As a writer, you have undoubtedly heard the advice, “Find your tribe.” But is this easier said than done? After all, Jerry Seinfeld has a shtick in which he talks about how easily children make friends over a shared preference for cherry cola, etc., while adults tend to regard new acquaintances with the jaded eyes of a hiring manager who is not accepting applications at this time.
I wonder if this is partly due to our experiences with fair-weather friends. Many come into our lives seeking to unpack and hang out awhile. Then they pick up their marbles and split. A few may flash the peace sign as they ramble on, others the middle finger. The ones who do neither, we count on the fingers of one hand as our true friends.
But what about cultivating a trusted group of writers with whom you can talk shop, depend on for critiquing or beta reading, or simply share the emotional journey of the submissions process?
How do you find your poetry or prose-posse?
Years ago, I attended a chapter meeting of a national writing organization, and found its members to be cold as a Scrooge’s bare ass. Add a few other deterrents, and I was one-and-done with them.
I contacted a group in Delaware and attended their next session at an American Legion Hall where I had to run the gauntlet of beer-drinking, dirty-old men to reach the meeting room, but it was worth it. This group was an eclectic mix that included:
- A man with a hook-arm who wrote westerns;
- A stay-at-home mother who didn’t write much, but came to preserve her sanity;
- A yachtswoman who wanted to pen travel articles;
- An office worker who wrote romance on her lunch breaks;
- A social butterfly who dabbled in romance, but mostly liked to talk;
- A self-proclaimed witch who participated in drum circles and esoteric studies and was our eldest member. She wrote romances about class-differences, always wore turquoise, and liked her love scenes spicy-hot;
- A down-to-earth woman with a life story that read like a soap opera. She wrote romance and children’s lit, both with rich sensory description and strong characterization;
- Oh, and then there was me. I had one historical romance, a time travel, and a YA under my belt and in my file cabinet—internships in the craft as I raised three rambunctious sons, taught full-time, and earned my master’s in professional writing. I was writing upmarket women’s fiction, but I didn’t know it by that label at the time.
So how did our Prose-Posse fare over the years?
- The writer of westerns quit writing due to a shrinking market for his genre;
- The stay-at-home mother went MIA;
- Yachtswoman published a few travel pieces and is now on dry land;
- The office worker left us for new applicants, and has gone on to self-pub;
- The social butterfly has flown to other fields;
- The esoteric romance writer passed on to the other side and acts as muse for the remaining two of us:
- The down-to-earth woman with the soap opera-life story is now published. She is currently shopping a children’s story featuring a physically-challenged protagonist, and is writing an inspirational novel based on a frequent leading news story;
- And then there’s me. I’m a recovering teacher of English and Creative Writing, starting my second season as a writer by submitting poetry and nonfiction to literary journals, launching a blog, and penning two novels–Nanowritemo look out. The best is yet to come.
So now there are two. Or there were two when Linda and I attended a writer’s conference sponsored by my local library last month.
At the conference, we met a fabulous businesswoman, motivational speaker, and writer who has just moved to Maryland from Los Angeles. She is starting the process of marketing an esoteric memoir. She talked a bit about the universe and energy.
You know how you just click with someone right away? Linda and I looked at each other during box lunch with Karen at the conference, and said, “Dottie” at the same time.
Karen is bringing Dottie’s spirit back to us. We have a new friend in this writer from L.A. And even better, our Prose-Posse is now a trio.
Finding your Poetry or Prose-Posse is sort of like finding a mate. Put yourself out there and see what happens. Go to conferences. Get on social media with like-minded people. Join local groups. Especially those offered by the library. Remember:
- A lot of it is chemistry.
- It can’t be forced.
- Everyone’s needs should be addressed by the group.
- And those involved need to be committed to the craft and the greater good.
When you find your tribe, you’ll know it—no application needed.