I’m gearing up for KidLitVic 2019. This will be the fourth year this amazing Victorian conference for children’s writers is being held and the fourth year I will be attending and having assessments of my work by publishers. That means I’m busy refining, refining, refining. Writing reminds me of tumbling stones – you need to keep going to get something beautiful.
Four years ago, at my first conference, I met another aspiring writer in the toilets (to any male readers, women do get chatty in the loo) and we’ve kept in touch. Which is awesome, because a vital part of writing is connecting with other writers. They’re the people that understand when you say you’re having trouble with your protagonist’s character arc, or your middle’s sagging, or you can’t cut anymore words, or you can’t find anymore words. They are, in short, your tribe.
Why is having a tribe important?
We all need a tribe, a place where we are understood and belong. My husband, for example, is an accountant. I don’t think he’d say it was his calling, it’s just what he does to make money and he does it well. He probably wouldn’t say he has a tribe, but he laughs at accountants jokes on the TV, he has in-jokes with his colleagues that only accountants understand. He belongs. Just like he belonged in his cricket and footy teams when he was younger. Just like he belongs in the family we’ve created together. And belonging gives us a sense of security and a feeling of being understood.
When I’m with my writer-tribe I feel understood, validated and not so alone. I’m not crazy for doing something that’s taken over a decade and hasn’t produced any financial return, because other members of my tribe are doing it too, and some have done it and come out the other side.
Where do you find your tribe?
As I said, I met Ange at a writers’s conference. I have met other writer’s at conferences as well and, although I don’t stay in touch with all of them, when I’m with them, I feel a sense of belonging. So, conferences are obviously good places to meet other writers but you might also find that there are writer’s groups in your area. These may be advertised through your local library or community center. Unfortunately, due to other commitments they’re not an option for everyone.
Online is also good and done from the comfort of your armchair. Facebook groups for writers in your genre are a good start, as are blogs where you can read posts, comment and interact with other writers. While yo u miss out of the face-to-face connection, you’re still talking with other people who share your interest for writing.
I have had some experience with online critique groups but I wasn’t a big fan. Personally, I found it onerous having to rack up so many points in order to have my work critiqued, especially when each critique I did took me about an hour. I also found that people were reluctant to critique stand alone chapters, but I didn’t want to waste points having critiques of work that had been looked at elsewhere or I didn’t feel needed critiquing. That said, your experience might be different, so have a look and see what’s out there.
While the actual work of writing is often solitary, the writing life shouldn’t be. We need other writers to help us on our way, give us support and chuckle over how much coffee and chocolate are needed to get through yet another redraft.
After all, you don’t want to end up like this guy.