Networking for Writers with Amit Chaudhuri and Andrew Taylor

Nottingham Writers’ Studio

 

Networking.

If you’re a writer, or even any kind of artist for that matter, the odds are that that word just made you break out into a cold sweat.

I think we all want to act like we’re above it, privately hoping that the quality of our work will allow it to stand out from the crowd without any additional input or work on our part. But we know that isn’t true. The sobering reality of being an artist is that we must all come to terms with is that the majority of us will never make a real living form it.

I can’t eat exposure. The joy of creation won’t keep the heating on.

I’m bad at networking. I can’t talk to strangers without feeling a bundle of nerves in my stomach. Hell, some days I can’t talk to friends without feeling that. Also I have a handshake so weak it can easily be mistaken for a rope made of polystyrene. As a broke undergraduate student, I have literally nothing to offer anyone in a professional capacity.  I need to get better at it.

So it makes sense for me to finish up my week with an event about the importance of networking, led by Amit Chaudhuri and Andrew Taylor. What can I say? I never claimed to be anything but mercenary.

Actually the content of the event covers much more than that pragmatic approach.  Networking isn’t so much about making industry ties for writers, as it is about building support networks for writers. Both Chaudhuri and Taylor talk about the support they have had over the years, from old lecturers to academic colleagues.

It’s fitting that the event takes place in the basement of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio. People find networks within networks, and the studio is a great place for budding writers to put out feelers, get feedback and learn new things. Someone points out how nice it is that it’s right in the city centre, and rather tricky to miss if you’re going past it.

If there’s one thing I hope you’ve gotten from this blog it’s that Nottingham is a city that has earnt the title of being a city of literature. There are networks for everyone that anyone can slot into. Writers have a wonderful tendency to build each other up, with criticism and praise and support.

After this, Chaudhuri and Taylor discuss the changing language of literature, namely how critical language has largely been co-opted by the publishing industry. Think about the last time you heard a book described as a masterpiece. Do you think it actually applied, or do you think that the publisher decided that the book would sell well and wanted to add to that?

Chaudhuri in particular talks about the tendency of writers to have a ‘checklist’. Even when the work we’re creating isn’t finished, we’re considering how to sell it, what agent to pick, which publishers to send it to, how much to circulate to our followers. Before that, we’re wondering if what we’re making will actually sell. Chaudhuri cited one of the first things he ever had published, an English language novella, which are noticeably less popular in a lot of markets.

This is all well and good, but as we’ve established, most of us will never make a living off of this. If you’re not writing for yourself, what’s the point? Taylor points out that as a poet, he’ll never get the readership of other genres. The fact that anyone is reading his stuff at all is enough.

He seems quite OK with that.

I like to think that I would be OK with that too. But to get even to that point, I’m going to keep on with the whole networking thing. Even if it is a pain.

Author The Audience

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