First, a quick update: you can now anonymously submit questions that you’d like me to consider answering in future letters. I’d love to hear your questions or areas you’d like to hear more about. Now, back to today’s topic:
While no two publishing journeys are identical, one constant I’ve heard from countless writers and illustrators is the value of finding your creative community. We all know that writing and illustrating are solitary activities, and that the creative life can often feel lonely. At the same time, it can be hard for those outside of the publishing world to fully understand its challenges and frustrations; this only adds to the sense of isolation that many creatives feel.
Finding your creative community certainly won’t erase these difficult moments, but connecting with likeminded people can help you to weather publishing’s many storms—offering support, perspective, advice, or simply commiseration—in addition to celebrating your successes along the way. As such, today’s letter includes resources for creatives looking to build connections with other writers and illustrators.
Of course, what a supportive community looks like will be different from person to person, and will likely shift over the course of your creative journey. For some, having a single trusted critique partner may offer the support they need to finish and submit a manuscript; others may benefit from occasional check-ins with creative friends, mentors, or mentees; regular writing sessions or critique groups; workshops, conferences, or retreats; conversations on social media; or any other combination of virtual and in-person connections.
Professional organizations are one way to meet other writers and illustrators in your field. Large national organizations often have local chapters and offer ways to participate virtually as well as at in-person events. While professional organizations typically have membership fees in addition to any other membership requirements, many also offer free resources, scholarships, grants, and other low- or no-cost events.
In addition to looking for writing organizations specific to your state or local area, consider looking into national organizations such as: the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI); the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA); Mystery Writers of America (MWA); Romance Writers of America (RWA); and the Society of Illustrators (SI).
Book Signings, Festivals, & Other Literary Events
Attending book-focused events is another way to connect with the literary community. Events offer you the opportunity to support and learn from other authors and illustrators, while also giving you the chance to get to know the host bookstores, schools, or libraries. Even if you are unable to travel to events in person, many events are now being made available to virtual attendees in live or recorded formats.
The events you attend can also help to prepare you for those you may be asked to join in the future. What types of events are you most drawn to? What do you feel makes for an engaging, informative, or memorable book launch? What workshops or classes have been the most helpful to you? What authors, illustrators, interviewers, educators, booksellers, or librarians would you love to hold an event with in the future? How can you continue to support their work now?
If you found an event or book particularly impactful, consider taking the time to send a note of appreciation to the speaker, organizer, author, or illustrator. Hearing specific, personal stories about a book or event’s impact can be incredibly meaningful, especially for those whose work may be less visible or widely-known. While you may not always receive a response in the moment, you never know what may spark an ongoing conversation or another connection down the road.
In addition to events in your local area, consider looking into virtual or in-person events and resources provided by the professional organizations mentioned above, as well as others such as the Highlights Foundation; the Writing Barn; and the Loft Literary Center.
Websites and Social Media
Lastly, many authors and illustrators find or expand their communities via websites and social media—whether in Facebook groups like Kidlit411; Twitter hashtags like #amwriting, #writingcommunity, and #kidlit; the BookTok community on TikTok; Instagram’s #bookstagram community and illustration challenges like #merMay; writing-focused websites like the 12×12 Challenge and Shut Up & Write; and more.
In fact, there are so many ways to connect online that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. My advice is to find what feels the most natural and enjoyable for you to participate in—whether that’s joining a single Facebook group, participating in occasional Twitter chats, or sharing your illustrations on Instagram—and to ignore the sites that feel draining and unenjoyable.
While building and maintaining authentic connections takes time and effort—particularly if you consider yourself an introvert or are new to the publishing world—the end results can make your creative journey less lonely, more fulfilling, and more sustainable.
Your Editor Friend,
P.S. If you found this letter helpful, please consider sharing it with a friend or subscribing to receive letters straight to your inbox every Wednesday. If you’d like to say hello, share feedback, or submit a question that I might answer in a future letter, please email me or ask me a question anonymously! I’d love to hear from you.