First and slightly parenthetically, I must live in a cave of unmitigated proportions. I missed--on the front of this site--the announcement of the red room panel, so I was surprised to get the announcement yesterday afternoon via email to attend. Lord knows I would have hopped on BART to get there, but it was a friend's birthday and we were headed out for margaritas and delicious Mexican food. To have a cache of social riches is irritating, so could someone please consult ME next time there is such a panel? I mean, really. I wanted to meet Belle Yang!
But the email and a couple of the blogs here in recent days have made me think about writing communities and the writing world, and when I woke up at 2 am last night, I thought some more.
I always wanted a writing community, a mentor, a guide into the writing world. The problem for me was that in college, my major was English literature, and my advisors and mentors were consulting with me about literary interpretation, something that helps with writing. However, I was not taught about anything useful for my fiction and poetry. The truth is, with a baby and then with another baby (one with my BA and one with my MA--do you see why I don't have a Ph.D?) I didn't have time to write anything creative anyway. I think my output was about a poem or two a year untilI settled in my full-time teaching job at Diablo Valley College.
The good news for me there was that I met a colleague who then became a friend, and we read each other's work and ended up going to classes and lectures and workshops and readings together. Then I met another colleague and ended up in her writing group, which was a group I was in from 1994-2005. These women read just about everything I wrote, poems, stories, novels. What became hard for me was submitting my novels to the group, so as I focused more and more on longer work, I ended up having to leave the group. That and I was too busy being insane during my separation. A couple of these women still read my novels, though, and they are steadfast and stalwart readers, true blue and honest.
Now, I have excellent readers via online, and there is my mother, too, who reads every novel, and she is clamoring for the one I'm just finishing. So I feel supported and assisted and held by my small community.
I have had community envy, though, the feeling that out there, there are writers who have a pack of writer friends. I read about The Grotto in a blog or Dave Eggers and his lively cohort, and I think, man, that must be nice. It seems that there is help and word of mouth assistance that I could never be privy to. That and the genre I dabble in does not seem to be much respected by a number of writers. There are romance writers groups, but I like the idea of a mixed group of writers, writers writing all kinds of things in one place. Just what you can find here at redroom.com.
What redroom has done for me is remind me that writers--in slightly different ways--think about the same things. We have idea issues, editing issues, reading issues. We all must face the market out there, those who buy our work. No matter if we write children's books or non-fiction journalism, we have to find our way to the public. We have to all sit down one morning and start. This is what we do. Here I've read about writers I've known and didn't know--I've "met" people through conversations and blogs that I would not have the chance to meet otherwise. For me, with my life as a teacher and a writer--where I must go out and expend a lot of energy and not go out and expend a lot of energy--this type of community is wonderful and engaging and so very useful to me. I am grateful for the opportunity to blog, to meet people through my ideas.
In my little fantasy, we all meet periodically in a cute little cottage. There, representatives from the government come and give us huge grants. Editors and agents come with offers. We sit and drink tea and coffee (we like to buck the stereotype of the drunken writer). If we smoke, we smoke outside in our convenient smoking area. We talk, we share ideas and work, and then we go home to do what we do--write. Since that cottage would cost 1.5 million here in the Bay Area, redroom is what we have and just as wonderful.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org