Tag Archives: advice

You Will Work in This Town Again

Jeff VanderMeer has a great post up on why no one should put up with harassment from “big names”, no matter what they say about advancing your career if you tolerate them or hindering your career if you don’t. I want to add something personal to that–not about harassment, though I’m tremendously glad that it’s being talked about and deprecated this way, but about genre career trajectories in general.

When I was a high school student, I interned for a major SF/F imprint. If I named them, you’d know them. My high school had a great internship program and many of the other people who interned for this imprint went on to work for them during and after college. It was expected that this would be my first step on a smooth path to a predictable career. Instead, I pissed off an editor and got fired.

I want to let that sink in a moment. This was my big break! My golden opportunity! And I got fired. Summarily canned. My internship advisor refused to stand up for me, which I still resent, but I expect she was in shock; people who entered that internship program didn’t get fired. Certainly not smart people with bright prospects, like me. This reinforced my perception that this was a Really Big Deal.

I was absolutely certain that I would never work in the field again.

I knew just how much people talk to one another in genre circles, because I’d grown up hearing endless gossip about authors and editors and publishers. I’d read fanzines. I’d heard stories of conventions. My immediate assumption was that one angry influential person would spread the word far and wide and make sure I never got my foot in another door. I set aside my dreams of being my generation’s Terry Carr, and I went off to college and majored in computer science and mathematics because there was no point to even bothering to major in something like English or publishing. I was through. My tiny little career had been squashed before it ever had a chance to grow up.

In case it isn’t obvious, I was completely wrong. Not only did I end up working in this town again (via a hilariously circuitous route), I occupy a moderately prominent place in it. I’m even on passably cordial terms with the editor who fired me. Looking back, I suspect it never occurred to that editor to badmouth me beyond maybe a few grumbles to friends; I was only that terrible and that important in my own head, the mindset that I’ve heard described as “the turd at the center of the universe”. To the rest of the industry I was a blip, a little stone that sank instead of skipping merrily across the pond. While I was bemoaning the death of my dreams, they got another intern and life went on precisely as usual.

So the next time you annoy someone in the industry, as you inevitably will because we’re all imperfect people and we all get on one another’s nerves sometimes, don’t panic. Our incestuous clan has tolerated and even welcomed a great many people whose behavior should earn them nothing except epic quantities of side-eye. You have vanishingly small odds of being the very first person to make the entire genre publishing world so angry that it closes ranks against you. This isn’t license to be an unrepentant, unremitting jerk–asinine behavior is generally neither enjoyable nor practical, and while no one is entitled to threaten you, people are quite entitled to individually decide they don’t want to work or play with you–but it is certainly license to take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and not let yourself see disaster in every personality clash.

If that perspective gives you the courage to stand up to ludicrous claims that any one person can make or break your career, so much the better. The only person who can make or break your career is you. And if this town is the one you should be working in–as it is and always was for me, even when I had given up–then you may find your career is rather less breakable than you thought.

In Praise of the Wacky and Weird

Evan Gregory writes a great post that could be hashtagged #YesWeirdBooks, since it recaps many of the topics covered in #YesGayYA from a slightly different angle:

I don’t believe that there’s any special talent editors or agents possess that make them any better in their role as taste-makers than your average reader.  The decisions they make about which books to keep and which books to toss, are similar to the type of decisions shoppers make at bookstores every day.  No one likes to be bored, and editors and agents are no exception.  The one thing that differentiates them from other readers is the surrounding cultural influences of the industry itself, and the narratives constructed around the successes or failures of the books they publish.  While publishers like to think they’re giving their customers what they want, in truth it is a publishing professional’s preconceived notions about what a commercial book should look like that most influences what readers end up with.

(emphasis mine)

U.K. critic Graham Sleight was in New York this week, and I had the pleasure of hanging out with him and discussing the state of SF publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. At one point he noted wistfully that most publishers seem very averse to risk-taking right now, to the detriment of both authors and readers. As Gregory notes, readers are likewise not straying far from their comfortable niches. I could name quite a few authors who are consistently beloved by reviewers and ignored by all but a core group of readers, in both cases because they dare to diverge from formula.

