Book Launch Day

It finally happened.

The Purple Door District officially launched on Saturday, December 15th, 2018, and it was spectacular.

If you had told me at the beginning of 2018 that I would decide to publish one of my books, I probably would have laughed. Over the course of six months, I started my own marketing campaign (with the help of other brilliant writers like Alexandra Penn and Brian K Morris), and began furiously editing my book. My social media realm exploded, and I delved into the world of being an indie author. There was joy, and there were tears, but it all came together on Saturday in a way I never could have imagined.

I started my day out at the North Liberty Community Library where I sat with five other lovely authors: Jolene Buchheit, Mary Chalupsky, Alexandra Penn, M.L. Williams, and Jo Salemink. The whole event was set up by Jenn Thompson and IABE. It was my very first time officially setting up my table, and it came out beautifully.

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I was delighted by a visit from my college professor, Glenn Freeman who has published a few poetry books of his own! All of the authors were incredibly supportive, and it gave me the courage to put on the event that night.

At the same time, my co-creator, AE Kellar, received a gift package in the mail full of swag and the book. And I got to see her joy and excitement as she tore into it and realized that the world we’d created over the course of 6 years had finally come to life for everyone to see.

I hosted the official book launch at The Makers’ Loft in downtown Iowa City. It seemed like the perfect location for selling, reading, eating, and meeting other incredible people. And the table just dazzled, especially surrounded by my friends.

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Throughout the night, people joined us for the celebration. I met new fans and welcomed fellow Writers’ Rooms writers and former professors with open arms. We even got to celebrate with a delicious cake that welcomed everyone to the District.

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After a great evening of selling books and talking to people, I actually held a reading. This was the first time I read my book in public, and I was so nervous. But everyone was supportive and receptive. I couldn’t have asked for a better audience.

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Most of all, I can’t thank my friend Desiree enough for being with me to set things up, take them down, and just help me through the nerves. She even dressed to match my table! It made me realize just how lucky I am to have this community in my life. With you all, I’m never really alone.

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I had hoped at least a handful of people would come to help me celebrate, but you all more than came through for me. Thank you for making this a night and experience to remember.

When I first started writing, I ached with loneliness. I didn’t know any other writers and I didn’t really have many people to share my craft with who understood what I was trying to do. I was the oddball, and all I wanted was someone who got me and shared my passion.

I’ve found that literary family in Iowa City. The passion and excitement for writing is intoxicating and infectious. I felt it first through Cornell’s English Department, and then the Iowa Writers’ House, and now through The Writers’ Rooms. We all come from varied backgrounds and have different stories to tell, but in the end, we’re all writers. We all need companionship and people who understand where we’re coming from.

That’s why The Purple Door District is so special to me. It’s all about community coming together, and that’s what my friends and fellow writers did for me. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making me feel like I have a place to call home. Thank you for welcoming a scared kid hoping to be a writer into the world of being an adult author. I hope that I’ve been able to give as much support and love back to you as I received last night.

And it’s not over. The Purple Door District is the first of many books to come, and I can’t wait to see what happens next on this journey.

Happy writing to you all!

Erin

You can purchase The Purple Door District at:

Amazon in kindle and paper!

My website for a signed copy.

Prairie Lights in Iowa City

M and M Bookstore in Cedar Rapids

The Maker’s Loft in Iowa City

 

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.