Friday Links: Pop Culture and the Writer

TGIF! There seems to be a confluence of significant pop culture landmarks today. First, of course, we have the anniversary of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which premiered on the WB 20 years ago today. There are a ton of great articles and reminiscences floating around — far more than I could have included here — but I did find a particularly writer-specific one to share in today’s links. But do poke around and see what else is out there if Buffy is your kind of gal.

For those of you in a Marvel state of mind, today is the 100th birthday of Sergeant James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, faithful sidekick of Captain America, most recently personified by actor Sebastian Stan. There are a lot of birthday wishes for Bucky appearing on Twitter and Tumblr. He looks damn good for 100.

Finally, for the Harry Potter set, today is Remus Lupin’s birthday as well. I believe per the books he would be somewhere in his late 40s. I’ve seen a few posts celebrating Lupin, also. You really have to love fandoms.

So what does my little outburst of geekdom have to do with writing or publishing? There’s a lot to be said for creating characters that encourage this sort of knowledge and acknowledgement, even celebration. What makes them so beloved? Why do readers and viewers feel so connected to them? How did they become so real? Take a look at the source material for any of the above, or for your own favorite successful works, and figure out what really makes those characters tick.

On that note, I offer up a little more pop culture love, plus a nice assortment of other writerly links to help kick off your weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

10 Famous Writers on Loving Buffy the Vampire Slayer – A good group of authors offering up a variety of reasons why they love the show.

7 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Writing Files – Sometimes it’s procrastination, but sometimes it’s just plain necessary. Some helpful advice on getting organized.

How to Develop Relationships with Other Writers – Some excellent tips for finding your writing tribe.

Margaret Atwood on What “The Handmaid’s Tale” Means in the Age of Trump – The author looks at her own work in regards to the current political climate.

Writing Contests in 2017 – A searchable database compiled by the folks at Reedsy. With thanks to Arielle Contreras for the link.

10 Essential Books to Read from Iran – A nice list to help anyone looking to diversify that TBR stack.


Finding Your Tribe: A Writer’s Community

Writing is a solitary activity. Even writers who work with co-authors, or who break story ideas in a group as part of a television writing staff, must eventually sit down to face that blank page on their own. Beyond the act of getting down the words, however, dwells a wealth of opportunities for writers to interact, exchange ideas and experiences, and enjoy a community of people who understand precisely what it means to wrestle an idea into shape or struggle to ramp up the tension in a scene. Fellow writers read your work and offer constructive criticism, provide insight into where you might research an obscure facet of your story, and share knowledge about the submissions and/or publishing process. Other writers provide your network of both practical information and emotional support; in short, they are your tribe.

Whenever I attend a writing conference, it strikes me anew just how important it is for writers to escape the trap of working entirely in a void. Writers who know other writers also know more about the business, have a better grasp of the publishing process, and tend to have fewer typos and plot holes in their manuscripts. That’s not to say having a writing community means automatic publication and a swift path to bestsellerdom, but it does help writers avoid the more obvious pitfalls along the way, and provides some understanding shoulders on those days when frustration overwhelms determination.

But where do you find other writers? Writing isn’t the sort of career where you necessarily meet colleagues in your office, sitting one desk over. Most writers have other jobs to pay their bills, and not everyone who goes home to a second shift writing stories discusses their ambitions around their day-job’s water cooler. So where to start?

Writing conferences and conventions that revolve around genre writing make for obvious choices, and they come in a variety of sizes and for different budgets. Go prepared to both learn things and socialize. Many events offer an introductory session for first-time attendees, but even if they don’t, you can meet people simply by speaking with the person next to you in a workshop or at a meal. Ask what they write or what they’re currently reading. In a gathering of writers, you have built-in ice breakers. You can even arrange to meet people ahead of time through Twitter using the event hashtag.

