This article was first published in The Victorian Writer in 2019, and then in the AHWA newsletter in 2021. The article has been adapted to factor in the last few years of coronavirus restrictions. Now Australia is opening up again, it’s more relevant than ever to renew those connections and enjoy making some new ones.
I’m a social person – I love connecting, networking, talking: all things communication. I also love meeting others and learning more about them, what they do and about the field I’m working in. I’m also a sucker for volunteering! I’ve been a volunteer membership officer, general committee member and mentorship coordinator at various writing and editing organisations. I’ve been a slush reader, judged awards, hosted presenters for talks and seminars from interstate and organised regular local catch ups for some of the Aussie horror writing community. I also do short courses where I can because I like to learn about my craft.
In my previous working life, I was a customer service officer and debt collector. What a change in career! These days I’m a writer and editor. I edit fiction and non-fiction and write feature articles and short stories that are generally speculative. My first non-fiction book was published in 2021 and I’m working on my next. But that’s all about me. This article is aimed at helping you find your people: the writers you gel with and the ones that make you feel like you belong.
There are so many ways to connect, and in so many locations. I realised, after a while of feeling unsuccessful and intimidated by all these successful writerly people, that the only person stopping me from finding people I connected with was me! Fancy that.
So, here’s a how-to guide to get you out of your shell and take some risks. There might be some hit and miss attempts, but don’t worry about that. It’s part of the journey. And it changes. As I meet more people my tribe stretches in different directions and in different ways, always adding value.
- One of the best places to connect with other writers is at writerly events. While these have been on hold in most locations, now we’re opening up things will start again. Follow Australian social media pages or handles to see when they are scheduled or keep an eye on member organisation correspondence. It can be a bit hit and miss until you know who to follow and where to catch the news, and because everyone has different social media preferences, there’s no single answer.
- If crowds turn you off, consider a smaller get together like a writer talk or workshop at the writers’ centre or the State or local library. Or do one online. I’ve seen amazing presenters at some of these sessions.
- Consider joining an association that supports writers of your genre. You can be in more than one! A few examples are Romance Writers of Australia, Australian Crime Writers Association and the Australasian Horror Writers Association. Many of these associations have member events, another way to meet people.
- Social media connections. If you have an interest in a particular genre of writing, there are many Facebook groups that are genre specific and very welcoming to those with similar interests. Once you have joined one, you could even take a punt and invite others to join you at a writer talk or event as a way of meeting some new people.
- Subscribe to various writer centre newsletters, your local library updates and Facebook pages to see what’s happening nearby and in other parts of the country. When attending the bigger events you meet people from interstate – or even overseas – extend your network and find out about other events you might want to attend.
- Volunteering is a great way to meet people. If you are considering volunteering, you can attend an organisation’s events and watch things a bit before putting the hand in the air to volunteer. Ask other volunteers about their organisations and roles. Or, you can just be like me, jump in blind then wonder what on earth you have taken on! I, however, don’t regret any volunteer role I have done. I’ve enjoyed them all, made some great friends and have learnt so much.
- Some writers make connections through study, so you may want to look at further education as a way of learning and connecting with other writers. If not a degree, why not consider a short course in an area that suits you?
I’m keeping in touch with my community mainly online right now via Twitter or Facebook and attending a social catch-up here and there. I look forward to attending more writer conventions. In June 2019, I spent a wonderful weekend at Continuum 15, a speculative fiction convention hosted in Melbourne, listening to writers talk about writing, books and all sorts of things. I met old friends and made new ones. I’ve also been to GenreCon in Brisbane, which was also awesome.
In 2022, the next event on the Spec Fic calendar is The Aurealis Awards Ceremony and Writers’ Development Afternoon, to be held on May 28. I’ll be at a writers’ retreat in Victoria instead for this one, but I’ll be aiming to attend Conflux in Canberra in October.
Each path is individual and can take time. It’s taken me about five years to build my current network – a network that keeps expanding as I attend more events and participate in other writerly things. For some people it will take less time, others more. But hang in there and keep pursuing it. And don’t be too hard on yourself if sometimes the networking doesn’t work. It will, just get up, brush off and try something else.
Mixing with other writers fills that empty spot inside me that I think comes from working on my own. Writer buddies have enriched my life personally and professionally. And in writing this article, I wish the same thing happens for you.