By B.D. Tharp
There is no shortage of information these days. The problem is finding it and trusting that it is accurate. Over the past few years I’ve put together quite a collection of links to web sites, writer organizations, magazines, and resources that have been valuable to me on my writing journey.
Let me first say, there is no better resource to the writer than the company of other writers. Only a writer understands the struggle and joy that is involved in the craft. Our friends and family may sympathize with our disappointments or help us celebrate our triumphs, but they don’t know what it takes for us to get there and to keep going.
There are local and regional writing organizations that will help improve writing skills, and bring you great friends. In the heartland I’ve been a member of three great groups: KWA (Kansas Writers Association, http://www.kwawriters.com/ ), KAC (Kansas Authors Club, http://skyways.lib.ks.us/orgs/kac/ ) and OWFI (Oklahoma Writer Federation Inc., http://www.owfi.org/ ). We also have active Romance, Children’s, and Mystery Writers groups locally as well. I was a member of IWWG (International Women Writers Guild, http://www.iwwg.com/ ) and NAWW (National Assoc. of Women Writers, http://www.naww.org/ ) for several years. All of these organizations have workshops, web sites with valuable information, and links to other writing resources.
I’ve also subscribed to several good publications and highly recommend The Writer (www.writermag.com ), Writers Digest (www.writersdigest.com/ ), and Poets & Writers (http://www.pw.org/ ). Periodically I pick up a Writers Journal, too. These publications provide timely articles on the craft, reviews with new and established authors, information about contests, conferences, publishing, editors and agents. I generally alternate one or two subscriptions each year, so I don’t spend all my spare time reading instead of writing.
If you are searching for markets, agents, and publishers I suggest you check out Writers Market (http://writersmarket.com). The web version is kept more up to date, but the print version has great articles and interviews. For the past year I’ve subscribed to Publishers Marketplace (http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/), which has timely information about the publishing industry, new deals (book, foreign rights, film), and job listings.
A good way to investigate writer conferences all over the globe is Shaw Guides (http://www.shawguides.com/ ). My first experience using this tool was a writer’s retreat in New Mexico given by Emily Hanlon (an author and teacher), which set my course as a writer.
Universities and writer organizations in your region no doubt sponsor some great workshops. I’ve attended several in my area that were sponsored by Newman University and Wichita State University, as well as OWFI and KWA. Check out events in your area, save your pennies, and go to at least one per year. I’m told that agents, editors, and publishers find most of their new authors at writer conferences these days, so invest in your future. It’s certainly a good way to network with others in the industry.
A writers group is a great place to share ideas, critique, celebrate, and console. If there isn’t a local group that works for you, find like-minded writers who share your love for the craft or a specific genre and start your own. You will see improvements in your writing as well as the added social benefit. Writing may be a solitary endeavor, but we need “input” to stimulate our creativity. Some of my best ideas have developed from an overheard conversation in a restaurant, a brainstorming session, a photograph, and free writing exercises. You just never know where the muse will strike.
Some of the books that have guided me on my writing path include: Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott), The Right to Write (Julia Cameron), Marry Your Muse (Jan Phillips), On Writing (Stephen King), The Art of Fiction Writing (Emily Hanlon), Writing Down the Bones (Natalie Goldberg), On Becoming a Novelist (John Gardner), The Writer’s Book of Hope (Ralph Keyes), and The Artists Way (Julia Cameron). There are many more good books out there, but these were among my favorites, and have left a lasting impression.
I used to hear “write what you know” a lot when I first started out. Frankly, I don’t know everything, so I believe you need to write what you feel and find out about those things you don’t know. An insatiable curiosity provides good fodder to the writer, but I truly subscribe to this notion - “When your heart speaks, take good notes” (Susan Borkin).
Much good luck to you all on your writing journey I hope these resources will help you along, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride.