Building a Community vs. Networking

Building a Community vs. Networking

Growing up, my father taught me (well, more like drilled into me) that networking is how you get ahead. It’s how you learn and develop professional relationships that will guide you into the position you want to be in. This is not new advice. The internal eye-roll every time any professional says the word “networking” is warranted. You hear the words and cringe. It’s like a friend asking if you want to go on a blind date, or talking to a distant relative who knew you when you when you were an infant. I believe that I’m very good at talking to people and building relationships, but even I get tired of walking into an event for the sake of non-organic mingling. This is why I will be the one to tell you that networking is not what you should be doing. What you should be doing is building your community.

On November 28, 2018, I went with my friend and cohort member Charli Andrews to the Story Studio panel Don’t Move to Brooklyn: Living a Sustainable Writing Life in Chicago. The panel included Michael Moreci, Sarah Hollenbeck, Ines Bellina, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, and moderator Rebecca Makkai. Throughout the panel, each writer gave us their account of how they grew their career. Each person’s journey was so different. Some went through the MFA program right out of undergrad, some waited and went later in life, others found joy in comic book creation because they were tired of the prose form. But each writer, whether they came here from another state, or were born and raised on the west side of Chicago, have found success right here in the city. Instead of solely using the word “networking”, each person talked about community and urged the crowd to go to the various literary events around the city. Not just to seek out ways to get ahead in your professional career, but to find people to grow your craft with. They talked about how they communed with other creatives, and how that helped to push their own craft.

Story Studio Panel at Columbia College Chicago

I’ve talked before about the importance of reading your work around the city in previous blogs, and the panel also advocated for writers to do this. Just by going on stage and reading your work, you’re inviting people into your world. In my own experience from reading around the city, I’ve been asked to participate in two more reading series, and a collaboration project between the intersection of artists and writers, image and text. It’s so strange to me because I remember being a first year in the program and knowing nothing, unsure of how to get this writing thing started. Through the wonderful literary community here at Columbia and around the Chicagoland area, I have learned what works for me by listening to what works for others, and then trying it out for myself. My advice is that even if you aren’t great at getting on stage to read, go to these readings and listen. You’ll be surprised by who you meet just by showing up. I have listed some events to check out with your cohort/friends as well as some local resources for publishing your work, as well as securing possible funding while you are building your craft as a writer.

(P.S. Once you follow these places on social media, you’ll get other lit suggestions!) 

Chi Lit Scene                                                                         Publication/Funding

The Moth                                                                               Chicago Book Review

Live Lit                                                                                   Chicago Reader

Story Studio                                                                          Click hole

Drink and Draw                                                                    The Onion

Women and Children First                                                 Group On

Volumes Bookstore                                                              Union League

Misspoken                                                                              Luminarts Grant

Outspoken (LGBTQ storytelling)                                      DCASE Cultural Grants Program

Young Chicago Authors                                                       Poetry Magazine

Read Some Sh!t                                                                     (Also use submittable)

New SH!t Show

The Poetry Foundation