This morning, I received a box of mangoes in the mail from a writer I've been working with in Florida. Not just any mangoes. Mangos from a tree her mother grew from a seed. Mangoes at the heart of her manuscript. This was such a touching thank you all the way from Florida to Kentucky.
As writers, we're constantly stretching out for connection for others who feel between worlds and try to press that feeling into the page. When you don't live in a literary mecca being a writer can feel isolating. But there are so many of us whether it's our careers, our families, our finances that anchored in smaller cities and out of the way towns. But we can still create the writing community we need.
Last night, I was reunited with a writer whom I'd only had the chance to grab coffee with once pre-Pandemic, but we stayed connected on Twitter. Sitting and gabbing with her for hours felt so natural and comfortable. When the brewery rolled up their garage door and the post-drizzle summer evening air filled the room I took a big inhale of a feeling I wanted to hold onto for forever.
The writer is going to help another writer friend of mine by offering some feedback on an essay of hers. The writer and I are both deeply invested in supporting other Kentucky women and non-binary writers. When I first met the writer, she had some major changes rippling through her life and, now here, two years later, her waves are cresting and crashing onto some amazing shores. And my own writing life has changed drastically in the last two years, as well. But if you're not in community with other writers, it can be so so so so hard to see how slow-fast things can change. It can be easy to become discouraged. It can feel like the rejection and competing obligations in your life are signs that you should stop versus par for the course.
The writer friend of mine the writer is assisting, is in a monthly creative circle I began a few years ago. The four of us meet to discuss the past month in writing and what's ahead and of course, have become close friends in the process. When I started this circle, I didn't have anything to offer but my time and my kitchen table. And it was enough. Now, we're lifting each other up and making connections where possible. It's so beautiful.
A couple months ago, I started a Zoom writing workshop with some writers I know well and others who I wanted to know better and whose insights I'd value on my own work. All of us have had terrible, possibly even trauma inducing workshop experiences, so it's felt almost magical to create this space together and vibe off each other's work. And as confident as I am in my writing, being built up by these folks insulates me against doubts.
I'm in Louisville, KY. You're wherever you may be. But there's no reason you can't cultivate a writing community. You need these folks. And these folks need you. Here are some places to start:
- Local readings
- Local meetup groups
- Events at your local bookstore
- Local writers' workshops
- Facebook groups
- Follow writers you admire on Twitter and connect them and their followers
- Join programs like #1000wordsofsummer
It might be scary and overwhelming to join these larger spaces, but soon your smaller, more intimate group will emerge. Hold onto those people. Y'all are going places. Together.
If you're looking for reading inspo, Lilly Dancyger's got a whole thread going of folks recommending braided essays by writers of color.
And Ellen Hagan has a lovely twitter thread that – yes, mentions me – but also gets after much of what I've been thinking about in this newsletter this week.