Tuesday, October 14, 2008

... Into Square Holes

Many years spent as a prisoner of corporate thinking and faking brought me to despise networking. Not just the act of networking, not just networking per se, but even the term, net-working, working the net. It always reminded me of disgusting spiders scuttling across their own nets, ready to eat stuck victims alive. As it turns out, I am not too far from reality, for networking in my own life always meant observing from the sidelines as weasels would make friends over supper only to plant knifes into their respective backs as the occasion called for.

Mind you, it was natural, expected, even normal if you will. I understood early on that that was the essence of networking; getting to meet people in order to use them and discard them like unsavoury chewed gums. And so I did not network, I limited myself to making friends. The people I could not stand never became friends, the ones that were scattered along my path like rare precious stones were quickly saved up and safely stored. This networking business however seems unavoidable and has returned to bite my vast bottom in more ways than one. My career advisor mentions it ceaselessly, I talk about it with a few trusted friends and I am worried that I too will have to turn myself into a hairy, fat spider with eight eyes who works the net.

Take this afternoon for example, when a perfectly acceptable talk at the Knutsford Literary Festival was again foiled by networking. I went to listen to Poppy Adams of The Behaviour of Moths fame. She said that once she finished the novel she started submitting it to agents but very quickly realised that there was no luck to be had. So she began working her network and asked all of her contacts whether any of them worked in publishing or knew an agent or publisher or knew someone who knew... etc... etc... You get the drill. Fast forward to the present day and Poppy has a very interesting book out for readers' consumption. What would have happened to her novel had she not worked the net? Would have agents continued to reject her? Paul, who once suggested me to generate some scandal around my life in order to get an agent, says yes, without a doubt.

I returned home to a rejection letter to my spec query. This agent calls my work a novel, except I explicitly describe it as a lifestyle narrative non-fiction offering which, for the uninitiated among yourselves, does not mean novel. I filed the letter away with the rest of them, pursing my lips and thinking, for a change. But do contacts that work in publishing grow on trees? I am gonna have to find out.
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