I wouldn’t go as far as to say that being successful as a writer depends on who you know. But I will say that getting to know your writing community can do amazing things for your writing career.
For years I wrote as a hermit. I stayed hunched in my cave of an office and wrote, wrote, wrote. I believed that the most important part of a writer’s work was to produce copy and send it out. So I did. I wrote volumes, and I have the rejection letters to prove it.
It turns out that sitting in isolation and sending cold query letters to unknown publishers already buried beneath slush piles isn’t the best way to go about it, after all.
Frustrated but determined (if not deranged), I decided just more than a year ago to get out of my cave in search of a civilized writing community. And I discovered that I was not alone. Not only did I find a thriving community of supportive writers, I feel that I’ve helped to create it.
I began by visiting book festivals, attending writer conferences, and participating in fiction workshops. I took the advice of my fellow writers, and gave it in turn. Not only did I get good feedback, I fostered the writing of others as well. When I crept out into the larger literary world of the Baltimore-DC area, I had no idea it would consume me – and polish me in the process.
Just last year, I read from my fiction at the Patterson Theater in downtown Baltimore and was a featured author at the Baltimore Book Festival – the Mid Atlantic’s largest celebration of the literary arts – and my fiction was mentioned in the local newspapers and on NPR. I received an honorable mention from an international fiction contest, and then went on to publish a short story in Coloquio, an online newsletter with 7 million hits a year. Then I was asked to submit my fiction to a local literary anthology. I was interviewed about my writing in Write and Publish Your Book, an online magazine. And then came the big news: all within a few weeks, an excerpt from my novel was published in The Washington Post, a story was selected for publication in The Baltimore Review and another story was chosen to be published by To Be Read Aloud!
I’m more or less the same writer I was a few years ago. But finally, I’m getting praise and payment for my fiction. My writing has improved, certainly. But I believe I owe much of my recent success to the local literary community. Simply being involved, supporting others, and accepting their support has meant more than I could have imagined. It also goes a long way toward showing editors and publishers that you’re serious about your writing.
Regardless of your talent, I strongly recommend reaching out and getting involved with your local literary community. It could be the difference between hermit and hero.
Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer and editor. His work as been published or is forthcoming in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Review, To Be Read Aloud, On Stage Magazine, Travel Insights, Coloquio, Neck of My Guitar, Federal Voice, and Write Here Write Now, and he received an honorable mention in The Baltimore Review’s 2005 fiction competition. Eric seeks an agent for TRACKS, his novel in stories. Visit Writeful, Eric’s literary weblog, at http://www.writeful.blogspot.com.