Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Free Knowledge

Since I began the Milwaukee Writers' Workshop in 2006, there have been four major groups in the city for writers. One is a group that has dues; one is a non-profit that charges for its classes. The other two were the Milwaukee Writers Group & MWW. Now there will only be three. Since Trevor and I first talked about combining our efforts and making the two groups one, one question has continued to plague me: why are we doing this?

Over the weekend, I think I finally came to a solid answer.

I began MWW with a slightly selfish goal in mind: I wanted my writing to be looked at, so I could get it published. I think any writer who joins a group can admit to that. Now, though, my goal is more altruistic. I enjoy providing this community. I thrive on it. I think that Milwaukee deserves a community like we have because education like we provide ought to be free.

I look at events like BarCampMilwaukee and MilwakeeDevHouse, and even Bucketworks, and I'm envious that the tech community has such a broad network to host so many free events. Even our eager art community has MARN. Writers in Milwaukee, though, don't have that same option outside of our group, and I think part of it is because we're archaic. Our art form is one of the oldest, and we like to stick to tradition. Every writing conference or convention costs something; most of the famous workshops are expensive. MWW costs nothing, and I hope to keep it that way because I think what our small community provides is value enough, and writers ought to come together for free.

Come the beginning of the year, MWW will be a much larger group with bigger goals. Perhaps a free conference in the city is in our near future; perhaps more local events will be offered. Whatever we do, it will remain free, because that is how I foresee the way of the future in the realm of disseminating knowledge.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Building A Community

It's December 5th. Five days ago I failed to complete NaNo. I'm not terribly disappointed, but I had hoped to fare better this year than I did last, and I only did by a little bit. I did, however, succeed in producing two new short stories, which I didn't even manage to do last year. So there's some good to come of it.

I've been talking a lot lately with various colleagues about "community". For writers, community seems like a vague notion of being a part of something within the realm of "writership". Many writers think of it as merely being a part of this movement or that; to me, though (and to a lot of my colleagues), being a part of a writer community means interacting personally with other writers through workshops, critiques, and group sessions that enhance our own writing while benefitting our colleagues with our knowledgeable critique. There are writers I know who write in isolation, hoarde their writing, and chastise the writer who exposes himself to unnecessary criticism. To me, those writers have a disadvantage, because the very writers they believe will be giving this criticism are, in fact, their readers. To be able to reach even one of them, means reaching an audience, and that is an indication that the story is worthy of a larger audience, which is the point of writing, right?

Yes, I've said before that you write for yourself, but most of us hope to at least make a little but of money. In order to do that, we have to find an audience that will accept our work. It is much easier to figure that out in a small group setting than to wait years to try and find it the hard way: that is to send it out over and over again to publishers who continue to reject our work. Find the one or two people in your group who enjoy your work; figure out what they read; find magazines that publish work similar to that; then stick to trying to reach the audience at that publication.

Communities are meant to help others. We build communities because we want support: everyone wants to feel like they're part of something. To be a part of a writing community is a big deal to me, because I feel like my career relies on it. Creativity breeds in communities because creative types tend to enjoy fostering creativity in others. Writers can be very selfish at times - not wanting to share their vision with the world - but most ofthe time we're very good about sharing opinions and aiding our fellow writers.

Trevor, the leader of The Milwaukee Writer's Group, and I have been discussing the merger of our two groups, hoping to provide a wider array of options to the writing community here in Milwaukee. I think it's a good venture, and I look forward to the fruits of our labor.

Monday, December 1, 2008

So Many Projects

So I've been toying with the idea of an episodic blog. There are a number of blogs out there that are written in character by some creation of the author. I'm looking to do something entirely different (and it's been done to some degree before - at least as far as I'm aware, though I can't seem to find any examples). I have the notion to write a story in episodes and post it on a blog: easy enough, right? Let's hope.

I also have a few short stories to finish. Those shouldn't be too tough. I also have the rest of the steampunk piece I've been working on. After that, it gets a little hazy, but there are some other things, too. My wife says it shouldn't matter that I have so many projects going "as long as I'm writing". I suppose in a way that it's ok; however, I tend to get distracted and lose site of what the story is doing at the moment if I don't stay on it. Then it wanders - as I mentioned last time - and it comes out at the other end with no plot and little resolution. I'm hoping that by plotting things out it'll help that.

On a completely different note, it snowed here last night (and still is a bit). It's the first real snow of the year, and it makes me want to bundle up and just stay inside. Only, most of the time I don't really want to write because that makes my fingers cold. But the fan in our heater was just replaced, so we won't have to worry about it getting cold in the apartment, which means I should be ok. :-)

My challenges this winter, I think, will be to keep on task and to keep to as few projects as possible to get at least some of them done. I did get my contract for "Affections Between Space", though, and that will be up on www.bigpulp.com on January 12. I'm excited for that.