How to Harness the Power of the Literary Community for Mutual Benefit
Writing can be a solitary occupation. But it doesn’t have to be.
By reaching out to the writing community, you can find compatriots, friends, supporters, and even new readers. Here’s how developing a new project can bring you meaningful, lasting connections.
Starting a creative writing workshop in your area is an easy way to bring local, literary-minded people together. You could post fliers at bookstores, coffee shops, and libraries, or reach out over the Internet, or both.
Consider using Meetup.com to help you organize and reach new members. Simply include a link to your Meetup group page in all your promotional materials.
Before you canvass for participants, consider what genres and level of writing you’re open to. Bringing together veteran and novice writers may not best serve the group.
Your venue should be public and relatively quiet. Be sure to talk to the manager of whatever venue you decide on instead of showing up with your group as a surprise. Building and maintaining relationships is what project and program development is all about.
A reading series is a recurring reading of literary work before a public audience. Starting a reading series can be transformative. Bringing writing to the public can inspire, affirm, and bond writers within the community.
Finding the right venue is key. Can a poem be read and heard in this space? Does it have a PA or will you need to rent one? Consider how often the series will run. A monthly series, giving a handful of readers ten minutes each is practical. Avoid places that charge to host you. You’re essentially an event planner they don’t have to pay, and so many venues would love you to bring them business. Don’t forget to promote your events! Fliers and Facebook events and groups pages are great for that.
Reading series often start from a desire to celebrate the work of talented writers you know. Reaching out to other writers in the area and bringing in special guests from elsewhere will keep your series inclusive and vital. Don’t forget drinks and pre and post music if you can manage it. The more social the event, the better.
Journals & Small Presses
Starting a journal or small press allows the opportunity to network with writers all over the world. Be an advocate for the writers you love by bringing folks together by genre, esthetic, or mission and spreading the love via social media.
Thanks to the web, becoming a publisher of short work is easy. Journals like Guernica and Narrative and so many more have legitimized online as a place of quality writing. To start a journal, get a Wordpress or other free website tool and a submission manager like Submittable. You’ll also need a Facebook and Twitter to promote the work. You can always start online and move to print later, as we did at Newfound.
If you know of book-length works among friends that need to be in the world, Lightning Source and CreateSpace make it relatively painless to print and manage orders. Unlike other community building projects, publishing requires money and a heap of time. If the endeavor excites you, seriously consider bringing in other writers to help solicit, edit, and design. Running a journal or small press is a labor of love that can help to kick off the careers of many talented writers.
You’re reading this on Re:Fiction, a space for writers helping writers. Another take on a writer resource is Read to Write Stories, which features weekly writing exercises based on creative work available online. Both sites build community through guest writers, interviews, and the many of us coming for instruction and inspiration. Take your blog to the next level and feature other writers, connecting your audiences to help us all succeed at the writing life.
Too busy to start a project of your own? Join one! Search for groups in your area and don’t be afraid to reach out online or in person. Many literary projects and programs need volunteers and will be glad for your enthusiasm and pluck.
Make a commitment to yourself to be active in the literary community as more than a writer. We all need a support system to jump the emotional and professional hurdles ahead in bringing that first or fifth book into the world, and what better company than those who understand the exquisite torture of writing.