When I graduated from Cornell College in 2009, I was hopeful that I would find a writing place to call my own. I thought I’d find many writing groups or opportunities to get my manuscripts critiqued. But, after a few years of searching, I couldn’t find anything that fit my needs. The closest was the National Novel Writing Month group lead by Marie Raven in Iowa City. I started to connect with other people like me, but something was missing.
In December, 2014, an amazing woman named Andrea Wilson met with a group of NaNoWriMo writers to talk about an idea she had for a writing organization. She presented it as a non-profit organization meant to help writers find their tribe and lend support to the literary community. I was excited. This was the first time someone had approached me with the very thing that I was missing in my life.
By April 2015, the Iowa Writers’ House opened its doors to the public, and the workshops began. The first one was a Travel Writing workshop with the amazing Michele Morano. Suddenly, I was in a class with people who loved writing and an instructor who shared her soul with us through her memoir. My spirit felt renewed, and I was filled with joy again.
I started to help the IWH, acting as a data coordinator and gathering e-mails of people who joined. That alone helped me realize I wasn’t alone. In October, 2015, we had a booth at the book fair in Iowa City. Many people came out to talk with us about our organization, and I realized just how much Iowa City needed this.
How much I needed the Iowa Writers’ House.
For the longest time, I didn’t feel I had a purpose. I walked ambled through life, working, going home and writing, and that was it. Suddenly, the IWH gave me the breath of fresh air I’d been missing. It gave me purpose and the opportunity to help writers find the support they needed. I could offer people hope and a safe writing environment.
Each time someone thanks us for the IWH, my heart warms. I’m not just living for me any more; I’m living for the community.
I never had a writing tribe when I was growing up. I was very much alone and didn’t have writer friends who could support me, my dreams, and my craft. The only community I found was online, and that’s not always the same as sitting in a room with motivated people. Now I’m proud to say I have a community I can call friends and mentors. I have people I can mentor as well, and that’s one of the best ways I think you can give back to fellow writers. You can motivate them and give them a safe place to work.
You can give them a home.
In January, I had the opportunity to lead a Room through the IWH with my dear friend Alex Penland. I chose the Violet Realm, a Room focused on teaching people about science fiction and fantasy writing. I was nervous at first. Was I knowledgeable enough to teach people the craft? Six months later, members are still coming, joining, and asking for more. We have varying ages in each session from teenagers, to adults, to seniors. The father of one of our teenagers even thanked us for making his daughter feel so welcome.
It’s working. People are finding the support they need, and I’m part of that. I’m part of this organization that gives writers hope and the drive to continue their craft. Even more, now I have hope that I might one day join my fellow writers on the shelves.
The Iowa Writers’ House gives me purpose, and I hope that as the years go by this will grow into something that can help not only Iowans, but every writer who needs to find a literary home and family.
Thank you Andrea Wilson for helping me find a writing community.