I definitely support Gregory’s plea for both publishers and readers to “get their sense of adventure back” and tackle at least one or two weird, boundary-busting, genre-defying, expectation-upending books a year. Now is a great time to start, with All Hallow’s Read coming up; take both challenges at once with a book that’s both unusual and scary! Or expand your comfort zone with a book that provides some variation on a familiar theme: romantic suspense if you’re a thriller fan, perhaps, or historical fiction if you enjoy narrative nonfiction. Conveniently, PW‘s editors are about to start the lead-up to the Best Books of the Year, with daily posts on our PWxyz blog recommending some of this year’s top 100 books. (I believe my post is going up on Thursday.) Take a look at those posts and see whether something catches your eye that you might otherwise have passed up or never heard of at all.

My SF/F/H shortlist this year is definitely heavy on the weird and unexpected, because those are the books that made me sit up and say “WOW”. It’s so easy to read the same thing over and over, especially in genre fiction–and it is so rewarding to get out of that rut and find something genuinely exciting and new. I encourage you to try it.

Look, Just Subscribe to FILM CRIT HULK’s Blog Already

It would get kind of boring if I linked to every brilliant thing that FILM CRIT HULK puts up, so I don’t, but I really have to single out this snarky, brutal, and deliciously smart deconstruction of the hero’s journey and the ways it’s frequently misunderstood and misused. If you write fiction of any kind, go read that post. Oddly, I came away from it wanting to write a Campbellian hero’s journey story… but wanting to do it well, and feeling better equipped to do that than I was 15 minutes ago.

And since I’m here, I will urge you all again to go read HULK’s piece on the myth of the three-act structure. Again, this post is completely applicable to fiction writing. I literally cannot recall the last movie I saw in the theater; plays and television likewise hold little interest for me. But the book/script distinction is irrelevant when we’re discussing these truly basic bones of story, so if you have any prejudices of that sort, chuck ‘em and go read those posts.

Oh, and when HULK says to watch a video of Trey Parker and Matt Stone talking about how to build a compelling story, do take two minutes to watch it. In fact, take one minute, because the good part starts at 0:53.

In Threes

Good things come in threes! Have some good writing advice:

  1. Kelley Eskridge: “Today I am thinking about exposition and voice. There is the voice of the character, and the deeper voice of the writer: if you spend time with the pieces I’m writing every day, I am sure you will notice certain patterns of my writer’s voice, especially since they are not yet smoothed fully into effective stories. But today I am thinking about character voice as a tool for, well, everything.”
  2. David Hines: “When I’m reading, I often play a game called, ‘Who the fuck are these people, and why the fuck do I care?’ The term ‘game’ is something of a misnomer, because it’s not conscious, or hasn’t been until I noticed my brain was doing something and tried to figure out just what that something was. It actually happens pretty deeply, on an instinctual level. ‘Who the fuck are these people, and why the fuck do I care?’ is the best name I’ve come up with to describe what’s happening, and the reason I came up with it is that a while back I realized that I’ve been playing this game when I find that a story has made me confused, or angry, or really fucking bored.”
  3. FILM CRIT HULK: “THE ACT BREAK CAN BE NEW AND INTERESTING PLOT POINT, A POIGNANT CHARACTER DECISION, A PERSONALITY REVEAL, TWO PREVIOUSLY UN-MET CHARACTERS BECOMING FRIENDS, OR EVEN, IF HANDLED CORRECTLY, SOMETHING AS INSIPID AS ‘NO! THE BAD GUYS ARE HERE! RUN!’ … IT CAN  BE ANYTHING AS LONG AS IT HAVE CHANGING NARRATIVE VALUE. THE CHARACTERS ALWAYS HAVE MOVE FORWARD IN SOME NEW REALITY/SITUATION. THE TRUE END OF ACT CREATE PROPULSION. WITH THIS DEFINITION, IT MEAN FILM CAN HAVE ANY NUMBER OF ACTS DEPENDING ON WHAT TRYING TO SAY/DO.”

(Hat-tip to Harry Connolly for the first two links.)

I realize FILM CRIT HULK’s style may not be for everyone, but trust me, if you write stories of any kind and especially if you have ever tried to write in the “classic” three-act structure, go read that post.

