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A Small World, Betimes…

December 17, 2010

Sometimes, you learn something that reminds you that the world is indeed small.

In the aforementioned class on Networks, this week, we reviewed the idea behind “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” – and one of the readings suggested that we all know, or are fairly closely connected to, someone who knows everyone – or near enough to everyone that through that person we are in effect connected within an average of six degrees to pretty much anybody and everybody.  Our proximity to such a person is part of what connects us more closely to everyone else (and such persons are apparently closely connected to other such persons, extending this network more fluidly).  I don’t know that I buy the Gladwell article, but if there’s any truth to it, that’s one major flaw in my network: I don’t know anybody who knows everybody.  Which means I may have trouble reaching the people I need to reach.

But even so, sometimes amazing links do pop up.  For the past month-and-a-half, on Tuesdays and sometimes on Thursdays, I’ve been serving in a Grand Jury.  Last week, while chit-chatting over lunch with a few fellow Jurors, I happened to mention that I’m a writer and an aspirational professional author.  This was in response to one of the jurors indicating that her day job, when I asked, was as a text-book writer (she writes books on speaking English for ESL students in grad school, and she has training in linguistics and speech pathology).  When I remarked that I, too, was a writer – of fiction, of course, not of text-books – she asked, “Do you know about Nanowrimo?”

Well, of course I know about Nanowrimo.

“My daughter,” my fellow juror explained, “She’s the director of Nanowrimo.”

Oh.  Wow.  Now that’s interesting.  Suddenly I felt embarrassed that I’ve never participated in Nano, that I’ve always been too busy.  Silly, of course.  But a funny discovery, nonetheless.

My fellow juror went on to tell a short story about her daughter – a few sentances, I won’t recount them here – and we talked about writing.  My co-juror used to write fiction, she said, but she could never get published, try and try though she might.  Then, once, whe wrote a text-book, and without hardly trying she was published, and she’s been writing textbooks ever since.

I’ve been impressed with the clear intellect and awareness of this and the other co-juror involved in this conversation.  They seem like smart people, people worth knowing.  I hope I’ll be able to stay in contact with them, from time-to-time, after this jury term ends in a couple weeks.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to  have folks like that in my network…

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2010 7:48 pm

    Hey! I know Kevin Bacon. So there you go.

    lol. Jk.

    Great food for thought!

    • December 17, 2010 7:53 pm

      Ha! Maybe not, but you might know someone who knows Kevin Bacon. We played the “Kevin Bacon Game” in class, and it was pretty hard to find an actor who had a Bacon Score higher than 2. Mostly, we ended up using dead actors, and even then the scores were usually 3 or 4 at most. But all of this recently has made me think harder about my career network – both in the context of my day-job career and my writing career. In some ways, I’m beginning to realize that there isn’t really a difference between the two. My network is my network, and I’ve got to work to make it as robust as possible…

  2. December 19, 2010 4:47 am

    Hey nice article – it is amazing the coincedences you find once start admitting to people that you’re a writer isn’t it? After that stomach dropping moment I find reactions are usually split between “wow I didn’t know that – tell me more” and “well you should talk to my brother / friend / uncle because they’re a writer / publisher / etc oh and here’s some new information about writing / publishing for you!”

    • December 19, 2010 6:31 pm

      It’s true; as a writer, you would have to go out of your way to keep your writing habit a secret to avoid accidentally bumping into other writers. We lot are not a few. But it’s when you find a link to someone more established or someone in the industry that things get really interesting…

  3. December 20, 2010 1:00 pm

    You know, this is good argument for being open about calling yourself a ‘writer’ 🙂

    • December 20, 2010 1:25 pm

      Indeed. Although, from the perspective of potential contacts in the industry… they’ve heard that line a thousand times, I’m sure, and 999 of them the writer in question probably wasn’t that good. But to everyone else, who maybe knows someone who knows someone… it probably doesn’t seem that bad.

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