Strangers in the Night or Why Networking Shouldn’t be a Dirty Word

By Sherry Harris

Sara's latest comes out in October!
Sara’s latest comes out in October!

Once upon a time (2005) Julie Hennrikus was a stranger in the night. Not the kind that creeps in your window when you’re sleeping or the kind that Frank Sinatra sang about but the kind that gets randomly assigned to the same table at a big banquet at Malice Domestic.  Sara Rosett was also at that table, her first book (she’s now published nine books) was coming out and like me she was an Air Force wife and wrote about one too.

First you go to Crime Bake and then you start doing crazy things like singing in front of a large group of strangers!
First you go to Crime Bake and then you start doing crazy things like singing in front of a large group of strangers!

When Julie found out I was moving to Massachusetts that summer and a mere two towns to the west of her at that said, “Here’s my card and contact information. You must join Sisters in Crime and go to Crime Bake.”  So I did. It’s not always easy to walk into a room of strangers but I’ve never regretted taking the plunge. I’ve met fabulous writers through both the New England and Chesapeake Chapters of Sisters in Crime, Malice Domestic, and one of my favorite writing conferences, the Florida International University Writers Conference.  The writers I’ve met have been generous and eager to help.

Jessie Crockett signs a book for me at Malice Domestic
Jessie Crockett signs a book for me at Malice Domestic

Julie and I became friends. Through her and the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime I heard about Seascape Writers Retreat run by Hallie Ephron and Roberta Isleib aka Lucy Burdette. These two pack more learning in to 48 hours than seems possible.  And by attending Seascape I became good friends with Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero and Barbara Ross.

Last year that trio introduced me to Jessie Crockett and they all introduced me to their agent, John Talbot of the Talbot Fortune Agency. I pitched my book to him—alas he wasn’t interested. But a month after Crime Bake Barb gets hold of me. John had contacted her asking if she knew anyone who would be interested in writing a proposal for a yard sale-themed cozy mystery. Barb knew I loved yard sales and asked me. And here I am, seven years after walking into a room full of strangers and meeting Julie, with a contract to write a series for Kensington Publishing.

Do you have to force yourself to get out there? What has happened when you have?

11 Thoughts

  1. Yup–it’s all about random chance–but it’s also about putting yourself in a place where those chances occur. You write about the networking here, Sherry, but it’s also about being ready when opportunity strikes. That novel John Talbot didn’t want, plus all the editing of mysteries you’ve done, plus the familiarity with the environment and mentoring you gained through SinC, Seascape, Crime Bake and Malice prepared you to write that winning proposal when the opportunity came.

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