Unfortunately, bad things come in threes too. These bloggers explain how not to write:

  1. Shweta Narayan on “The Green Reich”: “So, Star*Line published yet another majorly racefailtastic thing, this time with extra added homophobia, transphobia, and pick-your-bigotry. And that’s the fourth in what, a year? (ETA: more like two years, my bad, the illness has screwed with my time sense. Still not good.) Of course, there’s been the predictable ‘but you’re CENSORING the poor wee bigot by OBJECTING!’ rhetoric. Again. And, of course, if only a few people speak up, they don’t count and nobody’s really objecting, but if multiple people speak up, then they’re a mob. Again. There is simply no original thought involved in the pro-bigotry rhetoric here.”
  2. badparsiqueer on the Dresden Files: “Did you walk along 53rd St and decide that this was ‘the worst a large city had to offer’? What made you think that? Was it the Starbucks on the corner? Or the farmers market that happens every Thursday morning in the summer? The Aveda salon? Treasure Island, the expensive ‘European food market’? Or was it the back door Latino club that sells empenadas and Latinoamericano magazines out of the back door every afternoon? The smoke shop with the cheap weaves on Styrofoam heads in the window? The crappy Mexican food shop that sells huge burritos for a buck? The 24 hour cheap grocery by the bus stop, where I bought my yogurt from because I couldn’t afford to shell out 5 dollars on fucking yogurt? Was it the Black people, Jim Butcher? Did they make you feel unsafe?”
  3. moniquill on “Household Spirits”: “STORIES LIKE THIS HURT ME. They hurt PEOPLE LIKE ME. The especially hurt CHILDEN LIKE ME. They hurt me because they are part of a cultural narrative that erases the reality of my existence. That claims that This is what NDNs were and Now they Are Gone isn’t it Sad? But if our good readers had been there, OH IF ONLY THEY HAD BEEN THERE, they would have been some of the Good White People and would have Joined The Natives. Yes they would. Which neatly absolves them from having to think about the fact that their ancestors didn’t and the lasting ramifications that has on native people living today. Everyone weeps cathartic tears and insistst that they’d have helped the Na’vi fight to keep out the unobtamium miners, but precious few of them then go home and help the REAL FUCKING LIVE Dineh (Navajo, to those playing the white name game) fight the uranium miners TODAY in the REAL WORLD. And why should they? The story already absolved them.”

For extra credit, compare Jim Butcher’s outraged response to #2 with the apologies from Strange Horizons and C.S.E. Cooney in response to #3, and identify which should be filed under “how to” and which under “how not to”.

Advice for Young Writers and Editors, Part II

As I have mentioned here occasionally, I mentor teenagers at my high school alma mater* who write, edit, and publish Tapestry, the SF/F magazine I worked on when I was there (lo these nearly 20 years ago). They just sent me the latest issue, which has gorgeous cover art–art folks, keep the name Esther Wu in the back of your mind, because she’s going places–and the usual excellent crop of stories, poems, and articles.

One of the articles explains that they couldn’t ask Neil Gaiman and Suzanne Collins how they deal with writer’s block, so they asked their English teachers instead. No disrespect to those teachers, of course, but my immediate thought was, “Well, I can’t ask Neil Gaiman** or Suzanne Collins either, but I know lots and lots of professional SF, fantasy, and horror writers I could ask!”

So if you would, please tell me in comments how you get past writer’s block, and then encourage your friends who are writers to chime in. I’ll forward your replies to the Tapestry team. And if you happen to have a direct line to Neil or Suzanne and they happen to have a bit of free time to help out some teenagers who are completely devoted to SF/F and the written word, I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing from them too.

* I always feel weird saying “at my alma mater” but “at my mater” and “at alma mater” feels even weirder.

** I have a bet with myself about how long I can go without meeting Neil Gaiman. I saw him at Balticon in 2006–along with Peter S. Beagle and Gene Wolfe; I can only assume the concom robbed a bank or something–and we’ve occasionally tweeted at each other, but we’ve yet to be introduced in person. There are dozens of people who know us both and could introduce us, so the longer this continues, the funnier it will get. I’m counting from my April 2007 start date at PW and aiming for at least ten years.

A Culture of Crooks

I feel like everything I read about publishing lately is about someone feeling cheated or fearing a scam. Readers feel ripped off by book prices and limited availability. Publishers are furious about (and terrified by) book piracy, and worried that outside companies like Amazon and Google are making serious efforts to set publishing policy. Agents exist because so many publishers have tried to rip off writers. Preditors & Editors exists for the same reason, as well as because so many agents have also tried to rip off writers. And now writers are saying they’re willing to sign exceedingly dodgy contracts because they need money to pay off the educational institutions that have bilked them for thousands, which is like selling an arm to one loan shark so you can buy back your leg from another. It reminds me of growing up in 1980s Manhattan, when we all had sore necks from constantly looking over our shoulders.

