Years ago, I started hearing voices in my head. After months of trying to block them out, I finally decided to start writing them down. When I got them all down, it was about 50,000 words. I thought, “Wow, I could write a book.” I turned to the internet for information. I probably searched on something like “how to publish a novel” (talk about naïve – as if 50,000 words would instantly put me in a position to be published). I did find this thing called a writers conference. I went to a Maryland writers’ conference and apparently met Nancy as I have her business card with a note written in her handwriting on the back. Neither one of us remember this meet.
Over the years, I tried a face-to-face writers group where we critiqued each other’s writing. It kept me writing new scenes but the critiques weren’t very good. Of course, we didn’t know what we were doing and the group was made up of a nonfiction writer, a poet, a sci fi writer, and a romance writer (moi) so we didn’t get each other’s writing either.
I’ve gone to a couple of conferences and found that the Romance Writers of America and affiliated conferences work well for me. I leave them feeling very jazzed about writing. The generic ones that don’t cater to any specific genre aren’t as helpful. I get tired of dealing with the negative outlook on romance (because, you know, all the other writers are so much better because they don’t write romance).
Then I saw an article on the McDaniel Romance Writing graduate-level certificate program. I almost didn’t sign up, but I’m so glad I did. We were all so excited to be able to learn about and talk about what makes good fiction in general, romance writing in particular, and our own works (and each other’s). In one 8-week course, we posted almost 5,000 times. It got to be a little (okay, a lot) overwhelming. Obviously, we were unwilling to stop chatting about our journeys, but the conversations were bogging down Blackboard – hence the birth of our private McDaniel blog on March 26, 2013, which coincidentally was one year ago yesterday.On this blog, we post about writing, but we also post about life and other things that interfere with writing (I went on a wonderful excursion in Punta Cana thanks to a connection of Jilly’s). There has also been a post or two where one of us virtually bangs our head on the keyboard and the rest of us talk her off the ledge.
There were some isolated face-to-face meets. Kat and Jeanne are relatively close in proximity. My husband and I flew to Ohio to see a concert and met Christina (Jeanne and Christina are guest bloggers on 8LW from time to time). RWA was the first opportunity for a big meet. Seven of us, representing 2 continents and 4 states, made it to Atlanta for the first face-to-face group meet. It was wonderful to be able to talk to everyone in person, although I found that my classmates’ personalities had come through so clearly in the digital classroom that I felt like I already knew them.
I don’t recall where the idea came from to start an author blog. Eight of us committed with the others on board as guest bloggers and Eight Ladies Writing was born and we continue to talk about our writing here, as well. Since McDaniel, the birth of our private blog and the birth of Eight Ladies Writing, Kat and Jeanne still get together and Justine had a wonderful vacation opportunity in England where she met up with Jilly. Kat and Elizabeth are both heading to Arizona soon where they will meet up with Justine. And today, Justine, Nancy and I have picked a central spot in Maryland to meet up for lunch.
What started as a class has turned into a community of writers for which I am profoundly grateful. My writing has stalled, some others are also a little stagnant right now, and others are going gangbusters. But through it all, this community has kept me focused on writing when I probably would have thrown in the towel (because it’s darned hard work).
So being a part of a community of writers works for me. Some people love them. Some people hate them. Are you part of a community or do you go it alone?