Being a writer and editor means spending a lot of time in front of a computer. When there’s an opportunity to take these skills out into the community, far away from the familiarity of one’s own desk, it’s important to take it.
I’ve been lucky to have had three such opportunities this fall, all very different.
The first opportunity was getting invited to speak and coach in a high school creative writing class in St. Paul, Minnesota. The students varied wildly in skill level and were working on projects across the creative writing spectrum: poetry, fiction, nonfiction. Part of my contribution was to talk to them about my own creative process. How did I get my work done? Where did I start? This forced me to re-evaluate what I was doing on a daily basis. Talking to teens about the writing process never fails to expose any ruts I’ve fallen into. Teens are apt at poking holes in anything they’re told, so someone like me who presents my own method and work receives unfiltered, unflinching feedback. This is not for the faint of heart, but it forced me to be very, very clear about what works and what does not work in the daily life of a writer. Bonus: the students all said thank you at the end. How often in your daily writing life do you get thanked? Another bonus: reading snippets of work the students wrote, getting a glimpse of what young writers think about (fantastic beasts, dreamy places, haunted treehouses, life after high school graduation).
The second opportunity was an invitation to read at a private party. I have musician friends who planned a performance of their new trio, and they wanted to offer a little something during a break in the music. Here was a way for me to read new work in a comfortable, intimate setting among friends and acquaintances who would never be unkind. I would still be able to tell (mostly) from facial expressions whether what I read hit the mark. How nice to share a stage with friends who were also doing new work. How nice for all of us to feel supported. And there was wine. This sure beat reading in a coffeehouse to six people you’ve never seen before in your life while assorted coffee drink-making noises burble and sputter in the background.
The third opportunity was attending the 2019 Twin Cities Book Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Large writers’ conferences are exhausting and expensive, but a one-day book festival is just the thing. There I talked to several local publishers about what they published and how many submissions they looked at annually. I bought books directly from the publishers and authors were there to sign copies and chat. And I indulged my love of creative nonfiction by attending an author panel with Christopher Ingraham (If You Lived Here You’d be Home by Now) and Kent Nerburn (Dancing With the Gods: Reflections on Life and Art). Listening to other writers read their work is one of my favorite ways to feel more inspired.
It’s been a wonderful fall with all this writerly activity that did not involve sitting at my desk. I’ve been reminded just how important it is to get out there and feel part of a larger community, sharing skills, swapping stories, reading aloud, and learning from others. Without that piece, the writer’s life would be dull indeed.
In the spirit of community, tell us how you connect with other writers, editors, readers, and publishers. What makes you shut down your computer and venture out? Let us know on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/gyroscopereview/) or Twitter (@gyroscopereview). We’d love to have a conversation.
IN OTHER NEWS….
We welcome our new Assistant Editor, Elya Braden. Elya is a Los Angeles-based writer and artist whose work has appeared in past issues of Gyroscope Review. We are delighted to add her to our masthead, and excited to share the benefit of her experience and expertise in continuing to make Gyroscope Review an excellent place for contemporary poetry. Pop over to our masthead page to learn more about Elya.
ONE MORE THING: