Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Writing Community

I've said it on many occasions, but I think it's important: Writers shouldn't be islands.

I do spend many hours on my own writing when no one is around, but it's less than you might think. Just about any time I want, I can find one of my writing friends online and reach out to them if I need help, and I respond when they call on me. I belong to a lot of wonderful groups, like Broad Universe, the DragonWriters, my Smarthinking colleagues, and many wonderful individuals who I can call on via Twitter or instant messaging. Being part of this virtual community is no less powerful than being part of an in-person community – and in many ways, its better.

A few months back, the Guardian ran an article of tips from famous/accomplished writers and someone said something along the lines of it being doubtful that good writing comes from someone who has an Internet connection. I couldn't disagree more. Not only are there great writers who are very connected online – Neil Gaiman, for example – but more agents and publishers require authors to promote themselves (online is great for that!), and humans are naturally social creatures. It's just healthier – mentally, spiritually, and even physically – for us to build a community.

My online community has done some amazing stuff for me – and I'm happy to return the favors.

A true and excellent community doesn't happen overnight, or even over weeks or months. In fact, it's always changing, developing, and getting better based on your interaction. Rather than give you a big old "how to" article (because if you search, you'll find plenty of those anyway), let me share some of my community and how we relate.

My friend, Kelly Harmon, who I met through Broad Universe, just released a new short story and a novella. I loved both, so I left her reviews on Amazon. Kelly and I also trade critiques with each other semi-regularly. We got to meet in person at last year's Balticon, and I stayed at her beautiful home. When we manage to gasp breaths of freedom in our crazy schedules, we drop each other a "How are you?" note. (Hmm… Ok, that last line is true for a lot of my friends, actually…)

Aimee Weinstein, aka TokyoWriter, is someone I met through my tutoring job at Smarthinking. Because she's in Tokyo, and I'm just a night owl, we often found our schedules overlapping, so we ended up great "Do you have a minute for a second opinion on this problem?" friends. Rather than stay completely business-like, we took time to find out more about each other and ended up being friends, even after she left Smarthinking to freelance entirely. I am proud to say she's beaten me to a book deal. An idea of her writing: She sent a 2nd draft out to agents and was getting personalized rejections (not form letters) based on partial requests. Her writing is that good!

Christy Tohara, my writing partner, is my longest online-based friend. We met over some fan-fic role playing games about 8 years ago, discovered we had a fabulous writing chemistry, and have been friends and creative partners since. I met her in-person for the first time in 2008 at the Bad-Ass Faeries 2: Just Plain Bad release party – where we celebrated our first fiction publication – individually and as a team.

I met Victoria Durm under another name only a year ago at Conbust in Northampton, MA. I gave her some basic writing business advice, and she gave me (and Chris) a great review on our short story. We've since become friends and each other's cheerleaders.

Julie Radachy and Jen Barber are two more colleagues-become-friends from Smarthinking. Both are absolutely fantastic editors who have come to my last-minute rescue for much of my writing. Also, Jen has magical manuscript manipulation powers, and Julie is a networking/opportunity genius.

Back in 2002, I was part of A.C. Crispin's writing workshop at Dragon*Con. Our particular class became very close, and I regularly chat with Kim Stotler and Karen Schuler. We cheer each other on even beyond writing and enjoy each other's company while slogging through the less-fun aspects of writing and life.

Morven Westfield, Inanna Arthen, Phoebe Wray, Jennifer Pelland, Elaine Isaak, and Justine Graykin are all part of the most active segment of what we call the New England Broads. We all started off only knowing each other virtually through Broad Universe, but realized we were all in close enough geographic proximity to do local events together, and support each other in-person as well as online.

All of these people are those with whom I've spent many years chatting with online, and while I have had the great opportunity to finally give in-person hugs to some of them, some I have not. Many got to know me first through communities, like Broad Universe, Editorial Freelancers Association, Smarthinking, gaming groups, etc., and then we discovered we had something extra in common or that we had some sort of chemistry that made us want to spend more time together.

Now, not all of these people regularly chat with each other and are friends of each other (though some are), but we have all helped each other at least indirectly. When I promote these individuals' work, I share my community of friends with them, and they share theirs with me. Sometimes if there is a topic that I'm not as familiar with in someone's writing, I can check my community to see who would know better than I would. People who get crits from me (and in critiques I've received), more than one person has contributed – even if it's just to check a grammar rule.

Maintaining a community of writing friends enriches the life and writing of everyone in the community. It takes time to build, and a desire for mutual support and honor, but it's worth it beyond any measurement.

What kind of community are you developing around yourself?


_Decode_ said...

Oh wow. Thanks so much for the shout out, love. :)

I don't know if I would have gotten through my novel's first draft without the extra support I got online.

Indeed, I don't know if I would have been brave enough to even start a re-write! But I have. And love it, and the support I continually get from you. Thank so much.

Oh, and I have no problems giving out great reviews for works that really deserve it. :)

Trisha Wooldridge said...

Thank you for being a great writing friend! :)

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