I can remember the moment and see it in my mind — we were gathered in front of the entrance to Robert Frost Hall (on the SNHU campus). Surrounded by other first-year MFA’ers and some of that year’s graduating students, I had the sense that I had found ‘my people’. I am not a joiner by nature; the recent rediscovery of an essay I wrote in high school on why people join groups confirms it. So this was a new feeling, this belonging. From the outside, we couldn’t have looked more varied and different. But what bound us was “something that all begins with the 26 letters of the alphabet”, to quote Nancy Werlin. Writing. What brought me there? I simply wanted to grow my skills, to challenge myself. But still, I qualified as a member.
Monthly gatherings around a dining room table with my writing group were at one time my only connection to other writers (and readers). But in the spirit of someone’s now-famous quote about baby steps, I have slowly added to that. I’ve become a contributing Friend of my local library and had the pleasure of meeting bestselling author Chris Bohjalian. As this year’s graduate assistant in the writing program, I have had the privilege of chatting personally with our visiting writers, Francine Prose and Ann Hood. And on the invitation of a classmate, yesterday I attended the WNBA-Boston chapter’s annual tea (that is, Women’s National Book Association) where award-winning writers Nancy Werlin (Young Adult author), Ona Buchanan (poet and concert pianist), and Katie Smith Milway (Young Adult/Children’s author) spoke. Not only were the surroundings of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel elegant and the pastries exquisite, the room was filled with book-loving, word-hungry peeps!
Early in the afternoon, I had an opportunity for a one-on-one conversation with Nancy Werlin — can you tell that personal chats are my favorite? Hearing some of the backstory details of her novel, impossible, up-close-and-personal, I was inspired to purchase a copy of my own from Village Books, the event’s independent bookseller of choice. … And on a personal note, Village Books took home some copies of Eating Clean to put on their shelves and has asked if I would do an event at their store in 2010. Which is what inspired me to write this post in the first place … finding my community, getting out of my comfort zone of familiar routine and dress-down jeans and showing my support of others, helps keep my artist self buoyed and eligible for opportunities, too. It’s never comfortable at first, but I seem to return home inspired, invigorated, and freshly enthused to get down to work. Here’s wishing you a creative week! I’d love to hear how you’ve built your own community for inspiration and sense of belonging.