Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Friendship without pillow fights in your underwear

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of an in-person meeting with talented writers Debra Schubert and Kristina Martin.

Three months ago, I didn’t know either of them existed.

When my agent urged me to join Twitter earlier this year, I read enough books and articles to recognize Twitter as a necessary networking tool for a debut author.

But what I didn’t know is how quickly I’d form friendships that didn’t involve putting anyone in a headlock and demanding they buy my novel.

There were no headlocks last Friday evening. No pillow fights in our underwear, either (I think we’re saving that for next time). It was just a fun chance to connect with two terrific women – one who flew 2,900 miles to get there – for great food, wine, and laughter.
Debra (@dlschubert), me (@tawnafenske),
and Kristina (@quickmissive)

I’ve swapped 140-character notes with them for only a few months, and we’ve already filled each other’s wine glasses and admired each other’s lipstick. And though it was a blast, it reminded me that meeting in-person isn’t a requirement to forging lasting connections in writing communities.

Michelle Wolfson has been my agent for over two years. She’s propped me up after rejections, squealed with me over our shared successes, and coached me through a phone call with an editor in which I was fairly certain I’d either cry, puke, or accidentally spew dirty jokes.

But I’ve never actually met Michelle. Not in person, anyway.

And it’s been six years since I first connected with critique partner Cynthia Reese when we were both unpublished authors on the Harlequin message boards. We’ve worked together through book deals and failures, through good manuscripts and bad ones, through bleak times where we both said, “Screw it, I’m quitting writing to become a lap dancer.”

(OK – maybe that was just me).

And though we’ve shed real tears for each other through both personal crises and writing ones, we’ve never met in person.

I thought of this the other day when I heard an author lamenting the difficulty of finding someone local to critique with. It reminded me how lucky we all are that we have the ability to connect with other writing professionals using only a few mouse-clicks. Lurking online, you can find critique partners and beta readers, build support systems with other authors, even stalk interact professionally with agents.

I can say with absolute certainty you can forge amazing connections even if you never actually meet any of these people in-person.

OK, there is one advantage to the in-person meetings. Check out what Kristina brought me after reading this post I wrote last week:
A backhoe of my very own, courtesy of Kristina! Just like the real thing. Pretty much.
Yeah. My friends kind of rock. How about you? Have you forged any great online relationships with other professionals in the writing world? Tell me in the comments, my fine friends!


Michelle Wolfson said...

We haven't met YET. You forgot the most important part.

Cynthia Reese said...

Good gracious! We've been CPs longer than a lot of folks have been married! And no, you MUST give up, once and for all, this insane notion that you can run off and be a lap dancer. :-)

Linda G. said...

You got me all excited there when you said Cynthia threatened to become a lap dancer. I was just waiting to belt out with a big AH-HA! Shoulda known better. ;)

I think it's wonderful you and Kristina and Debra got to meet up in person. Hope we can do the same one day! (I promise not to serve you lemonade.)

Unknown said...

ha! I know exactly what you mean. My best beta (aka harshest/meanest critic and loudest cheerleader) is someone I met through AW message boards, and even though I haven't met her (YET), I wouldn't trade her for the world! :)

Anonymous said...

Most definitely. I've only been at this for a year now, but I can't even begin to count how many wonderful, supportive people I've met in the writing community.

I'll be attending my first RWA Nationals this summer and I can hardly wait to actually meet some of them in person, although maybe I should worry since online offers anonymity and I've let my um "real" self come out more than once. Okay, so I've shown just how perverted and twisted I am, but they all seem to like it. I think. We'll have to see this summer.

Debra Lynn Lazar said...

An awesome time was definitely had by all. Thanks so much for making that special night a reality.

Michelle: As if you don't already know, you've got a major winner on your hands!


Michelle, you're right -- YET is the key word here! Still hoping for a long NYC layover on some upcoming vacation, but if that doesn't happen, I'm planning to do RWA there in the summer of 2011. We can celebrate the book release together!

Cynthia, you don't think I'd be a good lap dancer?

