Achieving Success in Writing
Writers have all kinds of ways to measure success. We count it in minutes at our computers, in pages revised. We count it in publishing credits and books sold, in the rent paid, whether through those book sales or some other job that allows us the time and emotional space to write. None of these paths toward success are easy, but some are less winding than others. It’s easy to understand the process of committing to a daily practice or sharing your work with a critique group. The process of querying agents, submitting work to literary magazines, or getting paid as a freelance writer is not so simple.
Liz Eslinger is the executive director of Write Around Portland, an organization that facilitates writing workshops in social service settings. She describes publishing as a wall writers in her community need to break through.
“The onus is really on the individual writer to do a lot of the work. And if that’s the case, for people who already experience barriers, it’s that much more challenging for them to take on the additional burden and labor that it takes to break into a world where you don’t have connections and you don’t have the keys to get to that inner circle.”
Engaging and Growing Our Community
Our conversation with Liz is part of a six-month community engagement project funded by the Regional Arts and Culture Council. We’re learning from writers, publishers, teachers, and staff at literary organizations in the Portland-metro area about the needs of writers and barriers to accessing career support including a lack of transportation, inaccessible venues, and cost.
Writers have also spoken to the importance of accessing support from within a literary community that reflects their identities, backgrounds, experiences, and writing pursuits. “When I first tried to get into the writing community in Portland, I did not fit. I did not belong. I didn’t see anybody who looked like me,” says Domi Shoemaker, writer, editor, and co-founder of Corporeal Writing. Similarly, author Neil Cochrane describes his struggle to find a community of queer writers working within his genre.
Amplify Our Voices
Our work engaging with and learning from writers within our community has just begun. Next month, we’ll begin distributing an online survey that asks writers to share their experiences and insights around career development. We hope to better understand the community’s areas of expertise, their needs and questions around publishing and promoting their work, and their existing barriers to accessing career support.
This community engagement is in the service of Amplify Writer’s mission to support the career development of writers with identities, backgrounds, and lived experiences that are underrepresented in mainstream publishing.
How do we determine whose voices are underrepresented? By asking you whose voices you wish were louder.
We’re embarking on the process of registering Amplify Writers as a 501(c)(3) – a journey we plan to detail in our newsletter and blog. We hope you’ll share your insights and questions with us along the way. Connect with us on Twitter, subscribe to our newsletter, or email us to add your voice.