I’m shy. I thought I’d just put it out there. Really very shy. Awkward in social settings. Voted most likely to blush in high school. Painfully self-aware. My other half is the opposite; if it weren’t for him, I would be a complete social outcast.
The technology that has emerged within the past ten years has certainly enabled the socially inept to further withdraw into their small worlds, their protective cocoons. And if you’re a writer- well. No need to ever see the light of day.
Though the internet provides a plethora of invaluable resources and an incredible sense of community amongst writers, it is not entirely real. There’s something to be said for communicating face-to-face, for hearing actual laughter instead of the letters lol. And it’s very possible that there’s a vibrant literary community within your town or city that you don’t even know about. If you are a serious writer, you might want to consider becoming a part of it. Step out of your cocoon and becoming a literary butterfly. (That was so lame, I know. I couldn’t resist the butterfly metaphor.)
Though most major cities have a literary community, you may find that the same few people show up time and time again at various readings and discussions, making it easy to meet people who share the same interests as you do. Also, just being a visible participant in literary events can only help your own writing career- personal connections can be invaluable, and having local support when you are trying to get published or promote a work can be a godsend.
If you, like me, are shy, just go to readings (alone, if you must.) Listen, learn, smile at at least four different people. Practice friendly smiles in the mirror. No one likes a menacing or a creepy smiler. Do these things, and I guarantee someone will eventually approach you.
How to go about finding your local literary community:
1) Local colleges and universities. Schools of higher education that have English departments will generally have visiting authors come and read excerpts of novels or various poems. I live in a mid-sized city but could easily hear a published author speak several times a month. These readings and discussions are generally open to the public for free or for a nominal fee (sometimes depending on how big a name the author is.)
2) Local libraries. Libraries have visiting authors, book groups, writing groups, etc. Is your local library a dud in this department? Perhaps they need a motivated volunteer to draw writers in or organize a book club…
3) Writers organizations. My city has a writers organization that hosts conferences, classes, workshops, readings, and city-wide reading outreach programs. People who join get the pleasure of knowing they are supporting the arts, instant rapport with the city’s literary bigwigs, and discounted prices on classes and workshops.
4) Bookstores. Borders, Barnes and Noble, and many independent bookstores have book clubs and writing workshops. They’re usually free (so long as you buy the requisite books at their store.)
5) Coffeehouses: The most intimate of settings. Are you a real poet if you’ve never attended a poetry reading at a coffeehouse? This is up for debate. I say no. Attending a poetry reading at a local coffeehouse is a great way to support poets. Attend a few readings and then get your butt on stage and do one yourself. Find a poetry reading here.
Live in a small town where a literary community is nonexistent? It’s up to you. Start a program. Start a book club. Invite your favorite author or poet to visit the local library. (You’ll probably have to have some sort of fundraiser, first.) Be an advocate for the arts! You can be your town’s literary bigwig.
I’m sure I’ve missed some other ways to get involved in your local literary community. Feel free to add your ideas.
Are you involved in the local writing scene? Or are you happy just to remain in a virtual world?