People in the arts, in general, are drawn to each other. We’re odd. We see the world from a different perspective. We’re observers. We’re sponges. And we need each other. But what is this sense of community and how do you find it?
The Writer’s Social Life
One aspect of community is simply being around fellow writers who are supportive of each other. Friends who commiserate when the rejections roll in. Friends who celebrate acceptances together. Friends who talk about books, stories, movies, plays, poems. A few months ago three of my writer buds and I started talking about forming an “official” writing group in our small town of Tryon. We had no idea what that actually meant, so we met for coffee (a lot) and tossed around ideas. We threw it all on the table—from simply writing more to producing a weeklong literary festival, complete with workshops, readings, dinner and keynote speaker! Of course, eventually, we got a serving of reality with our lattes. Having a grand vision is great, but we didn’t want to be administrators. We wanted to write. We’ve grown to seven members and now meet for coffee every other week. We talk about publishing, books, classes and topics that have nothing to do with writing. On alternate weeks, we workshop our writing. To make it all “official,” we even have a name: Tryon Writers.
You’ve probably heard it said that writing is lonely business. Often we’re so close to our work, it’s hard to see where it needs revision. And it sure is nice to get some encouragement for the parts that really shine. Joining or forming a writing workshop or critique group is a mutually beneficial way to improve your writing. However, and it’s a big however—the group must be supportive, yet honest, and above all you must know that you can trust the writers with your work. I’m not talking about people stealing your stories. Your writing is precious to you. You don’t want to hand it over to someone who won’t respect it. You want the kind of critique that offers constructive criticism, comments that are useful to you. I’ve gotten some very detailed and helpful peer critiques and others that I could tell were merely a passing thought because they had to write something. I’ll delve more into getting and giving feedback in a future post.
So where is this elusive community of writers?
Take a Class
I’m from New York, where as you might suspect, there are many vibrant writing communities and activities co-existing in an energetic, eclectic literary scene. But as I was taking my initial, tentative steps into flash fiction, my first real writing community experience was online in a four-week course taught by Pam Casto and then as a member of the flash fiction critique group that she had founded. I was a part of that group for several years until I moved south. Now, I live in a very rural area and I’ve met most of my writer colleagues through writing conferences, classes, weekend workshops, mutual introductions and the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Queens University of Charlotte. No, you don’t have to take a second mortgage on the house (like that’s even possible, these days!) and get an MFA just to meet fellow writers, but I’ve made some good friends (including my blogmates!) through the graduate program, and though I’ll probably be eating rice cakes for the rest of my life, it was worth it. See what types of classes are available in your city or town. Our local community college offers many writing courses. That’s a great way to kick-start your writing, meet other writers and get feedback on your work at a reasonable cost.
Attend a Writing Conference
Every year, I look forward to my summer splurge—a weekend in Spartanburg, SC. Say what? Spartanburg? What’s in Spartanburg besides Costco? Hub City Writers Project. In the eight years I’ve been acquainted with Hub City, it has grown from a simple non-profit that offered a weekend conference to a bustling community of writers, a publishing company, a bookstore and much more. Their Writing in Place Conference is an intense weekend of writing workshops, plus readings, craft seminars, critiques and lots of good food! Yes, food! And you thought I went for the writing! I’ve made quite a few friends at Hub City. Many live at a distance and I look forward to reconnecting once a year, not to mention, meeting new writers. So take the plunge and try a conference.
Take the Stage
Many bookstores and writing organizations hold open mic events. Speaking in front of an audience can be nerve-wracking for some writers, especially when you’re sharing work that is so much a part of you. It’s a big risk—and so exhilarating! Reading your work is a great way to socialize with other writers. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more often your fellow writers hear you read the easier it will be to become part of the community. Many times the audience is made up of other writers and the atmosphere is supportive. On Friday night, the Upstairs Artspace Gallery here in town held their quarterly Literary Open Stage. I knew most of the writers, but it struck me how diverse our voices are and how much talent we have in this small town. So readings are also an opportunity for you to appreciate the work of others and learn from the experience.
Socialize on Social Media
You can connect with other writers in groups on facebook and Linked In. Though it’s not as personal as talking about getting an agent over a large iced mocha, there is a sense of community in cyberspace.
Read a Blog…Write a Blog
We are a community of writers. Thanks for reading, liking and commenting.