Important Chance Encounters

Alicia BessetteIn 2004 I attended a yoga workshop led by Megan McDonough, who was promoting her book, Infinity In A Box. Megan and I hit it off. We kept in touch via email after the workshop, and she eventually hired me to write for her e-newsletter, Mindful Marketing, geared toward yoga teachers seeking to expand their classes. Megan was glad to shift some of her workload to me, while I was grateful for the opportunity to blend two serious interests, writing and yoga.

And so, appropriately, my first article for Mindful Marketing stressed the importance of chance encounters, because those chance encounters might very well result in mutually beneficial professional opportunities. “Keep taking action,” I wrote. “Increase the odds that your big chance connection will arrive — probably when you least expect it.”

In the language of yoga, we might say that if you open yourself up to the universe, abundance comes pouring in.

In other words, put yourself out there, because you never know where things may lead.

A few months after Megan hired me, I pitched a story to the editor of Yoga + magazine. The editor read my Mindful Marketing clips, then commissioned me to write a feature. So my chance encounter with Megan extended well beyond her e-newsletter; thanks to those clips, I was able to reach a large international audience, and convey an important message about the struggles of combat veterans, and the benefits of yoga.

Another case in point is how I came to find photographer Karl Seifert. This past September, I admired a gorgeous photograph posted by a Facebook friend, Beth, who happens to own the yoga studio next-door to my apartment. Knowing I would soon need a studio portrait for my book jacket, I asked Beth about her photographer. She highly recommended him, and I hired him.

Because I “Friended” my yoga teacher, and because she posted his photographs, Karl’s work (not the above photo; that’s a self-portrait!) and his name will appear on thousands of copies of my book. And it’s anybody’s guess whose hands those copies will end up in.

The story doesn’t end there. Beth’s husband Brett directs my town’s library. My husband Matt gave a talk at the library last fall and donated a portion of his book sales to the Friends of the Library. Brett then asked Matt to appear in a promotional video for a library fundraiser. Matt hired those same filmmakers to create a trailer for his next book, a young adult novel called Sorta Like A Rock Star. One of the filmmakers teaches English at a nearby high school, and he’s now considering teaching Rock Star to his students when it comes out next spring.

Do you have a similar story to share? What chance encounter in your past has led to a mutually beneficial working relationship — or several?

~Alicia Bessette

14 Replies to “Important Chance Encounters”

  1. Where is the jacket photo!! Want to see 🙂

    My favorite chance encounter was accompanying my game inventor Dad to a business party, and getting my first writing gig out of it. At an industry gathering during the New York Toy Fair, I recognized from nametags some of my favorite puzzle designers from Games magazine. I mentioned that I love logic puzzles, and wished there were more in each issue. They told me, seriously, that I should write some myself and send them in.

    I’d never done that before, but figured I couldn’t let an opportunity go to waste. My first submission, a very standard logic puzzle, was accepted. Then I got bolder. In all I wrote for them for six years, and they gave me a lot of freedom to experiment with what a logic puzzle could be. My later puzzles were pages and pages long, lavishly illustrated, and challenged the reader to find means of solving beyond the traditional grid (logic puzzlers will know what I mean by the “grid”). Lovely memories! And all from attending a party and being friendly 🙂

  2. I think it’s imperative that people understand how connected the world is right now — small moments can turn into amazing opportunities. and the idea is not to go around befriending people just to get something out of them — that smacks of desperation. It’s the true friendships, the hilarious party conversations, the emails whereby you show genuine appreciation for a person and their work. i have seen these things happen time and again. great post!!

  3. In 1992 I was on vacation in the Peruvian Amazon. I fell in love with the Amazon and it people and wondered to myself how I could possibly live here. During that trip I visited the studio/gallery of the painter Francisco Grippa. Several days later,thanks to the screw-up of my guide, I missed a flight back to Iquitos and so ended up in Pevas, where Grippa lives, a second time. He and I hit it off and I mentioned to him that I had an interest in living here and since I was a nurse I wondered if there was any need for my skills in the area. Over the next year Grippa and I stayed in touch and he set it up for me to establish a free clinic in Pevas in 1993. Thanks to that missed flight and seeing Grippa a second time I have now lived in the Amazon for 16 years and love it. It was also because of these serendipitous events that I met and became good friends with Alicia and Matt.

  4. I’ve suppose I’ve never had a specific trajectory and instead have been guided by the serendipitous encounters that have led me from one place to another. How to give one significance over the other? I can’t. But one chance encounter led me to the place I am today. It was several years ago. I had been writing FOREVER – there were mini successes along the way, at least, enough to keep me hanging in there. But I had yet to find an agent or sell a book. My publishing triumphs could be measured in size like those Russian nesting dolls except I was stuck somewhere in the middle. I had decided, for fun, to write something totally out of my comfort zone, to get me out of a writing funk. I ended up having so much fun with it I decided when I was done polishing to send it out and see what happened. Instead, this time I sent it directly to a few publishers who were accepting manuscripts from authors and then I sort of forgot about it. Fast forward a few months and I get a call from an editor at the house. She loves the manuscript and asks me if i have an agent because I’m going to need one. I laugh, say no, and then she asks me if I mind if she sends it to a good friend of hers who has started her own agency. I say yes, all the while thinking I’ll probably never hear from either of them again. The next afternoon the agent calls me. She loves the manuscript. We hit it off like long lost sisters. Long story short that book did not end up selling. The editor who wanted it left the house, but I had an agent who I adored. I don’t know if it was the renewed confidence but I wrote a new manuscript, the one that would in turn become my debut novel, this too was unlike anything I’d written before, but I found my voice, and the book sold to Harper Collins. Its been one thing after another just like that…but I can’t hog the comments section! Believe ….it happens!

