The act of writing is a solitary one, but there are many opportunities to connect with others in the literary community. A writing network can assist you with your writing, publishing inquiries, and career prospects. Most importantly, it will surround you around people who understand the position you are in and can offer you support. All you have to do is put in the work to find your people.
Publishers, Agents, and Writers, Oh My!
Conferences offer a space for people in similar industries to be in one place (this works for virtual events too). The biggest conference in the United States is the Association of Writing and Writing Programs (AWP). This conference attracts academics, agents, large and small publishers, and countless writers. Not only are conferences beneficial to make connections, but they also offer educational panels that can inspire and educate.
I’ve attended the AWP conference four years in a row. The second time I went to the conference was in Portland, in 2019. There, I perused the thousands of tables, overwhelmed with information. I stumbled upon Green Writers Press, based in Vermont, USA. I striked up a conversation with a woman working there and we exchanged contact information. Not only was she interning at Green Writers Press, but she was also working part-time for Exisle Publishing. We went our separate ways, but kept in touch. I happened to move to New York City six months after her and in April of 2021, she let me know about the available position I now have at Exisle.
Here is a list of writing conferences in the US, around the world, and online.
You never know who you may meet and the opportunities that can come your way from the relationships you create.
Facebook and Twitter
Social media is an incredibly helpful tool. As a writer, Facebook and Twitter are the best applications to network with other writers.
So how does one build a network on Facebook? Well to start, grab your favorite book and see if that author is on Facebook and has an author page. If they do, follow them. Then, go to the acknowledgments page and find the name of the agent they are thanking. Find them? Good! Now follow them on Facebook as well. You should do the same with the publishers of your favorite books. These profiles will share events they are attending or promoting and, you will know about them too.
Another aspect of Facebook are the many writing groups. All you have to do is join one and suddenly you are (virtually) surrounded by thousands of writers who can offer advice, provide publishing insight, and support you. Here is a list of writing groups you can search for on Facebook. These groups vary from asking editors questions to finding beta readers for your writing. Another group is Call for Submissions which is focused solely on sharing submission opportunities.
Twitter is my personal favorite. People in the writing community show off their personality more and there are agents scouring the site for clients. That’s right, you could capture an agent’s attention on Twitter.
There are many helpful hashtags you can use to reach out to the writing community. These hashtags target specific demographics whether it be other writers or people working in publishing. Not only should you add a hashtag to your tweet, but you should explore what’s being posted under those hashtags too!
My favorite Twitter feature is the List. The left side bar includes your followers, your profile, and then below that is “Lists.” Lists are curated news feeds. You add specific profiles to the list and title it something like “My Lit Mags” or “Favorite Writers.” The people will be notified which may be flattering for them, but this also allows you to interact with the group of people you most want to connect with. If anything, your name appears on their screen. You can like their posts, retweet them, or comment. Don’t go overboard, but if a writer posts something like “What are you reading right now?” feel free to comment! This is a great way to keep track of the conversations that you can contribute to and stay updated with the writers you admire.
Similar to sifting through a book and finding the agent of your favorite author, find the masthead of the literary magazines you enjoy too. Follow the writers you enjoy reading and keep updated with what they are up to, you may find new recommendations, writers, and events that you wouldn't have known about otherwise.
Both platforms offer ways to connect with writers so you can easily create a small writing group. This would be beneficial to swap writing and workshop each other's pieces. You can let each other know about writing events and offer support. Many writers feel a writing group holds them accountable to write, so if this is a trouble of yours, find your people!
Open Mics and Readings
Show up in the community! Show up for a local event in your area or find an online event that you can attend. Your favorite writers may be hosting readings or Q&As which offer a fantastic opportunity for you to learn, ask questions, and be around a writer you admire.
Whenever I feel a lack of inspiration, I attend a writing event. This is a great way to hear other people’s writing and get out of my head space. A Twitter profile that shares free writing events is @writevent and to find other events, some free and some with a small fee, follow editors of literary journals and authors who will share events on their news feed.
The more you attend writing events, especially ones near you, the more people you’ll meet. In the city where I studied for my undergraduate degree, I would attend a weekly poetry night where I met people who helped me perform on stage and offered helpful feedback on my pieces and performance.
The Moth is one of my favorite nonfiction readings that has expanded to an international audience. They have a podcast that I follow, but they also have live shows every week, in person and online. The craftful storytelling will inspire and entertain any listener!
If you have the opportunity to read your writing on a stage, do it. Of course, make sure you practice first. As much as it may be nerve-wracking, it is a great way to get your writing out in the world. You also receive immediate feedback from the crowd. There are stories of writers going up on a stage, sharing a story, and being approached by an agent who was listening in the crowd.
You never know what a little bravery will get you.