You can’t go more than about 10 feet in Austin without bumping into a writer. They call our city the “Live Music Capitol of the World” but in reality, I think we have more writers and authors than musicians these days.
I first discovered how vibrant our writing community is when I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time back in 2013. For the month of November, writers were everywhere!
Not wanting the connection to fellow writers to end in December,
I joined a writing meetup called “Sit Down, Shut Up and Write!”. It’s so popular that even though they meet 3-4 times a week, it was often hard to get a spot. When I decided to try self-publishing, I jumped at the chance to join the new meetup called Indie Publishing Austin, and over the past year I’ve met some amazing indie authors and found the inspiration to publish my first novel.
In addition to these groups. there are tons of small critique groups and other small meetups focused on book writing, as well as dozens of freelance writers, copywriters, content marketers and bloggers (many of whom attend BlogathonATX or are members of the Texas Freelance Association).
So many writers!
The problem is, none of these groups seem to overlap. I keep meeting writers, and especially authors, but none of them knew each other or about other groups and opportunities. Most only have a vague idea of the resources and opportunities that exist for writers – trainings and speaking opportunities, workshops and contests. They don’t know who to ask for help when they get stuck, and they have no role models or mentors when they want to take their writing careers to the next level.
In other words, we have plenty of writers here, but we don’t really have a community.
Unlike music, which is meant to be social and a performance, writing is much more of a solitary pursuit, so people who write don’t always consider the social benefits of meeting others like them. They don’t realize how many opportunities they’re missing to learn from each other, read each other’s works and offer critiques, motivate and inspire each other, and hold each other accountable. Plus, in my experience, writers tend to be a lot of fun to hang out with over a beer or a cup of coffee.
To work towards building a writing community here in Austin, with the help of my friends, I’ve launched two experiments.
First is a meetup called “Write It Already!” which is an opportunity for writers and editors to meet to talk about the craft or just have “write ins” where a group gets together to write. In my experience, having a structured writing time away from home can be really productive, so I hope we can offer lots of these opportunities in the future. We also host indie author readings at Malvern Books, offering people without a publisher or marketing firm an opportunity to read in front of a public audience and build their experience and sales.
We’re also organizing a conference called BrainstormATX, a grassroots conference for authors that will be held in Austin on June 18th, 2016. My goal in organizing this conference is to bring together a lot of local authors, both traditionally published and indies, to talk about shared concerns and learn from each other. All of our speakers are from the local region and many are authors themselves sharing their own experiences.
There have to be other ways we can foster the creative talents in Austin, the writers and authors who produce such great work, and the editors and artists who support their projects.
If you’re a local writer, I’d love to hear from you and learn what kinds of things would help you be more successful and productive. Where do you struggle? Are there aspects of writing or publishing or the career that you want to learn more about? Do you need help keeping going week after week, or do you need assistance in quitting the “day job” to be a writer?
Let me know in the comments, or send me a message, if you’re a writer in Austin and there’s something you’re looking for and haven’t found. And certainly reach out if you would be willing to offer a workshop or coordinate a write-in or offer your time in any other way to help connect and inspire fellow writers.
Together we can make it happen!