Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | October 21, 2014

Connections, Coincidences, and Small-World Moments

76 - Tom holding a chick, 7-18-14

Connecting with new life at the Burlington County Farm Fair, July 18, 2014

I have new neighbors. They just happen to be Italian and love zucchini. I just happen to have an over-abundance of zucchini from my garden (which won’t surprise anyone who’s ever planted it). What a serendipitous coincidence!

Connections, coincidences, and small-world moments.

I don’t go around looking for them, but I’m constantly finding them. They provide a special kind of delight, both in life and in literature.

Years ago on a visit to Disney World I ran into one of my students. Of the thousands of people at Disney World on a summer’s day, what is the likelihood that I would come across one of my students? Very slim. Coincidence, or – in Disney World – a small-world moment? I don’t know, but definitely a connection. When far from home, I’m continually amazed that I so often meet others from New Jersey. Everywhere, more often than not, I find connections with other people.

Cruising on the Seine outside Paris, May 7, 2013

Cruising on the Seine outside Paris, May 7, 2013

Looking for and forming connections with others is part of what makes us human. The longer we live, the more we read and learn, the broader our experiences, the more likely we are to find connections, and these connections add richness and vibrancy to life.

Connections also make literature resonate with readers. Readers like to make connections with a book’s characters; otherwise, reading the book is more a chore than a delight. Other types of connections also enhance the reading experience. When reading a favorite author’s books, I enjoy well-crafted and logical cameo appearances of characters from another of the author’s novels, and I get a kick out of noticing how an author has casually mentioned items of later importance and otherwise foreshadowed later events in the novel.

I started thinking about connections after attending The Write Stuff Conference in the spring. None of my close writer friends attended, so I went by myself. My innate shyness makes this hard for me, but I’ve learned not to let it hold me back because I’ve learned that I tend to meet more people when I go alone.

Writers attending The Essential Elements of Online Marketing Workshop with Don Lafferty, March 20, 2014

Writers attending The Essential Elements of Online Marketing Workshop with Don Lafferty, March 20, 2014

Making connections with other writers has so many benefits. Laboring alone – with family members who may support but often don’t and can’t truly understand – is difficult. How encouraging it is to find others who share the same problems, others who understand! In addition, each writer has his or her own unique process and experience; I love listening to the many stories of other writers. Sharing experiences, processes, news in the writing community, and writing tips enhances everyone’s writing adventure.

If you’re looking for them, you never know what connections you might discover. One evening at The Write Stuff Conference, I missed the group I had planned to have dinner with. As I stood uncertainly in the lobby, three other writers asked if I wanted to join them. I did, and during the course of the meal learned that Gerry, who also lives in New Jersey, is an immigration lawyer, while Hillary, is an immigrant from England … and I have an immigrant sister-in-law and daughter-in-law. Connections.

So, I urge you to attend a conference or convention, even if you have to do it alone. Look for those connections. You never know what might turn up.

For those introverts who have difficulty starting a conversation with people they don’t know, remember that you have two things immediately in common with everyone else at the conference: you are both writers and you both decided to attend the conference. Pretend you are a reporter and ask questions. You know the five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why (and how). Ask another writer what she writes, where he lives, where she writes, when he writes, how she finds time to write, and any other questions you can think of. Your new acquaintance’s answers can give you cues to more questions, and before you know it, you have made a connection.

What connections do you look for when reading? How do you connect with other writers?

Writers connecting at the Writers' Coffeehouse in Willow Grove, June 24, 2012

Writers connecting at the Writers’ Coffeehouse in Willow Grove, June 24, 2012

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