Literary Community: You’re Not Alone

There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

When most people think of writers, they picture solitary creatures hiding away and typing to a computer screen’s glow. Alright, so I suppose that’s not too far from the truth–I’m doing that right now–but what many don’t understand is that writers aren’t alone. There’s a community to be found whether online, in person, or just through the simple knowledge that there are others out there going through the same kind of struggles.

While I was growing up, I didn’t have a writing community to call my own. I felt like the weird one who spent more time scribbling in a Lisa Frank folder than playing outside with her friends. But when I hit high school, I was introduced to a writing community based on the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Imagine my shock when I could create characters and write about them, and people would actually respond back. This was the first time I didn’t feel alone as a writer.

This kind of online networking still exists today in roleplaying sites or even on places like Wattpad. Here, writers and readers come together to share stories, comment, vote, write/read, and message one another. I’ve already made some online and IRL friends through the platform. And best of all, it’s helped me get my writing off the ground again. I can ask people in my genre questions about world building or story structure. And at the same time, I can offer advice to newer writers who don’t know where to start.

Twitter and Instagram are both great places for building a writing community as well. Between things like #pitchwars and #pitchmad (events that allow you to mentor with other writers or pitch your stories to agents) you get to meet a lot of people. There are also particular hashtags people can follow to talk about their experiences, like #writerlywipchat. One of my favorite events is the #chance2connect meetup led by Kim Chance (@_KimChance). Once a month, she posts questions that writers can answer that encourage the community to interact and get people to meet one another. I’ve stayed up late having great conversations with some fantastic writers.

But what if you don’t want to meet people online? Well, there are writing conventions like the Pikes Peak Writing Conference that you can attend. I spent about four days in Denver, Colorado sitting in on literary lectures and meeting both new and published authors, agents, editors, etc. We had meals together, learned from one another, and created friendships that still last today. I would love to go back! I felt so inspired and encouraged. It helped me realize that writing is honestly what I want to do with my life.

Of course, not all of us can travel or pay for conferences. So how do you find your community in town? One way is to check Meetup. You might find writing events that are hosted in your local area. There’s National Novel Writing Month where you write 50,000 words in the month of November. Many cities have leaders who set up writing get-togethers. Check the NaNo site to find your area! If you look in library calendars, or maybe a local literary paper, you might find a group of writers. Or, if you’re in the Iowa area, you’re always welcome to join me at The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation focused on providing a free, safe environment to writers of all incomes, genders, skillsets, etc. If you’re looking for workshop, then there’s the brilliant Iowa Writers’ House which also hosts an astounding airBnB.

You’re not alone. There are writers out there looking for companionship and the chance to just sit and brainstorm story ideas. Some of my best work comes out when I’m with other writers because I’m happy. I know that I’m not the only one struggling or going through this big process of creating a book. Most of all, I love to meet people and learn about their journeys. I believe that it’s important that we, as writers, learn to support each other in our personal quests. This world is hard enough as it is. I’d rather spend my day encouraging an author than trying to rise above them. As my friend Author Brian K. Morris says, we’re all part of a Rising Tide, and when we help one another, we all rise together as a community.

Just as a reminder, I post author interviews every Friday. Last Friday I showcased Leona Bushman, and this Friday will be Shakyra Dunn! Please stop by and show your support!

How the Iowa Writers’ House Gave Me a Home

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.

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.

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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.

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Copyright: Seth Missiaen

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.

 

Iowa Writers’ House: Calling for Submissions

The Iowa Writers’ House is a non-profit organization that is focused on helping new and experienced writers in their career paths. This organization is new but powerful and has already successfully hosted its first travel writer workshop. Now, the Iowa Writers’ House is looking to you for submissions.

“This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.”                                                                                       –  Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima
In August 1945, the world was forever changed when atomic bombs detonated on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Seven decades later, these two cities exist as steadfast beacons of peace, forever a reminder of the price of nuclear warfare.

THE EVENT:    
On August 8th we join together in solidarity by “Sharing Our Peace” through a 70th anniversary commemorative musical and literary event presented at Uptown Bill’s in collaboration with the Iowa Writers’ House. To accompany the event, the Iowa Writers’ House will present its first literary book to share these passionate stories.

SUBMIT YOUR PEACE:    
Local artists, musicians, and writers are invited to contribute to the program with their own gifts.  The Iowa Writers’ House is accepting submissions for a compilation book: This is Our Peace: Iowa
Writers are asked to submit poems, haikus, mighty tankas, and short essays that speak to the importance of maintaining peace. The theme of peace can be of all angles, from nuclear peace to peace between races to everyday peace of mind.

Entries should not be longer than 750 words. Along with your entry, please submit a short biography to be included in the book. All submissions that adhere to the guidelines and follow the theme of peace will be included.

SUBMISSION DUE DATE:  Wednesday, August 5th at noon

SHARE YOUR PEACE: Join us for the event and read a selection from your work. Presenters will be introduced as part of the event lineup and have their photo featured on the Iowa Writers’ House Facebook page.

If you have questions, please contact  Erin Casey through this blog page and Andrea Wilson at andrea @ iowawritershouse.com

Visit: http://www.iowawritershouse.org/share-your-peace  to submit your Peace.