The Role Writing Communities Play in a Writer’s Life

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the role writing communities play in a writer’s life. It seems contradictory, because as writers we spend so much time alone in our own worlds frolicking amongst the convolutions of our minds. But that may be the point — sometimes we just need to rub elbows with our writing buddies. Folks who might not be on exactly the same path as us, but who still can share their accomplishments, challenges and sometimes confusion.

As Writers4Writers, my writers’ support group members know, I unabashedly love being around other writers.  I’ve talked often of how I savor talking to and kanoodling conundrums with other devotees of the written word. Writing a book is not for the faint of heart as we painstakingly churn out each chapter, looking at each word with a microscope, armed with our friend Roget. Boy, am I grateful for today’s technology of highlight and clicking to capture just the right nuanced word.

I find being in their presence inspiring, sometimes challenging, and always a learning experience. Hanging out with my peeps, to my way of thinking, is an awesome way to spend the afternoon!

There are all types of writing communities. Some are specific to authors — perhaps with editors, cover artists, agents or publishers. Others are composed of members interested in improving their writing craft, or providing education about the business of writing…there are many parts to this puzzle.

We have a little something for everyone in Writers4Writers — one stop shopping. We explore all areas of writing whether the business, the craft, or the community experience, — you can find it here.

And it is, a puzzle. Lots of moving pieces to find and place just so…writing, publishing, marketing, selling, distribution — there’re lots of shifting, progressive parts. Personally, I like the idea of having a family along the ride to ease those puzzle pieces into their correct positions.

At Writers4Writers, we touch on all of these topics through our speakers, all the while providing support to our members. We discuss our challenges and seek feedback, and members offer guidance and suggestions to move their projects forward. Always a sense of community — an atmosphere of how can we help?

Authors are varied as to their genres and subjects that speak to their hearts. At our Writers4Writers November meeting we had memoirists, poets, children’s book authors, short story writers, a YA novelist, a cookbook expert and even a scientific grant writer and lyricist.

Heartfelt projects were varied, — from communicating telepathically with animals, to the health benefits of ethnic cuisine, — and recovering from your death bed after a trip to Zambia from an undiagnosed illness.

My story of course, is about our trip to Israel in July 2014, when on a family vacation we found ourselves in the middle of war. These are just a few of our stories — who wouldn’t be intrigued? All stories — a delicious, hearty soup of differing flavors and textures.

Our speaker at Writers4Writers this month was Cherie Kephart, who had written a memoir, “A Few A Few Minor AdjustmentsMinor Adjustments: A Memoir of Healing.” It’s her story about how after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia, she returned to the United States with an African souvenir she didn’t expect: a mysterious illness. She fell severely ill and almost died, and takes the reader on an entertaining journey searching for life-saving answers.

Although the book has only been out for three months, it has already won three awards. Her story is heart-warming and inspirational — I’d highly recommend reading about her life-changing adventure.

Not only did Cherie share her story and writing path, but the community interaction sharing each other’s experiences, and offering advice and writing tips was informative and fun!

It takes a village. Of course there’s the writer, but once the manuscript is written, you need the varied talents of the editor, cover designer, book interior designer and marketing professionals to assist making your book be the best and most successful product possible. Don’t we want to combine the gifts of what each offers to support birthing our babies?

There are many writing groups to choose from — if you aren’t being buoyed by the participants in a group, leave. The atmosphere in too many writers groups is that of criticism and one-upmanship. Which is why in Writers4Writers, we’ve established safe feedback guidelines. I won’t even call them critiques —I bristle at the word. We want to provide helpful recommendations in a supportive atmosphere — but remember, it’s your work. Keep the suggestions you agree with and ignore the rest.

As Jean Houston says, it’s always your response-ability to evaluate and face the results of your action or inaction.

But this isn’t to say you should leave a group because its members disagree with you. We as writers need to hear, — sometimes painfully, other people’s opinions from those trying to help. Double-check yourself that you aren’t being defensive. It’s hard to listen to opposing viewpoints, but we need to involve other people who have varying backgrounds and aptitudes, to make our work the best it can be. The same eyes that created something, can’t see the flaws — don’t you want someone to tell you the label of your shirt is showing before you go out in public?