The latest story is New York Magazine‘s exposé of James Frey’s new business venture. Three authors with big online platforms have taken Frey to task for soliciting MFA students and offering them what appears to be a really terrible contract in exchange for a shot at fame. All three also have some excellent (and unsurprisingly overlapping) advice for new writers who might think such a contract offers them anything resembling a good deal.

John Scalzi: “Write your story, get an agent, and sell your work with your own name on it and all your rights to the work intact. It may take more time, but it will be worth it.”

Maureen Johnson: “Don’t sign things you don’t understand…. Seek good counsel and listen to that counsel. Things that look too good to be true usually are, and uncredited projects with shady paperwork… well, those things don’t generally end well.”

Sarah Rees Brennan: “Write what you want. Inform yourself as fully as you can. Listen to criticism. Follow the three steps, unless you have a good reason not to. (Write book! Get agent! Get editor.)”

(All three posts are definitely worth reading in full.)

Scalzi and Johnson have some particularly harsh words about MFA programs that don’t educate their students in the business of writing. Johnson, who has an MFA from the same Columbia program that Frey is trolling for writers, says flatly, “If you don’t offer your students a class or seminar in the business of writing, you should be ashamed.” Scalzi dedicates an entire separate post to his open letter, half of which is aimed at MFA program administrators (“Now, perhaps you are saying, ‘We focus on the art of writing, not the business.’ My answer to that is, please, pull your head out.”) and half at students (“You know what, your belief in your intelligence and your cleverness and your writing ability as a proxy for knowing everything you need to know about the world is exactly what’s going to get you screwed.”).

It seems unlikely that Frey will ever read these posts, or that Columbia’s MFA program administrators are frantically searching their alumni directory for Maureen Johnson’s number so they can call her and apologize for not having business classes. Aspiring writers might see them and become a little more business-savvy and skeptical; that’s certainly no bad thing. But I feel this opens up a larger question: How can the system of publishing–which does include educational programs for writers, something that’s often overlooked–be improved so it’s less of a haven for the unscrupulous?

As I said, I grew up in famously grimy and scary 1980s Manhattan. Now I live in 2010s Manhattan, which is about as clean and safe as it’s ever been. If New York could bring down crime rates, maybe publishing–my other home, in some very real ways–can too. This community should be a pleasant place where people want to settle down (or at least visit for weekends and summers), not a gritty, dangerous industry where we all earn little more than pennies and clutch them constantly for fear of pickpockets.

I’ve seen tremendous collaboration and caring in publishing; I know it’s possible to be kind and honest without being a target or a failure, and to spread the word about good, responsible businesspeople without falling into the trap of cronyism. So what concrete steps can we take to get there? In addition to reactive measures like listing crooks on Preditors & Editors and sending DMCA takedowns to piracy sites, what proactive measures will help to build a culture of trust and trustworthiness? And what’s already being done on the preventive and educational side–like writers’ organizations keeping lists of publishers in good standing, and providing writers with boilerplate contracts–that can be better publicized?

Stories are so important. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many people trying to steal them. As creators and promoters and consumers of stories, it’s our responsibility to keep them safe and treat them with at least a modicum of respect. We owe at least that much to ourselves, too. Let’s get this place cleaned up.

Early Morning Cuppa

Erick, a barista at my local coffee shop, the Indian Road Cafe, hasn’t read a science fiction or fantasy book in so long he can’t remember the last one he read.  I can think of several genre novels that celebrate the love of coffee, which he might appreciate.  Perhaps Genreville’s readers can help with more.

Erick at The Indian Road Cafe

Erick at The Indian Road Cafe

Firstly, there’s the Callahan’s Place/Mary’s Place/The Place books by Spider Robinson, which include loving descriptions of Irish coffee, and eventually a machine–referred to as The Machine–that quick roasts, brews, doctors, and serves coffee according to an individual’s preferences.  Personally, I like the concept of coffee as a form of alchemy, so separating myself from the brewing process is not my goal.  But a machine like the one in those books would be appreciated on groggy mornings.

Larry Niven also wrote a love note to the powers of Irish coffee in Playgrounds of the Mind.  He contests that it’s the ultimate beverage: it wakes you up and unlocks your inhibitions at the same time.  Far preferable to the bane of good taste, the Red Bull and vodka cocktails that are served in clubs these days.  The Niven & Pournelle novel The Mote in God’s Eye features “helpful” aliens who modify a coffee maker to remove unwanted oils from the brew.

