CVWG Craft Talk, 3-16

Writers need other writers.

Most writers would agree, yet we've all been led to believe otherwise. The vision of the isolated author looms large. Most writers start their journeys with Emily Dickinson-style fantasies about locking themselves in a room, producing some poems, stories, or screenplays, and then releasing them into the world and waiting for the resultant fame and fortune. Plenty of our writing myths also subtly diminish the necessity of making connections. Take Stephen King, for example. In his book On Writing, he delivers what has become an apocryphal story of a young man pounding out short stories and filling a nail on his wall with rejection letters. Nowhere in that tale does he discuss the value of mentors, cohorts, or writers' groups. Perhaps Stephen King truly created his success entirely on his own, in a full American bootstrap sort of way. But that's not the way most writers find success.

When people argue the relative necessity of a masters degree in creative writing, many in the anti-MFA camp point to the incredible wealth of resources now available online, from lectures on Youtube to articles and webinars hosted by authors and agents. These certainly are helpful, but they once again support the fallacy that becoming a writer is something that can be accomplished alone, just the writer and a computer and a hot cup of tea.

In the middle of March 2017, I gave a craft talk for our local writers' guild in which I discussed the need for writers to connect with other writers, in order to build community, to advance writing skills, and to enter into the publishing world. The web resources I addressed in the talk are listed here.

Online Communities

  • Twitter
    • Twitter is the epicenter of the online writing community. From pitch contests to the ability to connect with other writers, agents, editors, and publishers, more and more authors are being published because of Twitter, and are finding support and education through Twitter.
    • This article and this article discuss the specifics of Twitter pitch contests. 
  • Online Writing Groups
    • There are numerous places writers can go to meet other writers and solicit feedback on work. Absolute Writer Water Cooler is a tremendous gathering place for writers seeking to connect with other writers. Reddit hosts numerous subreddits geared towards writers. R/Writing is the largest, with many other groups catering to specific genres and types of writers. Query Tracker, Agent Query Connect, and other websites focus more on the process of finding an agent or publisher, but also offer opportunities to befriend and benefit from other writers.
 The view from a Cirenaica residency

The view from a Cirenaica residency

Educational Opportunities

  • Craft Talks, Residencies, Retreats, and Classes
    • The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild website contains schedules of local craft talks and details of the Cirenaica residencies.
    • Chippewa Valley writers may also want to check out The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, which is the next closest epicenter of educational opportunities for writers.
    • To search residencies, retreats, and conferences around the country, Poets and Writers Magazine hosts a fantastic database. Otherwise Google the name of your state and "writers residency" or "writers conference" to see what other options might be close by.
    • If pursuing a more formal educational sounds like a good option, the internet hosts many resources concerning the advisability of earning an MFA or other degree, along with numerous resources for finding and exploring specific programs. Once again, Poets and Writers hosts a great database of opportunities for post-graduate work.

Building Your Local Community

Lulu-Writers-Group.jpg

Whatever your skill level, whatever your ambitions, you can connect with other writers and start building your own writing community, and the benefits will come quickly. It's easy to believe the self-made mythology, and you can certainly attempt to go it alone. But why would you?

Eric Rasmussen