Whenever and wherever writers gather, ideas, energy and support flow. We tend to stimulate each other on to deeper, new or revised work. In my experience, we can talk for hours on the simplest aspects of craft, to agent or not to agent, publish on our own or go for the New York house. In any case, we look for experience, expertise and contagion. On this past Saturday, I witnessed this happen once again, participating as a Redwood Writers’ panelist on The Writing Process, at the Sonoma library. Brilliant sunny weather, tourists filling the town and still 23 of us gathered.
Redwood Writers (www.redwoodwriters.org) is a branch of the 100 year old California Writers Club begun in the Bay Area by Jack London, Ina Coolbrith, Joaquin Miller and others. They were looking for a means to educate themselves and the public on the craft of writing and the means to publish. Open to all, the organization has grown exponentially, with 18 chapters of which Redwood Writers is the largest. The chapter motto is “writers helping writers.”
So, why do I bring this up? Because I am a member who is finding that the more I lend myself to the organization through attendance at our multiple events and through volunteerism, the more I learn, share and benefit. It is clearly a win-win situation as can be said, I know, of how one belongs to a group and contributes to it.
For many years, I thought I had to wait until that first novel was finished, or I had a record of publication behind me before I should, could or deserved to join a “real” writers group. Around 1998, I met JoAnn Levy (They Saw the Elephant). a specialist on women of the Gold Rush who told me about Women Writing the West (www.womenwritingthewest.org) and encouraged me to join. I delayed, thinking I really should finish the manuscript in order to measure up. I finally joined WWW, started going to annual conferences and participating on its’ wonderful list-serve where writers raise questions of all sorts and find answers, comments and support. I have found ways to volunteer in this long-distance club by helping coordinate aspects of the Willa Awards contest, traveling the west for conferences and, my favorite, instituting gatherings of members in my home area, Santa Barbara County and Salt Lake City as my husband and I traveled.
Around the same time I met JoAnn, a writer friend pushed me to apply to Squaw Valley Community of Writers (www.squawvalleywriters.org) for their week long fiction workshop. I applied, was accepted and awarded an Amy Tan scholarship. What an incredible experience that was and continues to be when I can go back for the open sessions in August.
Finally, I came upon the Historical Novel Society (www.historicalnovelsociety.org) which started out in England but came to Salt Lake in 2005 for their first North American conference. In a cross-over, nearly a dozen members of WWW attended or were workshop leaders. In June, the group will meet in San Diego with Susan Vreeland (Clara and Mr. Tiffany) as a special guest.
In all these organizations, I have found new, enduring and devoted friendships. Writing is what drives us, friendship is what sustains us and camaraderie is what challenges and inspires us.
I urge you to take the steps to connect with fellow writers. No matter your level of expertise, publication history, location, or genre, there is a group/s for you. Find it, contribute and grow.