Attacus Atlas & Other Inventions: Chosen Families

Aloha! Unlike the family you’re born into, your writing community is comprised of humans of your own choice. I’ve been so lucky in this regard, I’ve made so many great friends along the journey of becoming a published poet and novelist. It was not quick nor easy, finding these chosen family members. Yet these people have become my lifeline, and those friendships have sustained me during some dark years.

Since I was very young, probably elementary school, I have tried to start writing circles and find writing buddies. I didn’t have much consistency and luck at first. I had a couple of writing friends in high school but we grew apart after graduation. I tried to make friends with classmates in my creative writing workshop as an undergraduate. They were unkind and catty, and their mean-spirited commentary actually had the opposite effect, and I didn’t write poetry or prose for three years. I was a journalist for several years, and I was quite fortunate to find colleagues and mentors who supported me in NC, GA, FL, IL, HI.

I finally found a home the second time I went to graduate school, to pursue an MFA in creative writing. In NYC, I met writers who were also searching for a writing community, for support and friendships to buoy them in this often isolating, often lonely calling. Although I lost touch with some after graduation, the classmates I have kept up with over the intervening decades have been so supportive. Their encouragement and stubbornness on my behalf helped me for the past nine years, after the bulk of my work was confiscated by the state police in Georgia. (Although the legal matter was dismissed against my husband nearly three years ago, most of our belongings have yet to be returned — including my laptop).

As I started over, I realized I needed a jump-start, more than once, to get my writing life going again. I have to admit I’m a bit of a professional student. I thrive with homework. I started applying for fellowships and for a place at workshops and conferences; and was lucky. I got to attend several over the years and it has proved to be life-saving. I’m a huge fan of generative workshops. I also joined a writing group and have met with these classmates for nearly a decade. These programs and teachers and classmates have been the reason I’ve had work to submit, and courage to keep going. I think that formal programs give you a ready-made community. But you can DIY, by attending readings in your hometown and going to your local library and independent bookstore, and seeking out writing friends, and striking up conversations with others who love books and stories as much as you do. Mahalo!

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Devi Laskar

Poet, photographer, soccer mom, VONA & TheOpEdProject alum, Columbia MFA, former reporter, debut novelist!