Linda G, nope, pretty sure I made Cynthia blush with the lap dancer comment. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the day you and I can meet up in NYC and terrorize...er, I mean meet our lovely agent together.

Karla, it really is amazing how well you can learn to work with someone you've never met, isn't it?

danicaavet, I've wondered the same thing -- will Cynthia and Michelle be annoyed with me in about five seconds when we finally do meet? Nah, of course not. I'm charming, right? RIGHT?!

Debra, good times indeed! Let me know where I should send your payment for complimenting me to my agent.

Thanks for reading, guys!

Anne Gallagher said...

What a wonderful post Tawna. It makes me sad that I know I'll probably never meet half the friends I've made online. Lucky lucky you!

Jamie D. said...

Sounds like a wonderful time! And how sweet that you got a little backhoe... LOL

I've made an incredible amount of friends online - fabulous people from all over that I may not have gotten the chance to connect with if not for blogging and twitter. I'm grateful daily for my "virtual buddies".

I haven't met any of my online friends yet - I'm pretty isolated out here in Montana. But I'm hoping I'll eventually get to meet up with some of 'em. I'm hoping to swing the RWA conference next summer as well.

Patrick Alan said...

I haven't met anyone online who wants to be my friend.

Margaret M. Fisk said...

This is a rather timely post for me. I'm flying out to Canada to visit a friend I've only seen two previous times, but we've been friends for years. I have other friends I've never had the chance to meet, and if I take it into my head to do a cross country trip, I can probably find a friend in almost every state...though I don't necessarily keep track of where they live. I definitely fall on the side of lasting friendships that started online and sometimesremain so...even if my in-person friends tease me about it.

Anonymous said...

My hubby frequently asks, "Are you talking to 'real friends' or online ones?" I like to think that you all are both. Just because we haven't met in person, doesn't mean that we're not friends.

PS: Aww, Patrick, I'll be your friend (only because you have a pool and cute kitten pics).


Piedmont Writer, I have hope that I'll eventually meet a lot of the people I meet online. Of course, there are probably some I'm best never meeting! :)

Jamie D, I keep hearing a lot of people say they're doing the RWA conference in NYC next year, which is what I'm planning, too. Have never been to one, but I'm betting that one will be nuts!

Patrick, I will be your friend if you pay me. Know what's funny? I was just talking to a friend who asked, "who is that Patrick guy who comments on your blog? He's always so funny!" I think she looks forward to your comments more than my posts.

Margaret, hope you have a fabulous time in Colorado!

tammygallant.com, I make the "real friends" vs. "online friends" joke sometime myself, but I totally agree -- they can be both.

Thanks for reading, guys!

Claire Dawn said...

Well, you could be a lap dancer, but what would your little cabbage think? lol!

Patrick Alan said...

Tammy! that's why I HAVE a pool!

Tawna, I will pay you in sunshine.

Has your friend seen my pool? I bet they would totally like me more if they saw that! It's not your mom, right? She's probably mad that I haven't made more fart jokes.

Who did you say I was? 'Cause I am a totally fictional blog commentor. Can you believe someone even went as far as creating a blog for me, just to make it seem like someone was commenting on their own blog? I think http://RobinBrande.com is who I really am.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I'm your latest stalker. I mean fan. Anywhosit, you are a freaking riot! Love it!

I completely agree with this post. I don't have any "real" friends who write, or even read for that matter. They're not idiots, just not into the same things I am. My writing friends came from websites and Twitter, and they're an awesome bunch of people. I adore the variety I get in work, and especially love meeting their characters and interacting with them.

Needless to say, I think I've found a new one! Plus, you're an Oregonian which is awesome in my book!


Claire Dawn, my little cabbage must never know about my secret life as a literary lap dancer. Shh!

Patrick, who did I say you were? Geez, where would I even begin? "Lunatic" is the first word that comes to mind. I kinda get stuck after that.

christel42, welcome to the blog! Don't tell any of the non-Oregon blog commenters, but wouldn't you agree that Oregonians rock just a little more than the rest? :)