Your writing communities are a rich resource — a fertile ground to grow and explore new ideas… throw out that wild ass thought you had and see if lands softly or falls with a clatter to the floor. It’s all right; your fellow companions will pick it up, dust it off, and spit-shine it into something you can use or let you know it just isn’t working — thank you!

There are advantages and disadvantages to both traditional and indie publishing, but what’s clear is that either way you choose, you’re on your own with regard to marketing. If you want to be successful, you have to accept that you just took on another full-time job.

It’s agreed that publishing a successful book takes time, money and luck. But don’t reinvent the wheel; you and your story are unique — not necessarily the path to market. You have to know yourself and your audience. Where are your readers? How would you be comfortable selling your book?

Would your fans be at a book signing, a book fair, or at a speaking engagement? Or do you prefer emulating what some successful writers have done — peddling your books across the country from the back of your car? It’s all been tried before. Research it and discover what would work for your topic and genre. Look at how similar authors have marketed, and let them drop crumbs for you to gobble. (Sorry, Thanksgiving wasn’t so long ago, and I haven’t eaten lunch yet.)

Karla Olson, founder of Publishers and Writers of Orange County and San Diego (PWOC or PWSD), one terrific industry organization I belong to advises that your book proposal needs to be five pages — your marketing plan should be twenty-five.

Sadly, as I write this, I’m messaging with Karla. She, her husband and two cats have been evacuated due to the Thomas fires. They are safe but huddling in their car, as the hotels don’t take animals. Please join me in sending your blessings to them.

Which brings me to the fact that I just returned again from the James Malinchak Big Money Speakers

Penny S. Tee with James Malinchak

Penny S. Tee with James Malinchak

Conference. As always, the event was amazing and James is definitely the consummate marketing and speaking authority. He advises celebrities such as Jack Canfield, Co-creator of the #1 Book Series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Leeza Gibbons, Emmy Award Winning TV & Radio Host, Kevin Harrington of the original Shark Tank, inventor of the infomercial, Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of Priceline.com and  Joe Theismann, Former NFL World Champion and very successful entrepreneur with over 2,000 talks under his helmet. In other words, he knows what he is talking about. After a whirlwind of four days, my next blog will be on the event and what I learned.

Manifest Your Dreams Vision Board Workshop

2018 Manifest Your Dreams
Vision Board Workshop

For our January 20th Writers4Writers meeting, we will be having guest speaker Trez Ibrahim guide us in Manifest Your Dreams at the Vision Board 2018 Workshop. Let’s make 2018 the best year ever!

Trez describes our Writers4Writers December workshop this way:

“Most of us have fleeting ideas of what we want to be, do or have in our lives. Yet they remain just that: fleeting. After all, who has the time to intentionally get clear about what we want to create?

“Well, everyone from Katy Perry to Ellen Degeneres to Oprah swears that they intentionally created outcomes by using a simple tool: Vision Boards.

“A Vision Board is a way to sell your own ideas to yourself, to anchor to your dreams and to allow the magic of manifestation to work in your life. Finally!

“As someone who has been making my own Vision Boards for as long as I can remember, and manifested

Trez Ibrahim

Trez Ibrahim

some amazing results, I’ve learned it’s more than just slapping a picture onto a poster board. It’s about getting clear on your authentic life, letting go of what’s in the way, and then clearly connecting with your dreams while designing a vision that calls to you. That’s why I’ve created the Manifest Your Dreams-Vision Board Workshop. You will walk away with clarity on what you really want in your life and your very own Vision Board to take home and effortlessly attract your ideal outcomes in the months ahead.”

Are you looking for support? For knowledge about publishing, the craft of writing or to join an awesome family of writers, come join us at Writers4Writers. Push yourself away from your solitude, computer and explore. Find your peeps — check us out at the Rancho Santa Margarita Library, on the third Saturday of the month, 2-4:30 p.m.

It’s very important this month to R.S.V.P. so we know how many supplies to bring for the event. Let us help you make 2018 your best year ever. See you soon!

As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…

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February 12, 2018
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