It Takes a Village: Grateful for My Writing Communities
When I began my professional writing journey about thirteen years ago, I really didn’t know any other writers or publishing industry folks. Indeed, I wrote rather in secret that first year before attending my first writing conference, the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute. I’ve previously talked about how that conference changed my writing world—allowing me to find “my people” for the first time. I’m still connected with so many of those fine writers today, which is especially important now that the conference (along with the entire UW Continuing Studies writing program) is no more. I penned an ode to this conference here. But that conference was just the beginning of building a writing community that is so important to me (in so many ways) on a weekly if not daily basis.
At that first conference, I met another young adult novel writer who told me that I absolutely MUST join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), which I did. The SCBWI Wisconsin Chapter has been instrumental in expanding my community of fellow writers and their conferences are held in such a way that I was able to get to know a number of agents and editors through the years, too. The resources offered are especially helpful to anyone at the beginning of their author adventures; however, the most crucial resource gained was that of a critique group. I don’t know if all regions of SCBWI have this magical critique group coordinator who oversees matching stray writers with critique group openings, but I’m forever grateful that Wisconsin does. Perhaps one of my most important ‘communities’ has been this critique group. Our membership has fluctuated through the years, but the two other consistent members have been Silvia Acevedo and Keith Pitsch . . . grammarians extraordinaire and excellent editors who have made my manuscripts ever-so-much better.
In addition to the Writers’ Institute and SCBWI Conferences, I’ve expanded my writing and publishing community with friends I’ve made as an attendee and/or a presenter at conferences sponsored by the Wisconsin Writers Association, Lakefly Writers, Wisconsin State Reading Association, and Wisconsin Romance Writers Association, in addition to book festivals like Untitled Town, Book Bonanza, and Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books and so many more.
Books & Beer
Having met so many authors, I sort of fell into the job of coordinating and emceeing the Books & Beer book club in Columbus, Wisconsin—my defacto hometown. Once upon a time, there were a few people sitting at the local brew pub, lamenting the fact that they didn’t want to have a regular book club. Instead, they wanted a book club where they could read books by authors who would actually visit for the discussion. But the only author they knew was me, so I was asked if I thought other authors would like this idea – and guess what???-they did. (Like a lot a lot!) We’ve been going strong since April of 2015 and have gathered nearly once per month to chat with an author (apart from some pandemic cancellations.) It’s been a fun adventure getting to know many readers in my community and expanding my circle of writing friends with the guest authors who have joined us. (And, by the way, even if you don't live in the Columbus area we broadcast our author discussions via zoom.)
Lost Lake Press – Author Services
My Client Community
Eventually, I published my first book . . . but it’s important to back up just a click here and explain a few things. I’d been immersed in the publishing world as a writer for nearly seven years before my first book came out. I had learned a lot, but there’s nothing like indie publishing a book to teach you what you don’t know. My previous professional career in public relations definitely prepared me for the publicity and marketing efforts, but I learned everything else as I went. I’ve never really stopped learning. With a constantly changing publishing world, you must keep learning to be successful. Throughout the next few years, I published book 2 and 3 in my series and began to help other authors. In part, this was an effort to pay it forward as so many generous writers gave me helpful tips and advice on my path to publication. But anger also fueled my decision to offer author services as I saw so many writers being taken advantage of by publishing predators who offered vague promises and bad options for beaucoup bucks, capitalizing on writers’ dreams of one day hold their printed book in their hands. It was maddening, and I knew I could take my knowledge and share it in a way that gave writers control over their careers. I’ve been doing that now for five years. I’ve worked with so many amazing authors that I now count as friends, too. And what a delightful journey to beautiful fictional worlds and into nonfiction book topics that have taught me so much. Many of these wonderful writers have manuscripts that are approaching publication and many others already have published books . . . here are a few of their book covers in the montage below. (If you’re curious about what services and courses I offer, head on over to LostLakePress.com to check it out.)
More recently, through some of the connections I previously made in the writing world, I joined the Blackbird Writers. This small but mighty author group writes award-winning suspense, mysteries, and thrillers, including stories in the cozy mystery and paranormal sub genres. Banding together as authors has given all of us additional support for our launches and sales along with an engaging platform to share our stories and writerly worlds with like-minded readers and authors. If you're a fan of these genres, you'll want to subscribe to our newsletter for fabulous giveaways or browse titles in our bookstore.
Publishing is a harsh business that can chew you up and spit you out on a regular basis. I’m not sure I could have survived without the comradery of these wonderfully supportive communities that continually make my writing and publishing experience kinder and more fulfilling. So, in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, it is with joyful reflection I give my heartfelt thanks!