How To Get Involved with a Writing Community
Author: Stephen Danos
One of the unanimous reasons most writers attempt an MFA in creative writing is to be part of a community. If you’re in your final year at your undergraduate or graduate program, you face the possible decline of said creative writing community.
Time management is one of the most important skills undergraduate and graduate students gain in Creative Writing programs. This concept, although dull and unglamorous, is the foundation for preparing you for staying active.
Have a one-on-one talk with your poetry mentor or advisor about not just poems, but the poetry world and the publishing business. Many of them have worked volunteer gigs at some point or fell prey to adjuncting, so their wisdom is irreplaceable.
Get connected. There two types of networking (gross word, I know) that can help with accessing the seemingly impenetrable writing community. Social networking, although pretty invasive and time-consuming, keeps you informed of what is happening in your writing community in REAL TIME. It enables you to connect directly with your favorite presses, literary and non-profit organizations. This comes especially handy when there are job openings and volunteer positions at those places, which brings up another key point. A lot of publishers cannot afford to hire a staff of paid writers, so there are usually internships available.
Go to as many local readings as you can. Readings are typically a good place to meet other writers and supporters of literature. Keep reading and make sure you stay in touch with contemporary literature.
Or start your own thing. Are the reading series in your current town pretty standard? Do you want to facilitate a series that’s different than the status quo poetry series? Find a friend or a willing institution and start one. Same goes for workshop groups and literary journals.
This sounds obvious, but I am gonna say it anyway. Ask everyone you know about job openings, and don’t turn down help. As you and your peers enter the writing community, you’ll fall into different literary circles, typically based on geography, which seems less relevant because of all them darn social networking websites.
Apply for writing fellowships and residencies every year. Chances are you won’t get them, but by the chance that you do, you’ll get to work with and meet new writers.
Go to AWP at least once. Sure, it can be super expensive if a major city near you isn’t hosting, but students get in for the ridiculously low price of $40. Now, if you’re a poet, going to AWP is usually about seeing close friends, going to offsite readings, and meandering through or working at the book fair. But the panels can be pretty damn useful. The benefits usually far outweigh the cost. You can introduce yourself and affix faces to the names of your favorite presses, editors, and publishers.
Be persistent and patient. Know that good things take time.
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