Representing fantasy is Steven Brust, whose anti-hero Vlad Taltos is a fiend for a drink called klava, which appears to be based on “Hungarian egg coffee” or very milky coffee made in a French press with some vanilla.  Brust’s elaborate descriptions of making the beverage fit my idea of coffee alchemy, which involves artistry and an intimate connection between the person and the process.

What are your favorite genre novels that include discussion of coffee?

Flying Cars, Hoverboards, and Food Pills of the Future

Rose’s upcoming project, The Wonderful Future that Never Was has me thinking about how often I see people remarking that “we live in the future”.  We have pocket computers that have more processing power than large desktops did 10 years ago.  Electronic editions of books might eventually become more popular than print editions.   Spaceflight is unremarkable and GPS units are commonplace.

For many of us, this is what living in the future looks like.  Authors like Robert Heinlein and Arthur Clarke took pokes at predicting the future in their fiction.  Although Clarke was arguably a better prognosticator, they both made a conscious effort.

Where are the authors today who’re predicting our future?  Charlie Stross looks like a strong contender.  His book, Halting State, talks about Massively Multi-player Online Role-playing Games  (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft, where there are actual virtual economies, and drawing a speculative line from EVE Online’s virtual banking scandal, Stross used a bank heist in an online bank as a plot device.  William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Spook Country are also near future novels, and both take plausible technology that does not currently exist in large scale, and use it as a plot device by expanding its scope.

But what, readers, do you think someone born today would be talking about when they say, like I sometimes do, “I am living in the future”?  Who are authors that should be followed for more predictions?

More Book Recs: Diverse Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy

Reader A.A. asks:

Is there a chance that you could highlight multicultural UF or Paranormal Romance? A lot of the heroes and heroines I read are pretty white-bread, and I feel like there’s got to be more out there that I’m missing. Nalini Singh and Meljean Brooke tend to have diverse casts (and mixed race couples semi-frequently, something completely neglected by the cover artists, to my unsurprised frustration). I know of the Mercy Thompson (Patricia Briggs) series and the Jane Yellowrock (Faith Hunter) series as well. The Allie Beckstrom (Devon Monk) books have a mixed-race main couple, but the heroine is (by all appearances) white. Much to my shame, I seem to completely miss African-American writers/heroes/heroines in F/SF overall, so I know I must be missing them in UF/ParaRom as well. Anyway, I’d love to have more good non-white-centric UF/ParaRom pointed out to me (and I’m sure I’m not the only one!), and you must see some of it cross your desk.

There’s not as much of it as I’d like to see, but it’s out there! Alaya Johnson’s Moonshine and Terrance Taylor’s Bite Marks and Blood Pressure have a lot of fun with non-white supernatural entities in historical New York. I’ve heard great things about L.A. Banks’s Vampire Huntress books (and their emphatically non-whitewashed covers; kudos to St. Martin’s). S.J. Day’s urban fantasy Eve series has a Japanese-American protagonist. Jane Lindskold’s Thirteen Orphans et seq. are Chinese-influenced UF, and Eileen Rendahl’s Don’t Kill the Messenger is Chinese-influenced PR. Mario Acevedo’s Felix Gomez and Marta Acosta’s Milagro de Los Santos are Hispanic vampires, and Laura Anne Gilman’s Hard Magic et seq. feature Hispanic forensic magician Bonita Torres (who first appeared in the Retrievers series). Charles de Lint, the original urban fantasist, has a ton of Native American characters.

Some other resources for you: Dear Author has a post of multicultural romance recs that includes lots of paranormal romance; search the comments for “paranormal” or “PR”. It’s from a year ago, so most of what’s recommended there should still be findable in stores or online. This great essay on race in urban fantasy gets lots of recs and some disrecs from readers, and it was republished on Racialicious to even more comments.

O Genreville readers, you were so awesome with suggestions for my young friend. (She says, “After reading that post I don’t think I’ll ever run out of books!”) So I turn to you once again: Got any recommendations for A.A.?

Ye Olde Teen Genre Recommendation Post

Rose and I have a teen friend who is blown away by the Weis and Hickman Dragonlance books.  Not that they’re bad, but we were thinking of sending her some of the even more amazing epic fantasy out there.  I immediately thought of Gaiman’s American Gods (which is set in the contemporary world mostly, but I’d argue is still epic) and N.K. Jemisin’s Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  Rose suggested Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword.

