Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The World of Writing: Strategies for Staying in Touch

I have just returned from a conference put on by a writers’ organisation that I recently joined. It was an opportunity to mingle with writers, listen to a keynote address by a "big name" author, and to participate in workshops. I heard some of the writers in attendance read from their work. It all took place in a venue usually associated with vacations, with fabulous scenery, good food, the whole enchilada. Best of all, I feel rejuvenated, excited about some writing projects that I have let slide, and I have a whole new set of ideas to work on in the future. Plus, I have a great new group of contacts in the writing world. Wow! What a weekend.

Without telling you the name of the group, the topics discussed, the identity of the guest speaker, or even my destination, doesn’t it stir your interest anyway? Apply the name of your favourite writers’ association, get involved in some of its activities, and you too will go home refreshed in your own writing life.

I know this is not a new idea. Other Chicks have referred to conferences that they have attended. Benefits to our writing health can be huge. So much can be learned from other participants, sometimes more than from the content of the program. You recognise the universal emotions of despair from rejection and joy over work rewarded. If you exchange business cards, addresses for e-mail, web pages, and blogs, some will become valuable resources. If it’s difficult to get away, look for workshops and courses offered locally. When groups of writers get together to learn and discuss, many of the same benefits follow.

What else can we do to stay on top of the information that would be useful if only we knew about it? Here are a couple of my favourites. Each deserves in-depth treatment, but for today, just some cursory notes:

It wasn’t until I began visiting Prairie Chicks on a regular basis that I really became aware of the wealth of insight that can be gained through writers’ blogs. I hope you visit the blogs listed on the side of this page. Some give us personal glimpses into the life of a writer, while providing tips; others impart information in a more formal, instructional fashion. Both types are useful and interesting to other writers. I regularly check the blogs of about a dozen writers of various genres. Some don’t post every day, so I just do a little tour through the Favorites I’ve marked to see if there’s anything new. Another half dozen or so are more topical, on genre and other aspects of writing. Go to http://www.murderati.com/ where a number of mystery and crime writers write on mysteries, murder and marketing.
I rely on http://www.eharlequin.com/ and the blogs of romance writers for my connection to the romance writing world. I also like to keep up with news from the writing world at large. I follow http://www.bookninja.com/ which is a daily compilation of references and links to articles and reports from newspapers, magazines, and other sources. Here I get news about award winners, new books published, interviews with writers, articles on technology, etc. A must from the Canadian publishing world is Quill & Quire at http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/

The Writer and Writer’s Digest are my personal favourites for magazines about writing. The May/June issue of WD contains the annual list of "101 Best Websites for Writers" as well as a section called "Stand Out to Editors and Agents: get visible, get marketable, get known, get published."

*** By the way, on the inside cover of the same issue there is a full-page glossy promo of Brenda Novak’s online auction to benefit Diabetes Research that runs the whole month of May. Don’t forget to visit Prairie Chicks on Thursday when Brenda will be guest blogging with us.***

I peruse magazines that publish stories and/or poetry. I like to read the work, but it is also about being familiar with what editors are choosing, to get ideas of where to submit my work. Depending on your genre, those titles could include: The Walrus, Geist, (both of which contain fiction and creative nonfiction writing), Grain, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead (these three are literary journals publishing poetry and fiction).

So, now I’m all fired up from attending a conference and tucked next to my laptop are issues of magazines. I spent some time Monday reading my favourite blogs. These activities feed my appetite for information about writers, writing and books. At the end of the day if I have not spent an equal or greater length of time on my own manuscripts, what’s the point? Well, I hope I am more informed, but my greater hope is that I am better prepared to write when I sit down in front of the blinking cursor on the blank screen.

How do you stay connected to the world of writers and writing? What new activities have you become involved in lately that will help you in your own writing experience? Do you have a conference, group activity, publication, etc. that as a writer you simply cannot live without?


Anonymous said...

An excellent post-just reading your words helps the rejuvenation process.Everything is a learning experience and everyone is an opportunity to learn from. Thanks

Captain Hook said...

I have Critique Circle, which is fabulous, and blogs. Conferences and most groups require $$ which is something I really don't have at the moment.

Karyn Good said...

Great post today Helena. I think it's important to be connected. It's only been the last half a year that's I've really taken advantage of my writing groups and it has made a huge difference to my confidence and in my writing output. The same can be said for blogging.

I think in the end it just makes me feel like a 'real' writer.

Silver James said...

I'm really looking forward to RWA Nationals in July for the very reasons you outlined, Helena. In September, I'm going to my local RWA chapter's retreat. I've only been a member of the local group since last fall and now I wonder how I ever managed without it!

Blogs like the Prairie Chicks, Plot Monkeys, Murder She Write, Jungle Red Writers, Deadline Dames and way more than I should actually spend time reading every day also give me inspiration, insight, and pushes in the "write" direction.

That said, I need to dash on through the blogs and get to work on my revisions!

Helena said...

Thank you, Anon. Just wanted to share what works for me!

You have rightly pointed out that what you make of each situation is the important thing. You have a great attitude.

Helena said...

Right on, Capt. You have to work within what's possible, and you have identified what will benefit you. Sometimes the simplest thing (in cost and effort) is the most nourishing to our writing soul.

Thanks for visiting here today.

Helena said...

Thanks for joining in, Karen. And thanks for mentioning writing groups.

I think of my cohort of writing buddies as my 'family' and I really appreciate their support and encouragement. Members of such groups are always feeding off each other in many ways, sharing writing experiences and information, and getting excited about the next opportunity to hear a visiting author reading in town (usually a free event).

And you're right. Being part of a writing community is a validation of my sense that I really am a writer, too.

Helena said...

