November 5, 2007
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Our travels took us to Minneapolis to visit friends, coincidentally at around the time Kelly McCullough, of the excellent Wyrdsmiths blog, was doing a reading and signing at Dreamhaven Books and Comics. We made a trip down there and arrived just in time to hear Kelly read from his latest book (which is due out this summer), the third in the “Webmage” series.
We enjoyed the reading a lot. Kelly’s writing is snappy and fun, with a good sense of humor, and his world is a complex and entertaining one–sort of like Tim Powers meets Douglas Adams, if you can imagine that. I picked up both his books and will be reviewing them in this space as soon as I work through some of the rest of my stack.
I wanted to talk more about the community of writers and how important it is. Several of the people at the reading were clearly friends of Kelly and familiar with his work, and though I didn’t confirm this, I suspect many of them were other Wyrdsmiths writers. The same was true at my book signing, and I think from what I’ve been reading of signings that it’s not uncommon across the board, unless your first initials happen to be “J.K.” and your last name “Rowling.” And I think that speaks to the importance of having other writers in your circle, not just so that they can critique your work, but so that you have someone to commiserate with and celebrate with, someone to go to your book signings and someone whose book signings you can attend. Writing is a solitary act by its nature, but appreciating writing can be very communal, and in fact, that’s how many books gain popularity. The “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” phenomenon took off because women in local book clubs were falling in love with the book and discussing it, not because it was promoted by the publisher–but that’s another story.
The moral is, if you’re a writer, go find other writers. This is one of those cases where I think online-only communities don’t substitute for real life. Our New Fables workshop meets bi-weekly, and we only take new members who are local and enthusiastic enough to show up for most of the meetings. That community has been a big help. The best part of taking classes at Stanford was learning how workshops work so Kevin and I could put that workshop together, and meeting other people who shared an interest in writing to keep in touch with.
Who helps you write? How did you find your communities? Or do you not have one and need one?