When my kids were little it was easy to make friends with other moms. When I was married it was easy to make friends with the wives of other golf-obsessed husbands. When I was in college it was easy to make friends with sorority sisters and the students within my major.
I found myself in the same place, and having the same experiences as these people. I didn’t need to know much, only that there was a toddler nearby. I didn’t need to know where a woman lived, only that she was alone with her kids on Sunday mornings because her husband had a tee time. I didn’t need to know a person’s GPA, only that he or she was building a homecoming float or studying for the same final.
It only takes a tidbit to bring people together and give them the reason to find out more.
And the same goes for writers — at least for me. Usually.
I’ve only been to one writer’s conference and that was in 2008, I think. I did not enjoy myself. I left a day early. I went to one valuable workshop amidst many. I thought folks were cliquish and unfriendly and I was shocked by the
sloppy casual appearance of most attendants. Let’s not discuss the overabundance of embroidered kitten sweatshirts.
Fashion is definitely subjective. If this is your style, you can find it at MilesKimball.com and I will love you anyway.
But I don’t blame anyone but myself that it didn’t work for me. That was not the right conference for me. And since flying to a conference has not been an option, I’ve needed to find my tribe online. So I did.
I have belonged to Backspace, The Writers Place since 2007 and I put out a call for Chicago area writers and found my now, long-term critique partner and good friend, Pamela Toler. But it wasn’t a matter of just knowing we lived thirty minutes apart. We emailed, we found out we were in the same place in our novel-writing journey, that we were around the same age, and had similar sensibilities. We lucked out. I also met other friends and my mentors on Backspace.
Pamela Toler, me, and Author Karen Dionne, co-founder of Backspace
I’ve had my own blogs since 2006. I started out as an atypical mommy blogger. I was single and my kids were not in diapers, but I made many writer and blogger friends who are still part of my life, even though my blogs have disappeared from cyberspace.
I read scores of writer, author, editor and agent blogs and commented. You may not know this — but those comment sections are like little online coffee klatches and everyone is welcome!
I’ve joined smaller, special interest writer groups like RWA-WF, which has active Yahoo email loops. Did you know RWA-WF hosts a mini-con at RWA Nationals? Now you do!
In 2011 I started Women’s Fiction Writers simply because I wanted to connect with others who were reading and writing what I was reading and writing. That has probably been one of the most rewarding efforts of this journey. It’s all things and people I like in one place. If we could share chocolate along with the interviews and blog posts – it would be perfect. But it’s pretty close.
And all of this led me not only to The Debs (who became my friends in about twenty-seven seconds), but to a group called Book Pregnant, which is a safe-haven for 29 debut authors. We also have a blog. BP member, author Julie Kibler and her family were swinging right through my fine and tiny town on the way to a family event. So I asked them all to stop by! We ate a lot and chatted a lot. And while Julie and I were friends before we met, we agreed upon parting ways that if we lived nearby, we’d hang out. So we hang out online. Daily. And we text. And we talk about things besides writing. I was also lucky to meet another BP member, Erika Robuck, our Deb friend, a few weeks ago when her book tour landed near Chicago!
Me and Julie Kibler, author of the forthcoming novel, Calling Me Home, to be published February 12, 2013 by St. Martin’s Press. She looks tall and I look short because we are.
I’m part of a few other small online groups as well. Once you get to know a few writers and you all click, you can form your own group where it’s easy to communicate and share messages. There are not only Yahoo email groups but private Facebook groups, in addition to just using your personal email addresses. It might be scary to reach out — even scarier than going up to another writer in a hotel bar during a conference — but do it anyway. It’s worth it.
And don’t forget Twitter (where it’s really easy to meet writers — I’ve found local authors that way and now we meet for lunch, dinner, and critique groups) and on Facebook. I interact on both. I’ve also participated in many online workshops through the years — and I always speak up (metaphorically) so I get the most out of them. One of my first online workshops back in 2006 or 2007 (we can never remember), introduced me to one of my IRL best friends. The first time we met she flew from New Jersey to Chicago with her daughter, who is the same age as mine. And now they’re friends too.
Maybe it’s all been more work than if I’d made some friends, connected at the bar or over a bagel at that 2008 kitten sweatshirt conference, but this is what has worked for me. Connecting online has been my writers conference that has lasted about five years.
The important thing is that I’ve connected. I am part of something much bigger than myself — a community of writers who make me laugh, have my back, critique my work, text me jokes, meet me for dinner, plan writer-weekends, and listen to me kvetch. With writer friends — just like with the mom friends I made long ago — we inherently have something in common. We speak the same language, have the same concerns, have experienced the same highs and lows.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s not. Not if you work at it slowly, over a period of time. I’ve also found that writers like to stick together, so if you meet one, there will probably be a few more nearby!
And it’s never boring, because everyone always has a story!
Have you found your writer tribe? What are some other good places to meet writers? Share your thoughts!