One is a lonely number even when you’re a writer. There’s only so much time you can spend clacking away at your keyboard before you begin to crave time with like-minded folk. Your community of writers is where you can turn when:
- You need someone to tell you if what you’re working on is any good
- You want to know how to make what you’re working on better
- You feel like commiserating about how hard it is to string words together
- You could use a boost of encouragement to keep going on a project
Check out these five places to meet other writers in real life that we’ve tried and tested at Penmob.
Universities and Community Colleges
Okay, this is probably the most obvious place to look. Your local colleges and universities likely offer creative writing courses. If you’re currently a student, flip through the course catalog and enroll in one next semester (or quarter!).
If you’re not enrolled, taking a class can require jumping through a few hoops or be a little pricier than you’d like. Community colleges generally make it easier to enroll in an one-off class than larger colleges or universities do. However, colleges and universities sometimes offer extension programs aimed at people who just want to take a few classes in a specific subject. Some even have certificate programs.
Just be aware that if you take a course through an extension program, those grades and transcripts do matter to any other collegiate program you might apply to in the future. When I lived in Los Angeles, I took a course at the UCLA extension program. I met writers in that class that I’m still friends with today and I stay in touch with the instructor.
Community-Based Writing Workshops
Community-based writing workshops stand apart from Academia. These workshops run the gamut price wise, from free to hundreds of dollars. They can be held just about anywhere. I’ve taught workshops in libraries, museums and private event spaces. While in Denver, I took classes at the Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop in a delightful three-story Victorian. Usually, Googling your city and “writers workshops” will pull up a list of workshops being offered in your area.
From my experience, instructors in community-based writers workshops are vetted in some way, so you’re still getting the advantage of being taught by a pro. You can always do a little digging into an instructor’s bio and read some of their work before enrolling in their class to make sure they’re going to be a good fit for you.
In comparison to college courses, these workshops tend to be more casual. You aren’t going to be given a grade at the end of the course – You get out what you put in. Don’t be shy about reaching out to other writers in class with you to build a connection that will last beyond the course.
I discovered Meetup.com shortly after moving to California. I didn’t have any friends and didn’t know how to make any – I was a little country mouse from Kentucky! I think I may have literally Googled “How do I make friends?” Lol. I joined a few Meetups to meet people my age, but was also excited to see that there were writing groups too.
I spent about two years in the same writing group. I looked forward to gathering around the host’s kitchen table every week. It also pushed me to meet a deadline. We were all just everyday people trying to figure it out together. You’ll find that writing groups vary by skills and personalities, so don’t give up if you don’t mesh with the very first one you join.
Residencies, Retreats and Conferences
Writing conferences, retreats and residencies allow you gather with other writers in exotic and not-so-exotic locales. Seriously, you can sign up for a writing retreat in the south of France with your favorite writer if you’d like. You’re only limited by your budget (or the size of the scholarship you receive). There are also highly respected residencies, and lesser-known ones, you can apply for. I applied to VONA this year, plan to apply to a smaller Kentucky writer’s residency and attended the Community of Writers at [Olympic] Valley last year.
In-demand writers typically keep an agenda on their website of any writing events they’ll be leading a workshop at. Here are a few big-name literary journals and magazines that hold conferences and writers’ retreats:
The largest annual writer’s conference is AWP – the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. AWP offers annual fellowships to help offset the cost of a residency. You’ve just missed the deadline for this year, but there’s always next year!
So, what do you do at these shindigs? There will usually be an energizing mix of workshops, readings and panels to attend. There will be opportunities to socialize with other writers. Down time varies, so make sure you look into that if you’re planning on getting any writing done while you’re away from home.
To find retreats, conferences and residencies I recommend going through Poets & Writers’ database, visiting Aerogramme and signing up for the Alliance of Artists Communities newsletter – scroll to the bottom of the page; the sign-up box is on the left.
Make Your Own
Yup. Sometimes you have to pull a Gandhi and be the change you wish to see in the world. If there’s no local writer’s group, start one. You can use Meetup, put out a call on Facebook or even go old school and post flyers up at coffee shops around town.
But you don’t have to wait for your group to get up and running to get feedback on your writing. Turns out, people live all over the world. A writing community doesn’t have to be restricted to a specific location or meeting time to give in-depth, personal feedback. You can join Penmob now and let our squad of editors help you level-up your word game.
Image source: Pexels