The Art of Creating Community

For the next month or so, the focus of this blog is going to change, and here's why:

I’ve been teaching creative writing and English composition at the university and community college level for 14 years now, and the most surprising truth I’ve come across is how incredibly important a community of writers is to the individual writer.

It has something to do with our self-doubts. It has something to do with revision. It also has something to do becoming better writers.

I’ve known a lot of people who have called themselves writers, but when I ask them what they’re writing they’ve told me they’re not working on anything. Then they say they haven’t worked on anything for a while, and they’re not planning on anything.

This is human enough and an easy pattern to fall into.

Without a group of people to discuss ideas and stories with, it’s easy to forget that the work that matters most, and that we love the most is the work we should be focusing on.

The students I’ve seen who have gained the most, were the most successful, and did the best work made sure that they have had this support.

For example, I watched Marta Chausee in her various writing groups, my class being one of them, developing her novel and her skills until she ended up with a book contract. I watched Michael Torres, Michaelsun Knapp, and Jeffrey Graessley work themselves into different types of successes, earning awards, getting publications and book contracts, and becoming truly great writers.

So here’s my idea. The bigger the community, the more success and good writing there will be.

But there are caveats.

The first is that the community needs to be supportive. There are too many people out there who want to make themselves appear more sophisticated by putting other people down. We don’t need those people. They should form their own society of negativity and leave the rest of us alone.

The second is that there can be no sense of hierarchy in the group. This is another way of being unsupportive.

My idea is that a good community makes good writers and good readers, and a lot of people agree with me. We’ve gotten together to create something special.

Eventually, what we want to create is a community center based around the arts. This will be a place where everyone in the area can come to develop their skills and share their work in a completely egalitarian environment.

That’s going to take a while.

Right now, we’re creating the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, and you’re all invited. Everyone’s invited. We’re creating a community and the more people here the better.

There will be opportunities for people to work with each other, and open mics for people to read their work. There will be features like Suzanne Lummis, Gerald Locklin, and so many more. There will be booths with experts and book stores and publishers. There will be moments for you to learn and to teach and connect.

Quite frankly, I can’t wait for the festival to start. I can’t wait to begin our giant community of writers. Those who join in will be changed. A lot of people have already joined in and have already been changed.

It’s going to happen from February 15-17 at West Covina’s City Hall and Library complex.

Let me know what questions you have and if you’d like to join in. Let me know how you’d like to join in. There’s room for everyone here, and I’d like you all to join!