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No writing community near you? Find or make one!

March 26, 2012

A couple years ago, I left work early every other Tuesday and drove from Tampa to Orlando, starting a writing workshop at 6:30 and getting done after nine. Most weeks I pulled in around midnight–pretty late when you typically wake up before five. Why would I do such a thing?

This is what I would have looked like on Wednesday mornings--if I were black and married to Jada Pinkett.

Well, for one, we don’t have something like that here in Tampa.

A lot of your support for your writing will depend greatly on where you live. The Orlando area has an amazing array of accessible support functions and learning opportunities for writers, from Rollins College–which seemed to have something new each month–to enough successful writers that you could pretty much close your eyes, spit, and hit one.

It’s not just Orlando. When I was a member of Mystery Writers of America, the concentration of mystery writers in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area seemed to surpass the retirees. And when I hear my friend Chris Coward talk about the opportunities at The Villages, I turn green with envy.

So what’s a guy to do?

First, take advantage of the opportunities that are around you. As much as I whine about Tampa, I don’t typically make the FWA Tampa monthly meetings–usually because Little League or some other child-related activity is happening then. Usually, but not always. You don’t get to complain about the scarcity of writers when you don’t go to the events that attract writers.

Second, seek out writers in your area. If you’re a member of the FWA, go on the FWA network, and look for writers around you. Friend them there and on Facebook. Find out what they’re writing and see if you have the potential for a mutual support relationship. Considering being each  others’ beta readers. Or find some time to sit and write together at Barnes & Noble, Panera, or (shudder) Starbucks.

Third, check out the programs being offered by local universities and other learning institutions. Check out the library. The local community college. The local university. While I sit here and openly lust after the opportunities Rollins College provides, I must also say I’ve done nothing to check out the University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Hillsborough County Community College, or even my local library.

Fourth, offer to start something. I happen to know some writers. Some of them are even fairy accomplished. Maybe, if they had a book coming out, they could consent to do a talk at the library, or a signing at the Barnes & Noble, or a presentation at the local FWA group meeting. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”

Fifth, remember that it’s not 1982 any more. Facebook can offer you access to other writers. If you talk to them periodically, you might find a chance for support. I’m in a secret writing group on Facebook. I’d love to tell you there are thousands of others, but they’re secret. People on Facebook aren’t secret. Check out the Florida Writers Association and Florida Writers Conference fan pages, as well as fan pages for your specific genre.

The fact is, you aren’t alone. But if you want to join a writing community, you may have to find it first.

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One Comment
  1. March 26, 2012 11:50 am

    I think you’ll be surprised to find how little is offered by USF, UT and HCC for those who want to take a writing class or two without enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program. (Haven’t checked HCC recently, but the other two within the past couple of weeks. I check regularly. In fact, found quite a bit offered by UCF, which goes back to your comment about the Orlando area.)

    There are writerly doings in Tampa, but given your first point, with which I wholeheartedly agree, I’m in no position to complain. Been giving through to #4.

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