by Mindy McGinnis
Present Mindy sometimes gets really frustrated with Past Mindy, because Past Mindy was kind of an ass. You know the type—convinced of their genius, confident they're the next big thing, ready to knock over old ladies and eat puppies if that's what it takes.
Except I would never eat a puppy.
In any case, Past Mindy made a big mistake—she was only interested in people above her in the pecking order, people that could actually get her places. Past Mindy wasn't interested in joining writers' communities and hob-nobbing with people on the same level as her. Why would she be? They can't help. They aren't in positions of power.
This is part of the reason Past Mindy was never published.
Present Mindy realized after ten years of rejection that maybe she wasn't so awesome (130 form rejections on a single manuscript had a hand in that) and decided that maybe it wouldn't hurt to talk to some of the other people hanging out in the query trenches, and see what they had to say about the whole experience. And maybe even (gasp!) ask some of them for some feedback on her writing.
That was kind of a smart move. Present Mindy learned from the best. Then unpublished author Sophie Perinot (The Sister Queens) pointed out that I had no idea how to actually write a query. Fellow YA Query Hell residents R.C. Lewis (Stitching Snow, Hyperion, 2014) and MarcyKate Connolly (Monstrous, HarperCollins Children's, 2015) gave Present Mindy fantastic feedback on quite a few manuscripts, even convincing her after a few years (yes, really—Past Mindy does sometimes resurface) that a particular novel would actually read much better written in present tense. They were right, dammit.
Not only have fellow published authors helped me mold my writing, but other connections have opened pathways that wouldn't have existed otherwise. Knowing fellow FTWAer Matt Sinclair has given me an outlet for my short stories through the independent Elephant's Bookshelf Press. I've got the anchor short in Spring Fevers and a snarky little existentialist one-act in The Fall (psst ... watch for a new release in the seasonal anthologies series here in a few days).
But it goes past the printed word. The people that I've met through networking with fellow unpubbeds has given me a boost in so many ways—from a friend's husband who designed my site for a fraction of what someone else would have charged me, to a fellow author who wrote a teacher's guide for Not a Drop to Drink and the friend of a friend who then designed it, to the fantastic work that an amazingly talented unpubbed author has put into my trailer for Not a Drop to Drink ... all of these people have cut me a deal, helped me out just to be nice, or returned a favor.
That's the value of networking: never underestimating the worth of those standing next to you.
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, Not a Drop to Drink, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / HarperCollins September 24, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book Pregnant, Friday the Thirteeners, From the Write Angle, The Class of 2k13, The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on Twitter, Tumblr & Facebook.