  5. I love Matt jogging in that video! Very cool how everything seems to comes full circle, eventually. (By the way, did either of you beat the director?)

    I have so many of these stories, too… here’s a small one: I lost touch with a friend from high school until about six months ago, when we learned we had debut books coming out one week apart. Since then we’ve re-connected with all sorts of people from our mutual pasts and are working together to plan an event at our old high school – in the process, setting the stage for annual events featuring alumni.

  6. When I was nineteen, quietly dreaming about ‘becoming’ a writer, the guy who played lead guitar in our band asked me to go to breakfast with him on a weekend morning. He wanted me to meet his new girlfriend. So I went, even though it was early and I didn’t want to be a third wheel. Truth was, I was hungry. Well, his girlfriend brought this strange seventeen-year-old girl who kept commenting on the necklace I was wearing–a black leather number with a shell on the end. She must have commented on that necklace fifteen times or more, and then she wanted to touch it, which she did, until it became sort of strange (maybe saner men would have run away)…but she was also cute, I sort of liked the attention, and I had a feeling. Today she is my biggest fan and number one source of support. Alicia, I didn’t want to tell you about this woman, but…just kidding readers. That woman wrote the above entry. All of our work, this very blog entry, may very well have begun at breakfast back at La Salle back in the day.

  7. Hey, you all: There’s a name for the kind of relationships you’re describing: consequential strangers. I know because I just published an entire book about the importance of opening your eyes to the broader social landscape–the territory beyond family and close friends. That’s where opportunities await, as well as new ideas and different approaches that our loved ones can’t necessarily see. Consequential strangers help us find new jobs, develop parts of ourselves that we don’t bring out with people who know us well. They also help us stay healthy and heal when we’re sick. Please check out my website–even better, read the book. It will change the way you seee your life and everyone in it!

  8. Sarah mentioned it already, life is a circle. As to how I began this Fairy Godmother role: a desire to share the debuts of two special “almost” authors — Allison Winn Scotch and Kristy Kiernan. Now my authors AND friends…

  9. When my parents were first married, long before I was born, my dad sat on his front stoop in Center City, Philadelphia, figuring out what to do with his life. His neighbor was a young over-achiever in med school who “seemed to have her act together.” When the young woman returned home one evening, my dad asked, “where did you go grow up?” The neighbor answered, “Haddonfield. It’s a nice place to raise kids, and they have a great school system.” My dad had never heard of the town, but in that moment he decided that he would one day purchase a home there so his future-kids could get a decent education. And that was that.

    Years later, my parents eventually made it to Haddonfield. And many years after that, I arrived in Q’s homeroom my freshman year at Haddonfield Memorial High School. The next year, Q became my sophomore year English teacher. And years after that, through another set of bizarre circumstances, Q and I became good friends and “pen pals” of sorts. And all of these bizarre circumstances has led to my getting to know Alicia and discovering her work and blog. 🙂

    I’m not a big believer in “coincidences” but I often think: “There are 6 billion people in this world and I will only get a chance to meet a small handful of them. Therefore, everyone who I encounter is already pretty special.” Obviously some people and relationships prove to be more special than others, but this frame of mind helps me to *really* appreciate the people that continue to inspire me and lift me up everyday.

  10. BD…I love that. ” Therefore everyone I encounter is already pretty special”. I believe everyone is brought into our lives for a reason. Have connected with so many amazing people in so many amazing places and when I look back and realize how they all fit into the weave of my life all I can say is “wow” and be in awe of my journey!

  11. Here’s one of those stories in reverse. Years ago I was in a grumpy mood and a car pulled up behind me in my neighborhood and started beeping it’s horn. There was no place for me to go as the traffic I needed to enter was thick. But this guy kept laying on his horn. So, stupidly (I know) I got out of my car and walked up to his window and explained that my car wasn’t very speedy and I’d appreciate it if he layed off his horn. Luckily he didn’t pull out a gun and blow me away. Instead, he sort of said sorry, but he didn’t mean it.

    The next night I had open house at the school I taught at. He was one of my student’s fathers!

  12. I love all these stories of serendipity! Aww, Q.

    And Emily and the puzzles! Who knew?

    My favorite story was from last year February. I went to the AWP conference in Chicago (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) and met in the flesh several of my Literary Mama e-zine colleagues for the first time. We attended a panel on writing the forbidden in fiction, featuring a friend of theirs, whom I’d not met, Masha Hamilton (who is LOVELY). While they were introducing all the panelists, my head snapped up away from my program when I heard them introduce one author as a teacher at a community college in Grand Rapids, Michigan…my town! Four hours from Chicago! Maryann Lesert and I have become friends since, and I coincidentally bumped into her husband at my local library some months later. I didn’t even know he worked at the library.

    And I had to go all the way to Chicago to meet them, when they live right in my city.

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