Do you network? Can you network? Every week I'm trying to keep you posted on my road to publishing my novel. Last night I went to a reading with Jhumpa Lahiri and Mavis Gallant at the Village Voice Bookstore in Paris. Lahiri is one of my favorite living authors, and both of them write extroadinary short stories. Only the addition of Alice Munro could have made it a better night. Lahiri was cool and poised as she explained that 87-year-old Gallant was one of her heroes and the person who inspired her to write the three linked stories in Unaccustomed Earth. She read a section of the first of those stories and Gallant read two beautiful and hilarious pieces that got the entire audience blushing. One of them involved an erotic escapade with the entire English army. It was a great night, and I had the opportunity to give Lahiri a few stuttering compliments.
But, I'm left wondering if there was anything I could do to make a better or bigger impression on Lahiri. After all, I love her writing, and I think we have the same literary goals of creating dramatic and character-based universal stories. Having Lahiri read my book, even if she thought it was bad, would be an incredible experience. And, if she liked it, maybe she would offer a blurb or an introduction to her agent, Eric Simonoff, who is one of my dream agents. (I'm waiting for more feedback on my novel and query before I submit to him.) And yet, I didn't mention any of this to Lahiri. And, maybe I shouldn't have. I'm sure she gets requests like that all the time and they probably drive her bananas. But, a charming person, a witty person, probably could have come up with something that opened doors without being offensive. We all know someone like this, right? The one that just happens to be jogging when she finds Cormac McCarthy's hat and ends up getting invited to hang out with him in his think tank? Or, the one who loves reading about dung beatles and discovers that Don Delillo also loves reading about dung beatles? I've never been good at networking. I avoid large gatherings and I tremble around people I admire. Yet, here I am with a novel, trying to figure out how I can get it published. So, can a shy person learn to network? And, is networking essential to getting that dream blurb or agent or editor? At least I got to see these two amazing writers in person.