Sometimes Twitter is a post-apocalyptic hellscape. Sometimes it's cool.
Today, I struck up a conversation with 2 other emerging writers, both working on their first novels, just like me. It felt very "right place, right time." We went back and forth, talking about books that inspire us and the road that's led us to this place of Finally Taking It Seriously. I was overjoyed, offering myself up as a resource to 2 strangers-in-arms, everything from book recommendations to more personal tips and tricks I've picked up since joining my MFA program 7 years ago.
In my fervor, I realized: I've been starved for community. My MFA friends and I are scattered around, living our very busy adult lives. If we write, we do so in fits and starts, by ourselves in bed by the glow of the computer screen. My writing-residency buddies, whom I met in Vermont during a very snowy April last year, are even more far-flung: San Francisco. China (at the moment). NEW JERSEY. My work writing isn't the kind of writing that keeps me up at night; my friends and I there are working on meaningful, fun projects, but it doesn't scratch this particular itch. So close, and yet.
I was dying for writerly camaraderie, having been removed from it for so long that I forgot the drama and emotional toll that often come along with that camaraderie (if your writer friends aren't at least a little off, you're hanging with the wrong ones). And perhaps even more than wanting more writing friends, I found myself wanting to mentor, to pass on all I've soaked up the past 7 years, and especially this past year. I have read more than ever: not for fun. Intentionally. I curated my list of books to study. (How this author creates characters; how this one moves through time.) I've been submitting like mad, learning a lot about that process and the hierarchy of publishing journals.
I wanted to pass this stuff on to others--not necessarily to writers younger in age, but those with less exposure to the traditional publishing world. Say what you will about an MFA program's creative merits; you learn, at least through osmosis, about the business side of things, and you listen to authors (your teachers) who tell you what--and who--you should be reading. The most important part of my MFA experience wasn't how much I wrote; it was the book lists made for me and my writing by faculty each semester and suggestions for journal subscriptions.
I was thrilled to pour all of this out to newly serious fiction writers today, and I don't want to stop doing that.
All this is to say, I'm going to do a little series here with writing tips I've learned: about writing itself, about submitting and publishing, about residencies and conferences and fellowships and MFA programs (are they worth it?).
Next time, I'm going to talk about great books about writing. And as a "thanks for reading and sharing this post," I made this for you: A submissions-tracking template that allows you to keep yourself organized as you send creative work to multiple publications (this can definitely be modified easily for other kinds of art).
Until next time,
P.S. If there's a topic you want me to cover, let me know. If I don't know the answer, I know someone who does.
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