Finding community in writing

During the pandemic I connected with a few other local writers for a virtual authors event. As a bit of a followup, we are happy to invite our friends and followers to visit with us, check out our books, and learn about what’s coming next at the July 28 Wednesday Market in Historic Willamette.

I found my first writing community in 1980, after enrolling in Bill Kittredge’s creative writing class at the University of Montana. I mention a bit about this in the afterward of My Music Man. Most of the students were at least sophomores and language or literature majors, me a freshman about to declare a biology major, the class workshop format. Writing had always come easy to me, certainly boosted by family members who were journalists and authors, yet I had never approached it with serious dedication. It was a small class, including one interesting guy I later dated for awhile. As we wrote and shared our work in class, looking back now, I realize what I cared about most was my instructor commending me on my work. Even now I remember being disappointed when he didn’t select my work to share with the class. Our independent meetings were helpful, he was encouraging even if the writing was difficult, but I soon after decided I wasn’t ready to focus so much on writing, even if I continued journaling for decades. It was thirty five years later when I finally understood the importance, power and purpose of joining a community of writers.

Then, as I began writing with passion and purpose, I recognized I needed to learn discipline – not that of getting words on the page –but discipline to improve my writing. I’ve never had a problem putting words on the page, but I disliked process being more of a “stream of consciousness” writer, could be sloppy and impatient, and sometimes lacked technical skills that others may get from a traditional writing or English degree. Willamette Writers introduced me to a new community, and although I benefited from the conferences and larger group meetings, it has been the personal connections with some that has meant the most to me. To these writing friends I added the community of authors sharing my publisher, trading notes about events, reviews and book releases.

Just over a year ago, as many of us holed up alone or changed to “lock down” work schedules, and I completed the draft of my 2022 release, I checked in with my friend Evan who I had first met years ago at an authors’ event. Evan – also a UM alum – is a published author whose work I very much relate to. In our series of correspondences, he reminded me (again) that I would benefit from joining a writers group, even though I had pushed back, telling myself I was too busy, too impatient, you name the excuse. Until the day I decided he was right. I thanked him before and I’ll do it now as that led to our active Writers Table, with my friends Michael, Leigh, Shelly, Emily and Maura – the best recurring experience during the past year plus. Thankful I have matured beyond my eighteen-year-old self, to ask for and appreciate others’ feedback, melding it with what I know in my heart. Thank you my writing friends for your honesty, compassion and safety.

If you can’t join us next week, let us keep building and sharing our community of writers….and readers. For writing is best when shared in community, even for those of us who write alone.

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