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5 for Friday: Building a Writing Community

I’ve attended many MFA information sessions over the past couple years and the same question always comes up: Why get an MFA? The resounding answer: For the community. In a blog post titledDo Writers Need Communityauthor Po Bronsonwrites: “Writing school helped me by surrounding me with people who aspire to the same ideas I did.”It’s true. Being surrounded by like-minded people is essential for one’s growth as a writer. Being around others who take writing seriously inspires one to do the same. Fellow writers encourage us, they keep us pushing forward. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to have a conversation with a writer friend right when I’m at that point of pulling my hair out. Keep going, my friends say. Yes, you are good enough.I do the same for them. Merci! Merci! my friend Donna says to me after we meet for lattes and writerly conversation. I, too, leave our meetings grateful and motivated. We understand each other, buoy each other up.

There are many ways to build a writing community— a creative writing degree is certainly not the only one. The point is: a community is vital, whether it’s made up of two good friends or a class of fourteen. Connecting with other writers feeds our process and soul.

Whether you're new to writing and looking to meet fellow writers or are simply eager to get more involved and expand your connections, here are 5 ways to build a community:

  1. Find a writing workshop in your town. Many libraries hold weekly workshops and are open to the public. I attended a library workshop for a year before applying to MFA programs. Also, check your local bookstore for book club information which can often lead to writing support and ask the owner if they know of any writing communities looking for members. Attend readings at your favorite bookseller and ask to be put on the email/mailing list for upcoming events. 

2.Head online. Join an online writing community or workshop. Become a member of PENand receive access to their online community of writers, editors, and readers. Memberships are $40 dollars a year, $20 for students. Check out Writers Digest 101 Best Sites to find an online community that works for you. Some sites offer support, others like The Internet Writing Workshop offer feedback—members participate by submitting their works and critique other members’ works. The site is free, but a minimum participation is required. Another great place to meet writers: Twitter. Follow fellow writers, editors, and agents for writing tips and information about public events.

3.Take a class. Adult continuing education classes are held at most colleges and universities and many offer reduced pricing for non-credit options. If you prefer working/ writing from home, there are many online classes affiliated with universities. The UCLA Extension Writers’ Program offers over 100 online courses. The courses are well regarded and are asynchronous so you’re able to participate when your schedule bests allows it. 

4.Consider a low residency creative writing program. Low residency programs are great for people who don’t have the ability to relocate for a program and/or have families, jobs, and other demanding commitments that don’t allow them to attend scheduled classes. Typically programs set up writers with a mentor whom they converse with online or through mail and then, once a semester, the writer travels to the college for a highly intensive 10 day residency. You’d be surprised by the number of colleagues you keep in contact with. Community doesn’t always have to be made up of people you see every day. Some highly regarded low residencies include: Warren Wilson College, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Bennington College. 

5.Attend a summer workshop/ conference. There are so many wonderful workshops and conferences that take place during the summer months. Take advantage and choose a program that’s held abroad or one that’s in a state you’ve never visited. I recently attended the VCCAs fiction workshop in Auvillar, France. Not only did I meet fellow writers whom I still keep in contact with, but I developed relationships with well known writing professors, and had the great opportunity to explore the South of France. During my trip to Auvillar, I stayed in an old French chateau, drank wine with lunch and dinner, and ate authentic French cuisine which was cooked by the lovely staff.

How do you connect with other writers? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

“I am a part of all that I have met.”

–Alfred Tennyson

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My summer writing group eating lunch under a grape arbor.

Auvillar, France

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