Thanks very much to David Roderick, who helped us out the last ten days with many, many questions...
We've all heard that being good isn't good enough. You need to be good *and* know people, unfortunately. I was wondering if you could make a post about....da da dum...networking. I'm personally terrified that I have the networking skills of an ox, and my program seems more focused on writing well than making me new friends. How do I go about making contacts, especially outside of my MFA program? Just how important is it, and is it any more important in poetry than fiction? I mean, for example, how important are "contacts" in being accepted to Stegner or Provincetown? Those are the kinds of places you meet contacts, but I dont know if they're already a prerequisite. I'm in poetry, so if David is still answering questions, you also could pass this one along to him.
Dear Neurotic Ox,
I happen to be someone who believes that being good IS good enough. If your poetry or fiction is interesting, inventive, and daring, then you certiainly won't need cronies to publish a book or win a fellowship. And I'm glad that your program shares my attitude, because it's the right attitude. To worry about networking is a waste of energy you could pour into your writing.
Obviously the truth is that the po-biz, or the writing community (or whatever you want to call it), functions much like the real world. One only has to visit the FOETRY site to catch a whiff of the nepotism that until recently has operated beneath the surface of the poetry publishing world. Some writers gain favors from friends and former teachers.
But so what? This has nothing to do with your work. Instead of worrying about things that are beyond your control, focus on your writing: metaphor, voice, structure, characterizations, line breaks. Write the best damned stories and poems that you can. Then, when you're good enough to publish a book or earn a fellowship, you'll enjoy the deep pleasure of knowing that you earned those accolades on your own.
Good luck to you.