Writers, Find Your People!

Logo courtesy of GCLS.

I just got back from a writer’s conference, and boy is my hand cramped! (*rim shot*)

This was the annual GCLS convention, the first in-person in three years, so it was a frenzy of panels, master classes, meet-and-greets, plenary sessions, jigsaw puzzles, awards, and delirious terpsichore. Oh, yeah, I said terpsichore. Because I know my way around a dictionary and a thesaurus. Although there’s also a thing I learned which is called an Emotional Thesaurus. Writing!

My mind is full of memories, ideas, and to-do lists about how to elevate my craft, and we’re about to go to a museum with DINOSAURS … but let me quickly try to encapsulate all this creative energy.

GCLS Panel on “Writing Tools of the Trade,” photo by Karin Kallmaker.

GCLS: A Conference of One’s Own

This conference was Writers, readers, editors, publishers, librarians, and all manner of people who enjoy a good story. The vast majority of these folks write women-loving-women fiction. Now, that’s not my particular jam, but so what? I learned a ton!

There was a phenomenal master class on writing from memory, taught by Sheree L. Greer, worth the price of admission on its own. But I also got intelligent hints about using social media like Tik-Tok for people my age (i.e. over 25). World-building, narrative arcs, characterization: those apply to history writing, too. Tax planning for the self-employed because I might eventually sell more than two books.

Best of all, I got to host a panel on Tools of the Trade. There were award-winning panelists like Katherine Forrest and Georgia Beers, but also other great writers, Krystina Rivers, Cheri Ritz, and Iona Kane. Published people; some have 2 books, others have 30. They talked about the relative merits of tropes vs, characterization. About writing in the shower (waterproof notebooks).  Why you should write on your phone when blank paper reminds you of the teacher that yelled at you about your handwriting. What to do when you have writer’s block.

They also talked a lot about Accountability, meaning having someone ask you how it’s going, so that you feel like you’re obligated to complete something. Some have writer’s groups. Some have a patient and interested spouse who reads early drafts. One who writes three books a year has a daily word count and three close friends who check in with her throughout the day.

Discipline is important–attach seat to chair, remember?  But so is community. It really hit me this time that writers have a writing community that encourages, suggests, calls you on your bs excuses, and gives great hugs. There are dozens of writing conferences for all types of writing and hundreds of writing groups, both online and local. A lot of you reading this are interested  in writing, so you might find a writing group or writing buddy immensely helpful.  Even if it’s online.

The Giant Online Community of Discords

My youngest, Lee, hooked into the community energy before I did. Lee has been connected with online groups for nearly a decade, and this past year wrote a short story Every Single Day. They must be feeling the Accountability. (Not 100-word Flash Fiction either , but 1000-word stories).

It is true that Tumblr, Discord, Archive of Our Own (AO3), and some of the fan forums are the Wild West. Avatars and pen names are pretty common. Beware the trolls. But Lee has found extremely useful pockets of support. Now, Lee tells me these are not communities per se, but just “networks of friends and people who share similar interests.” Yet what is a community if not that? Enough quibbling, though. These are fan-fiction sites, people writing additional stories prequels, sequels, and tributaries of existing stories, existing mythologies. Some people might argue that it’s not Serious Literature, but it’s Writing!

Writing collaboration online. Photo from Lee Kaj.

I didn’t even know, for example, about Lore Hoards, which sounds very Dungeons and Dragons to me. I guess there’s a wizard sitting there somewhere so that if I need to know whether Captain Picard was ever injured on his left hand, the wizard could tell me the episode and cause.

The collaboration builds. Lee started writing short stories about characters in various games–Overwatch (Definitely NOT Overdraft, no no no), Pokemon, Minecraft … so many that I can’t even remember them all (and those three might not have been correct). At one point, they were collaborating with other people on stories and described it as…

Bouncing back and forth: Example: I wrote a very short piece after a character’s passing about a statue of them being put up by someone who cared about them. A loose friend read it, liked it, and made a small comic of a scene involving that statue and a moment after my story. I liked the comic so much that it gave me the ideas for a full, longer story that I’m currently two chapters published into of what might be….seven or so chapters? The story is still formulating as it goes…

Blogging Has Its Own Vibe

I started as a blogger in 2016, to see if I could do it. Six years later, apparently I can. Even though bloggers approach things in a wide variety, some with poetry, some photography, some memoir, flash-fiction, jokes, long stories, short stories, and my essays on steroids–we all like to write. We want to write, and we want people to read it. They do. This is a very welcoming supportive community, which provides everything from daily word prompts (thanks Fandango!) to month-long challenges.

I wrote this book because of the A to Z blog challenge in 2020:

I wrote this book, which is coming out in a few weeks, when I was shopping the above book. If I hadn’t started blogging and received all the encouragement, then no books from me.

And, yeah, that’s a plug because I just went to a conference and was reminded to use every opportunity for appropriate marketing. So Writing!

It doesn’t need to be a formal community. You don’t need to write The Scarlet Letter. It can be 100 words or poetry. But just write, then find people to read it. And read theirs and discuss it. Because Writing!

This is what writers look like:

Me asking lesbian fiction icon, Katherine V. Forrest, a follow-up question. Photo by Shawn Marie Bryan.

…and this…

My favorite blog prompter. Logo from Fandango.

…and this…

Time to think of narrative strategy. Photo by kajmeister.

…and this…

Ambrosia, writing food. Photo from Ann Etter.

….and this…

Writers! Photo from Mercedes Lewis.

…and this–yup! Dancing the night away because the books are finished, and the awards are handed out, but now we have seven more ideas, and we know that we can make them good. With a little help from our friends.

T-E-R-P-S-I-C-H-O-R-E. Photo courtesy of Shawn Marie Bryan.

My next major work is probably going to be about medieval and Renaissance accounting, which wouldn’t surprise anyone who read my A to Z in 2021 or 2022. But how am I going to fit the lesbians into it? Well, I have about 150 people I can bounce ideas off, once they stop dancing.

8 Replies to “Writers, Find Your People!”

  1. Overwatch, mom, it’s Overwatch.
    But in all seriousness, thank you for the little featurette. The fanfiction community is a little less organized than something like a writer’s group, but it’s certainly massive, and definitely helps with Accountability. The oddity is really in blurring the line between Audience and Creators.

    (And anyone who thinks fanfiction can’t be serious literature just hasn’t found the right one to make them cry, either reading or writing it – and fun fact, the longest written English work has been some form of fanfiction for at least the past 5 years!)

  2. Fixed it. Sorry. My point was also that writer’s group aren’t as organized as everyone thinks. Writer’s groups can be two friends chatting. Writing!

  3. Great article. I was also at the conference and attended the panel where you asked Katherine V Forest a question. I was at the table behind you! I got a lot out of the conference, but mostly a sense of community and renewed energy.

  4. Thank you so much for the kind shout out about the workshop. I so enjoyed writing with y’all! Great conference indeed and wonderful recap of a jam-packed weekend!

    1. True confessions: I was not familiar with your work pre-conference, although my knowledgeable spouse told me I was in for a “treat.” Trust your partner! I’m a fond believer that a single hour with a good teacher is better than weeks with a mediocre one. It was indeed a well-spent ninety minutes that I’m still pondering, and I’m glad to give you and the whole conference a plug. More writing! More reading! (Thanks for the comment.)

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