I had an interesting, almost-useful experience in “networking” back when the Internet was very young and when networking had little or nothing to do with computers and more to do with making social contacts. (Sort of like the “social marketing” phase the Internet is going through right now.)
I was working on an M.A. in history at Missouri State University (Southwest Missouri State University then) and I was on campus doing something at the library on a Saturday afternoon. I happened to run into one of the other nontraditional (i.e., older adult) students I’d shared a class with the semester before. She recognized me and stopped to say hello. We chatted a couple of minutes and I made mention that I was working on a mystery novel manuscript.
“Oh, yeah? That’s neat,” she said. (I’m paraphrasing all this conversation from memory. Bear with me.)
“Yeah, well, I guess. I haven’t gotten far with it yet,” I said.
“Hey, when you get it done, if you want, maybe I could ask my friend Uncle Jimmy to look at it?”
Having made several false starts on novels over the years, and having frequently gotten offers from friends and their family members to look at what I’ve written, I tried to be gracious about it.
“Oh, yeah. That’s be nice,” I said (or something like that). “Uh, so who’s Uncle Jimmy.”
She smiled. “Well, he’s not really an uncle. He’s a longtime friend of the family and I used to ride horses at his ranch when I was a kid and we visited. He’s really a nice guy. And Jimmy’s had a few novels published, so maybe he could help.”
Now she had my attention. “Uh, sure. That’d be great,” I said. “So just who is Uncle Jimmy anyway?”
“His name is really James Lee Burke, but we all just call him Uncle Jimmy,” she said. “Hey, anyway, good to see you. Keep in touch.”
With that, the woman smiled and walked away. I was too surprised to say anything. I didn’t even think to get her phone number or any other contact information.
All I remember now, probably 10 years later, is that her first name was Linda and I THINK she lived and taught high school in or near Crane, Missouri.
Moral of the story: You never really know when you meet someone just who they might know and how that might fit into YOUR career/writing plans. It pays to 1) make lots of friends, and, 2) be open to lots of possibilities as a writer.
Meanwhile, Linda, if you should happen to be reading this, I apologize for not paying attention. I still haven’t finished that novel, but it would be wonderful to keep in touch with you and Uncle Jimmy, just in case …