a community and marketing yourself can seem daunting, but there are so many ways to personalize the tasks to your own strengths. I’ve also found writing communities to be incredibly welcoming. Even if you’re an introvert, as a writer, you can and should network! At heart, I am still—and always will be—that girl with her nose in a book. If I can find career and personal fulfillment through networking, anyone can.
Sarah Archer‘s debut novel, The Plus One, was published by Putnam in the US and received a starred review from Booklist. It has also been published in the UK, Germany, and Japan, and is currently in development for television. As a screenwriter, she has developed material for MTV Entertainment, Snapchat, and Comedy Central. Her short stories and poetry have been published in numerous literary magazines, and she has spoken and taught writing to groups in several states and countries. She is also a co-host of the award-winning Charlotte Readers Podcast. Online: at saraharcherwrites.com.
Learn the Networking Ropes with Sarah…and Bring a Friend!
Wednesday, September 6: “Building a Community: Networking for Writers” with Sarah Archer, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Charlotte Lit.
This Class is a “Plus One” — Bring a Friend for Free! In honor of Sarah Archer’s novel, The Plus One — and because some things are easier with a trusted companion — you can bring a “plus one” to this class at no extra cost! Info