When I began writing creatively—during the 1990s when I lived in Connecticut—hoping to get some short stories I had written published, I knew nothing about community. I began writing in the days when submissions to literary magazines were sent out by snail mail. I subscribed to a few writers magazines that listed requests for submissions in the back pages. I’d mail in my submissions and wait months for a response. In a 4- to-5 year span during that era I got one short story published and had no idea where to turn for other submission opportunities.
Then years later after I moved to Boston, I decided to join the local chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, which supports and promotes women in the publishing industry. I eventually became president of the chapter and got to meet and get to know a spectrum of writers—the famous and highly accomplished to those just starting out.
I eventually joined Grub Street, a popular writing center in Boston, and enrolled in numerous classes all the while getting short pieces—short stories and essays published.
When I wanted to take my writing to the next level. I enrolled in the low residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. The craft classes and the requirement that I complete the first draft of a novel in order to graduate were critical, but what was equally important were the conversations I had with classmates about writing and publishing opportunities, literary agents, know how on approaching small press publishers, and writing contests.
While at SNHU, one of my professors, Robert Begiebing, encouraged me to join The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), which eventually led me to finding my publisher for The Talking Drum.
After graduation, I stayed in contact with my SNHU classmates. We share our writing successes and challenges as well as information on publishing opportunities.
I have established communities with the National Writers Union, (which looked over my contract with my publisher before I signed it) and Kimbilio Writers Fellowship, with similar community-building results.
If I could go back in time and advise my younger self, I would tell her to get involved with a writing community as soon as possible. I wouldn’t have gone years, hoping to get something published and feeling I was mailing my submissions into a black hole and existing in isolation as a writer. I probably would be further along as a writer than I am now. But that’s okay. At least I caught on when I did. Now on a weekly basis and sometimes more often. I learn about dozens and dozens of publishing opportunities, more than I could ever pursue from databases and people who I count as friends and an important part of my writing community.
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