If conferences are out of your budget or if travel poses difficulties, check out opportunities in your own town or nearby. Writers’ organizations, such as Romance Writers of America (RWA), have local chapters that meet monthly to discuss their members’ achievements, hear from guest speakers, and encourage each other to reach for their goals, and can offer a ready-made tribe of writers who work in your genre. Writing classes come in all sizes and shapes — from continuing education at the local university or high school to courses offered at the community center or YMCA — and give you the chance to meet other writers in the process. If you want to find a writing group, ask your librarian or at area bookstores to see if they have information about existing meetings, or go to and see if they have a group near you.

The internet, of course, makes a wonderful resource for connecting with other writers. You don’t have to meet face-to-face in order to chat about writing with other likeminded individuals, and many writers work with critique partners or beta readers who live thousands of miles away by emailing back and forth, chatting online, making use of Skype, etc. Online classes can be less costly than those in real life, and many offer the opportunity to read and critique the work of your classmates. Some writers’ sites offer forums, such as this one at Writer’s Digest, where you can post questions, introduce yourself, and chat with other posters. Participate in the comments section of writers’ blogs — not solely to find critique partners, but to become part of the community at large by engaging and offering your own thoughts. Follow writers you admire on Twitter, as well as editors, publishing houses, and other industry accounts to learn more about the business as well as what’s happening in the wider writing community. Even if you don’t want to write a novel in a month, consider participating in NaNoWriMo and getting to know people through their local writing meet ups and extensive forums. Although not everyone will have professional aspirations, there will be plenty of published and hoping-to-publish writers in the mix. As with any social interaction, please use some caution when meeting online acquaintances for the first time in person and start off in a public place.

Building a writing community won’t happen overnight, but it’s worth making the investment of time and effort it takes to develop your personal tribe.

A few additional resources to check out:


Finding Your Writing Community

Last week I talked about the importance of finding a strong critique partner to help you in the process of honing your work. But beyond that, I think it’s vital to develop a writing community. By this I mean people with whom you can discuss writing in general and trade recommendations for fabulous books or conferences or writing programs, who will let you complain when your characters are misbehaving and who will cheer you on when you’re close to finishing a book. These folks won’t necessarily read your novel word for word and provide you with feedback, but they will provide you with the water-cooler chat that people find in a more traditional workplace. They can also share their own career experiences if they are ahead of you in the quest to publish.

Let’s face it: Writing can be a solitary, isolating occupation. You might have a day job with co-workers, and a family and friends to keep you sane, but they don’t necessarily get all that excited when you have a breakthrough over a troubling plot point. Nor are they going to commiserate when you hear your arch-nemesis has signed a three-book contract, at least not on the same level as a peer. But the world is full of people who will join you in the sort of discussion that makes you feel like a writer, even before you have your own shiny book deal.

There are plenty of places to find these sorts of partners in crime, both in the real world and online. The obvious choices are writing classes or programs, and organizations geared toward the type of writing you do, such as Sisters in Crime or Romance Writers of America. You can also check your local paper or library to see if there’s a local writers’ group that meets in your town or nearby, and see if they are open to new members. Online, you can find broader versions of the same organizations that hold regional meetings, and many have virtual chapters that meet in cyberspace.

However, don’t discount writers’ conferences. These can cost a bit more than some other options and require advance planning, but they can be well worth the effort. A writers’ conference offers a chance to meet fellow writers at all stages of their careers, including published authors who often present inspiring key note addresses, while also allowing you to attend panels and seminars, perhaps meet with an agent or editor, and puts you smack in the middle of plenty of writerly chat over the course of the conference. The one I attended this past weekend, for example, the San Francisco Writers Conference, was a sold-out event featuring more than 300 attendees and 100 presenters. If that size seems overwhelming, there are certainly smaller gatherings as well.The Shaw Guides website provides a listing of a broad range of conferences available each year.

A writing community helps to keep a writer focused and inspired. Of course, a writing community can also be a distraction if you allow it to swallow all of your free time, including that normally devoted to writing, but that’s true of anything in which you involve yourself. Overall, a community of fellow writers will allow you the support to continue in the face of rejection and the sense of belonging that can help you keep your eye on your goals.