Creating a Writing Community: A HippoCamp 2015 Recap

[This is a guest blog post by attendee Meryl Baer.]

panel view from back of full room

Ernest Hemingway stated, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.” The act of writing involves the individual and the pen, paper, computer or whatever device a writer fancies. But the art of writing and producing publishable material comprises a lot more than solitary moments communing with words.

An essential component of every writer’s life today is establishing a network of supporters interested in one’s work. The panel “Writing & Your Community: A Look at Literary Citizenship” at the HippoCamp15 conference examined the how-to’s of creating a writer’s community.

Yes it takes time, yes a writer would rather be writing, and yes community is extremely important if a writer wants to promote, publish, and get paid for their work. Extroverts have no problem with the paradigm. Introverts – and lots of writers, including this one, fall into this category – struggle to create a personal writing community.

The goal is developing a group of individuals, companies and organizations interested in a writer’s work. The four speakers highlighted features considered mandatory, including a mailing list, author website and a presence on social media. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook topped the list. Panelists stressed the importance of maintaining an ongoing conversation with followers via Twitter, blog posts and other electronic means, the objective getting people involved.

Community reaches beyond the virtual. Jim Breslin mentioned connections made with events such as story slams and writers groups. Reaching out to other writers, asking for help and in turn offering advice, recommendations and support is another community-building element.

Financial issues are never far from a writer’s mind. Most writers would love to write full time, but most do not. Few become financial superstars. Special projects, such as self-publishing or research, require funds. Crowdfunding is a way to reach out to a writer’s community for financial support.

Writers may feel they work in a vacuum, isolated and alone. But in today’s publishing world twitter activity and blog hits count. A writer’s platform, a willingness to put oneself ‘out there’ and market a product, is as important as an actual manuscript.

I left the conference with pages of notes, my brain stuffed with information to ponder, and a bag full of business cards, my personal writer’s community expanded with new email contacts, Facebook and Twitter friends.

The Panelists:

  • Jim Breslin – founder of West Chester (PA) Story Slam, Oemead Press, author of Shoplandia.
  •  Jennifer Hill – editor and designer at Paper Kite Press, devoted to poetry, and a poet, playwright, arts educator and performer.
  •  Monique Lewis – founder of At The Inkwell, a New York City-based advocate of writers through articles, book reviews and readings. Monique is editor for Mergermarket and teaches fiction workshops.
  •  Lisa Romeo – freelance writer, editor, creative writing teacher, coach and ghostwriter.
  •  Lori Myers – moderator – freelance writer, memoir workshop instructor and senior interviews editor for Hipppocampus Magazine.