We’ve heard it before: writing can be a lonely affair. Maybe you enjoy your days spent in front of a glaring screen with a mug of tea and a potted orchid as your only companions. Or maybe it’s time to step out of the office and be a part of (or create) a thriving writing community.
We’ve asked panelists from the How to Build a Writing Community panel (coming to BinderCon LA), to share some of their favorite tips.
Let’s start with just being there. Lauren Eggert-Crowe says, “Show up. If you want to build community, participate. The more you show up to support other people at their readings and events, the more people will come to your own readings. Say yes to as many invitations as you can. Be a regular face in the crowd. The more you do, the more people you will meet, and the deeper friendships you will build with the people in the community. That’s how collaborations arise.”
If you’re feeling more ambitious, Siel Ju has some great advice: “Start a Literary Journal, Zine, or Other Publication. Yes, there are already thousands of lit zines out there — but if you’ve taken a good, long look around and still see a niche you’d like to fill, why not go for it? I wanted a flash fiction zine that sent tiny stories via email for easy reading by smartphone — so I started Flash Flash Click. Turns out, a lot of other people wanted a flash-via-smartphone zine too and started to subscribe!
Being the editor of a publication gives you a readymade reason for reaching out to writers you know, like, read, or admire from afar — as well as a reason to read more widely and discover new writers you’d like to be part of your community. So check out what’s out there, find a niche, and get that journal going.”
Find Local Literary Resources & Then Leave Your House
Michelle Franke says, “Writers! Take a moment to figure out what literary offerings are available in the city you live in, and in the cities you’re traveling to. Google bookstores (especially indies!) in your area and visit them. All of them. Support them with your cash and pick up their events calendars. Many bookstores are hosting writers reading their books all week, score! These events are often free, double score!! Find a city-wide literary events or cultural calendar online. This calendar might include lectures, performances, or a reading series. Once you know where the writers and readers will be, leave your house. Go see them. Get excited about what other people are writing and reading. Find out if writing workshops are available in your area. Take a class! Some are more expensive than others, so find one that’s right for you. That might mean an online option if you’re in the boondocks. That’s okay. Invest in yourself and your community quest. When you meet other writers and readers, ask what reading series, literary journals, websites, and events they like! And, as your community circle widens, leave a little time to celebrate the success of others. Share a publication, a reading, basically any good news. Because you know very well how hard pursuing what you love can be. This kind of support will make your community strong.”
Build Around Love
“Invite writers and community members you admire, and encourage them to invite writers they love and admire. So many of us have strong relationships with other writers, collaborators, and readers, and it’s good to celebrate those relationships. For my reading series, HITCHED, I ask a writer whose work I enjoy to feature and then I ask that person to invite someone they work with or collaborate with to feature with them. More often than not, the reading ends up being a love-fest, filled with exciting work and new faces. I guess my tip is to build around love.” -Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo
To get more great tips, including Q & A, plan to attend BinderCon LA, March 19-20, 2016. Tickets are now available.
More info on the How to Build a Writing Community session at BinderCon LA:
(Siel Ju, Lauren Eggert-Crowe, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Sunyoung Lee, Michelle Franke)
Writing may require a room of one’s own, but many writers also seek to be part of a community — for inspiration, encouragement, and advice, as well as professional networking. This panel aims to empower writers to participate in — and even create — their own literary communities. Featuring community organizers of different backgrounds, in different fields, and with different motivations, this discussion will show participants how to go from feeling like the literary life is a solitary endeavor to becoming an integral part in a dynamic, real-life community.
Participants will leave the talk with an arsenal of tools for practical community building. Topics discussed will include: starting (and growing!) a reading series; evaluating the pros and cons of launching (yet another!) literary journal, changing the race and gender imbalances in publishing through local action; working with local universities; crafting a community around a small press; tag-teaming with an existing literary nonprofit; and assessing the needs of the community where you live.