We agree that we should warm her up a bit before getting her into Daniel Abraham or George R.R. Martin  but what other books might you recommend for someone who’s stuck on Dragonlance?

Advice for Young Writers and Editors

In the fall of 1990, I entered 7th grade at Hunter College High School and immediately began attending the meetings of Tapestry, a student SF/F magazine. Yes, I know how lucky I was that such a thing existed! I hung out and made some friends (two of whom went on to work for Tor, one of whom was an editor at Del Rey for a while, and one of whom is a professor specializing in the study of fairy tales) and eventually became nonfiction editor (in charge of book reviews; raise your hand if you’re surprised) and learned a bit about the business of publishing magazines and generally had a good time.

Twenty years later, one of my PW reviewers became a full-time teacher at HCHS and learned that two of her students were involved with Tapestry. She mentioned to them that an alum was now in charge of SF/F/H reviews at PW and they kindly contacted me and invited me to come by as a guest speaker. Of course I was totally thrilled to do so. Who doesn’t dream of going back to their high school as an Authority Figure?

So I showed up, and handed out some ARCs, and talked about how to get into the business of editing and writing, and mentioned some of my more lurid teen escapades–I was such a delinquent!–and had a really wonderful time. My heartfelt thanks to editor-in-chief Kily Wong and everyone else on the staff for inviting me, listening respectfully, feeding me brownies, asking great questions, and melting my heart by telling me that you’re starting a lending library with the ARCs I brought. You guys are awesome, and you’re all welcome to email me for mentoring, advice, or gossip anytime.

I said I would put up a blog post listing all the resources I named while I was there plus a few more I thought of later. This is that post! Without further ado:

Advice

For becoming an editor: network network network. Get to know the people you want to work with and for. Read their blogs and comment intelligently. If possible, study with editors you admire; at the very least, take some Mediabistro classes or something. Most importantly, practice every chance you get. Work for free to start your resume, and then get away from working for free as quickly as possible. Be prepared to jump at any opportunity, and to go with the flow of an unconventional career path if it will get you where you want to be.

For becoming a writer: write write write. Write a million words of crap and dig through them to find your unique voice. Expect it to take ten years from the first time you start seriously writing to the first time you write something really worth reading–so the sooner you start seriously writing, the sooner you will get to be a good writer. Read widely! The more you to do to break yourself out of your comfort zones, the better your writing will be. Workshop your writing with writers who are better than you are, and learn to check your ego at the door. And always demand a fair pay rate (video, some NSFW language), remember that money flows to the writer, and watch out for scammers.

For anyone (and I am very sorry I didn’t think to say this at the meeting): TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY. Your body is your livelihood. Your hands and arms, your eyes, your voice, and your ability to sit in a chair are all absolutely crucial to working with words. Justine Larbalestier writes very eloquently about this.

No one asked me about becoming a professional critic. I guess it doesn’t get much press as a possible career path.

Offline networking hotspots

The KGB Fantastic Fiction readings (yes, they take place in a bar, but I’m pretty sure anyone can attend; if you’re under 21 and want to go, please contact me and I will either serve as your attached Responsible Adult or find someone else to do so)

The New York Review of Science Fiction readings (in a more explicitly all-ages venue) (note that the information on that page is out of date and the readings now take place at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art, 138 Sullivan Street)

Conventions! But always remember that the people you want to meet are people. It’s never a good idea to introduce yourself as “Hi, I wrote this book”. Better opening lines: “I love your work and here’s why!” “I loved what you said on that panel and here’s why!” “I totally disagree with you on this and here’s why!” As with blog comments, it’s better to say a few interesting things than a lot of foolish things, and a little respectful listening goes a long way. And on the flip side of that, don’t be shy or afraid around someone who happens to be a Big Name; we’re all human and glad to make connections with nifty people. If you feel you need an introduction to someone, tell them Rose Fox said you should introduce yourself.


If any pros reading this want to chime in with suggestions, please do! In return, let me urge you to get in touch with people at your high school or college and offer to come back to give a talk. Schools love this, students love this, and there’s always the chance of getting a really good mentoring relationship out of it. In my personal opinion, mentoring is one of the best things ever. I realize that not everyone shares my absolute love of smart, sassy teenagers, but what could be more fun than sharing your hard-earned wisdom with someone who’s sharp and eager to learn? It’s also a great way to expand your own worldview and your community. If you have that opportunity, I recommend you take it without hesitation.