Wednesday night I attended the Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association "Magazine Mingle" event at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. I've attended this event several times now. It's grown and changed over the years but the one thing that has stayed the same is that writers, editors, photographers and publishers get a chance to get out for an evening, enjoy some snacks, look at dozens of sample magazine and spend time networking.
Networking can be kind of scary - going up and talking to strangers and all - but at the Mingle everyone is pretty much in the same boat, everyone there wants to make connections. So the night is spent striking up conversations with strangers, handing out business cards, and, hopefully, making connections that will somehow benefit you or the people you meet.
At the event I enjoyed visiting with well-known travel, science and nature journalist, Greg Breining. Greg has written several books, among them Paddle North: Canoeing the Boundary Waters-Quetico Wilderness and A Hard-Water World: Ice Fishing and Why We Do It. I've taken a couple of writing classes from Greg and he's kind enough to give me advice when I email him with writing-related questions. He even sent me an email when he noticed my travel piece on Cannon Falls in the Star Tribune. That's pretty cool!
Other than Greg I chatted at length with a woman who is launching a Twin Cities outdoors magazine and a couple of guys from a car magazine, Rat Rod, who happen to know a Northfield artist that I know (it's a small world, isn't it?), Nick Sinclair.
I met a few other people, too, and had a good time networking. But the best part of the evening was spending time with two of my favorite writers, Joy Riggs and Christine Bernier Lienke, both of Northfield. Not only did we attend the Magazine Mingle together, we rewarded our night of networking by going out for dinner afterwards at the very cool downtown wine bar and restaurant, Spill the Wine. We didn't spill any wine that evening (and if we did, I wouldn't tell) but the night out was great fun and a good reminder of what a little networking can do.
Because, you see, I actually met Joy and Chris through networking - if I recall correctly I knew Joy was a writer and introduced myself to her at a Northfield Youth Choirs event. I was so scared to just walk up to her and say "Hi, I'm Myrna and I'm a writer and I know you are a writer too and do you want to have coffee sometime? Because I'd really like to connect to other writers in town." But that's what I did. Well, that's not exactly what I said but it's probably very close. And through Joy I met Chris and we, along with another writer friend, Amy Boxrud who is now the editor of Viking Magazine, started meeting for writers' coffees. And from meeting over work we all ended up being friends.
Yeah, networking can pay off big time. It can help you with your career and sometimes you get friends out of the deal. So take a chance and introduce yourself to someone. It may feel awkward or seem scary but you never know where one "hello" will take you.