Silver, you're so right. I'm glad you got yourself in a group. I can't believe there was a time when I doubted the value of a writers' group. Not so now.

You are certainly on the 'write' track with your various activities and, I'd say, with your priorities, as well. Good luck with the revisions.

And thanks for keeping the Prairie Chicks on your list of must-visits.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

The SRW has been a great way for me to stay connected with other writers and stay immersed in that mindset, even when school takes away from the writing time. Blogs are also good for info, and to some extent community, but I try to be pretty particular these days about which ones I follow. At this stage in the game, an encouraging community is more valuable to me than a didactic platform telling me what I've done wrong and what I'll need to change. That can all wait for editing.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Helena,
The inspiration and support I've received from SRW over the years has been invaluable to me. I think it's the one group I wouldn't want to write without.

I joined EPIC (Electronic Published Internet Connection) a couple of years ago and attended their conference in 2008. Attended by other epublished authors, I found the conference to be very friendly. I learned a lot about promotion there specifically geared towards epublished authors, so it was well worth attending.

Aside from that, it's usually fun to go to conferences. But you have to balance the cost, which can be substantial, with the benefits you expect to receive to decide if it's worth attending.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Great post, Helena. My first encounter with other writers after a 30 yr hiatus was when I discovered eharlequin (like you mentioned). My friends in that community are a big part of my day and I was thrilled to meet many of them when I attended the ACFW conference last fall. I will attend the same conf this year b/c the experience of meeting editors and agents and living and breathing 'writing' for 3 days is invaluable.

Which brings up writing retreats. I've been to one and I'm hoping to get to the SRW's one at the end of May. The goal being to write. Bring pics of your loved ones and put them by your bed and then write. No dishes, no housework, no one to bother you. It's just what I need.

I belong to the SRW, RWA, and ACFW. I also belong to a crit group made up of 3 other mbrs from the ACFW. I email and IM with mbrs from all these organizations on a regular basis. Same as with FaceBook. It's like instant encouragement. You can't buy that.

The more I associate with other writers, the more I want to write. And the more time I spend with published authors, the more I want to improve my writing so I, too, can become pubbed. It's as simple as that.

I write blogs and read blogs. but when I'm on a deadline, I stick to writing them. :)

Yes, I can sit in my corner and ignore the world. But it's a lonely corner without inspiration. I've been there and don't particularly like it. But most of all, I like to know I encouraged someone else when they had a rough writing day.

connie said...

Terrific blog. Thanks for the kickstart!
I made a promise to myself that I would start with the sites you mentioned and go on from there starting today. The reason being: my answers to your questions would be "No" or "Nada".
I am hoping to go to Surrey this fall. I need some writing contacts. I had plenty when I was a reporter, but they were all journalists. Now I need some more writers. SRW is terrific for me and you all have shoveled me out of my dismals, but I need to spread out more don't I?
I really appreciate these blogs! Not one has failed to teach me something.
Back to weeding out the paper mountain if I may. I recently dumped two green garbage bags full, but, that just allowed a ton or so more unnecessary paper to come out of the woodwork.
I haven't given up, but like everybody else, I am never going to be neat and organized.
Second line of defense? No guilt allowed. Admit I'm a mess merchant and forget it. Admit I'm human!

Ban said...

i'm 'write' there with you karen - wasn't 'till i started making writing friends that i began to 'feel' like a writer myself and get back into the swing of things and i'm gonna echo hayley too - at this stage i'm in need of an encouraging community. now, i just need to make sure all the blogs and such don't take me away from actually writing ...

Helena said...

Hey, Anita, I think you've said it all! You're so right about the benefits of connecting, even for a short time, with like-minded people. And it does give your motivation a boost to strive to get to where someone else is.

Thanks for 'taking the time' to check in today! (I'm not being sarcastic, because isn't time always the issue?)

Helena said...

Hayley, I can't agree more with being selective about the blogs. I have been casting the net pretty wide, but I know the time will come (soon) when I will have to limit the time I spend. I feel it has been worthwhile tho getting familiar with what each one offers.

Glad to be part of your community!

Helena said...

Jana, you're not the first to mention cost vs benefit, and it is always something to be weighed. If you can be part of a group that meets fairly regularly, like SRW, with a variety of activities and a focus on the craft of writing, that provides community and learning.

If I go the e-pub route, I may be joining EPIC, too.

Thanks for being part of today's discussion.

Janet said...

Great post, Helena - and I'm sorry, but I just skimmed over your blog suggestions :) I don't need any more on my list of favorites - too many as it is.

I love my writing groups - as others have said, these are the people that make me believe in myself as a writer. The SRW - with the monthly meetings and spring and fall retreats. The online RWA with great discussion threads, the opportunity to get critiques, and a chat room that, again, makes me feel like a writer. And my blog friends - all striving to reach a goal and supporting each other in friendship and community.

Now, I'm off to write - because all the writer friends in the world will not write the thing for me :)

Helena said...

Connie, you were supposed to get all that organising done yesterday! Jana was very clear about that. Just kidding (as my teen-aged granddaughter would say).

Glad to hear you have plans to "get connected" during this year. Can't happen all at once, but you can't ignore the impulse once you feel it, either.

Thanks for the support and thoughtful information that you contribute to this blog and to SRW in general.

Helena said...

Janet, kudos to you for reminding us all that it is really about writing, and good for you for getting down to it.

You have been doing yeoman service keeping us all moving in our blogland activities and writing fantastic blogposts yourself. So I'm glad you have pointed out that, regardless of the benefit of all the other activities we do as writers, it is the act of writing that is our ultimate goal.

ban said it well, too, with the comment that all these things are good as long as they don't take us away from actually writing. Write on, ban!