Building a Community of Writers

August 3, 2013 — Leave a comment


Writers are not always easy to find. I’m always on the lookout for interesting local events (or projects) where I can emerge from my poet-shell and feel like I’m part of more than my own writing. There are many ways to be out in the world as a writer, and I read about more good ideas every day. Some of the activities I summarize below are more traditional (readings, conferences), while others are new to me (World Book Night, Transatlantic Poetry Community).

  1. Open mics & readings. I’ve really enjoyed the smaller readings I’ve attended. The smaller the group, the more likely you are to meet the speakers and recognize familiar faces in the crowd. The readings with 1,000 or more attendees at local universities feel very impersonal to me–no chance to meet the poet, have a book signed, or do Q & A. (Photo: Flycatcher Reading Series, Atlanta, Georgia. Pictured reading: William Wright. Karen Pickell, photographer.)
  2. Live online poetry readings. If you don’t have many local opportunities to hear poets, see the blog post on the Transatlantic Poetry Community that has just been founded this year by Robert Peake. These are online readings that connect poets from the U. S. with poets from the UK or Europe.
  3. Literary journals. Volunteer to be a contributing editor or start an online journal. I’ve been a contributing editor for a journal, and it is interesting to be on the other side of the submission process. The best thing about online journals is you can be anywhere in the world and be a staff member.
  4. Workshops. Check local continuing education courses or writing associations for poetry workshops in your area. Some workshops are filled by word-of-mouth and are not advertised. Ask other writers if they know of workshops looking for members.
  5. Online classes. I took a workshop through Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in Massachusetts last spring. They have a summer on-site program and many of the instructors teach online in the spring and fall.
  6. Write book reviews. If you’ve read a great poetry book lately, tell others about it! Many print and online journals will publish reviews, or you can write reviews to be published in blogs or in community arts news sites.
  7. Conferences. AWP and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference are well-known in the U.S., but there are many regional conferences where you can focus on your work or meet other poets. The Dodge Poetry Festival is also a huge event held every other year in the U.S.
  8. World Book Night. I just discovered this organization this year. Every April 23rd (Shakespeare’s birthday!), half a million books are given out for free in more than 5,000 communities across the U.S. (and in other countries as well). Apply starting Oct. 23rd, 2013, to be a book giver on World Book Night.
  9. Local arts organizations. Don’t just join, volunteer to help out with local writing organizations. Be a contest judge, social media coordinator, or editor of a yearly member anthology.
  10. Book festivals. Browse local book festivals, listen to authors read or sign up to read yourself at one of the events. Offer to work as a program director for a book festival, helping to schedule authors and staff the festival.
  11. Start a reading series or open mic at a local bookstore or cafe.
  12. Volunteer to be a poet-in-the-schools (through your local poetry society) or an artist-in-residence.
  13. Apply for a spot at an artist’s colony. Grants or fellowships exist for many of these programs. Meet other artists while focusing on your work. It is not necessary to have a published book of poetry to apply. Writers can be accepted at all stages of a project.
  14. Learn how to be a grant writer to support local literary associations. If you already have experience grant writing, use your expertise to help out!
  15. Teach a class or start a workshop for poets of any age at your local library.
  16. Consider participating in a formal writing program (low-residency or traditional). This is a big commitment, but the low-res program I attended gave me a broader view of poetry and a community of writing friends.
  17. Take a class in something new that isn’t writing, or that is a new genre for you.
  18. Support other artists (painters, musicians) and team up with them for projects. I’ve had friends who did poetry readings to the accompaniment of a jazz band, etc. I’ve also seen poets craft poems based on paintings, and then exhibit the poem alongside the artwork in a gallery.
  19. Translate. If you know a foreign language, or you can team up with someone who is fluent, translate poetry. Introduce a poet to a whole new audience! Journals such as Circumference specialize in translation.
  20. Create an online presence through a blog or Facebook site to promote poetry!

More about:

World Book Night
Transatlantic Poetry Community
Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)
Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference
Dodge Poetry Festival

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