Inclusivity in the Writing World
In early June, I had the delight of attending a conference based in West Virginia. The location of the conference was in a small (and historic) town that has many roots that go back to the early days of America. And it had a core group of writers who have worked extremely hard to grow their writing state-wide community. It’s clear they’re hitting a stride in reaching this goal. This conference is supported not only by a love of writing, while also a desire to connect with other writers from places all over West Virginia.
This leads to my question, are you supporting and advocating fellow writers? Are you reaching out to places outside of your community?
I hope the answer is “yes” – but if that isn’t the case, then there’s never a better time than now. One’s local writing community is a built-in network of fellow wordsmiths, an important part of the writerly path. A strong local writing community presents opportunities to learn from other writers, while also sharing one’s knowledge and experiences. It means that one isn’t alone on a figurative island as a writer, that the highs and lows will be shared with like-minded individuals. If you hit a wall, there will be people to reach out to for support.
In the Twin-Cities, we have a strong and vibrant writing community, of which this is why I personally moved here 19 years ago. Little did I know that relocation would result in feeling a sense of community, making many friends who are equally invested in writers (and other artists), and a support network in publishing that is invaluable. This happened because many people invested their time in the early days of this writing community and it grew organically. That organic growth also was fueled by grants, donations by citizens to local organizations, and more. It was a community mindset that fueled the Twin-Cities writing community to its nationally recognized success.
However it’s equally important to remember that ALL writers need this type of support in their local community. I’m specifically talking about underrepresented voices in writing (no matter where they live) – of which every writing community should be welcoming writers in whose voices haven’t been heard yet. It goes without saying that we should put aside a wait-and-see approach to building a diverse writing community, and that we need to reach out to writers of color, the LGBTQIA community, and those with disabilities, so that everyone has a space to share their stories. This type of outreach is a key component in this happening.
At the West Virginia conference, I met a group of adults in their early 20s who are working to grow their writing community in the city they live in. One had a desire to ensure youth, not just adults, had an outlet of some kind; specifically that it would be a safe place to tell their stories. I realized immediately that I am blessed to live in a metropolitan area that offers these opportunities. Yet, there are small and medium sized towns (and cities) all over the country that doesn’t necessarily have the same supports we have here.
What can we do for smaller writing communities? How do we advocate and ensure people outside the metropolitan areas find groups where they can share their writing? This is a larger question and a reminder to look back at our own journeys into the writing life. This advocacy, while encouraging people to share their stories, is what unifies people, as writing brings both the writers and readers together. It’s the recipe for an engaging and hopefully more inclusive community.
I personally know that a seed was planted for me after this conference. I’ll be there for those individuals I met in West Virginia should they ever need anything from me. Advocacy, learning your voice as a writer, and supporting fellow writers is always a good foundation for building a strong and inclusive writing community.
Dawn Michelle Frederick is the owner/literary agent of Red Sofa Literary, established in 2008. She brings a broad knowledge of the book business to the table, bringing multiple years of experience as a bookseller in independent, chain, and specialty stores; sales, marketing, and book development experience; previously a literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency. She has a B.S. in Human Ecology, and a M.S. in Information Sciences. Dawn co-founded the MN Publishing Tweet Up, is the current President of the Twin Cities Advisory Council for MPR, a member of the BOD for Loft Literary, and a teaching artist at Loft Literary. You can find her on Twitter at @redsofaliterary.