I spoke at Madison’s Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL) last evening as part of their craft talks series sponsored by the Madison Arts Commission. (The photo is from one of their write-ins.) We talked about writing communities, from local groups you form yourself to MFA programs and everything in between. Except for the part where I literally nearly fainted right in the middle of the Q & A (note to self: hydrate!) I enjoyed getting to talk to and with an array of Madison writers.
I framed the talk with descriptions of all the groups and communities I’ve been part of over the years. Most of the time, these groups came to be when a bunch of people who took an adult ed course decided to keep going after the class ended. This is how I became part of the Simple News Journal Collective, a small group that explored the use of journal writing as a political, personal, and literary tool. It’s how I came to benefit from the encouragement of Don Judson with whom I took a night course at Brown. And then there were the writers I met at the incredible summer workshop I took with Pam Painter, and others. We drove hours to meet with each other after that class ended.
These informal groups led directly to the formal communities I applied to and was lucky enough to be invited to join, Breadloaf, Vermont Studio Center, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and the Iowa Writers Workshop among them.
A lot of names and faces from the past (many of whom are still in my life thanks to Facebook) came to me last night, people who gave me honest criticism, camaraderie, and community. All of it helped.