Last week I shared some thoughts on Huffington Post Books about how lonely life can be as a writer. As writers, our predicament is tricky: we need time, quiet, and focus to produce work, but we also need to be social, exchange ideas and feedback with other writers, and share our work with readers. This balance can be tough, and is made more challenging when you don't know where to find your fellow writers.
People often ask me, Where do you go to meet other writers in Boston? It wasn't until last week, when my early drafts of the "Lonely Arts Club" post were exceeding the Huffington Post word limit, that it occurred to me to share my complete guide here on my own blog. I've spent half my life hanging out in the Boston art scene, and the past five years connecting with our literary community. As of now these are my best recommendations for anyone looking to connect with Boston's writers:
Joining the Writers Room was one of those game-changing moments in my writing career. Located in the Financial District, the Writers' Room provides authors, poets, and non-fiction writers with secure, affordable work space. The windows wrap around the corner of the Room, where the light-filled space is divided into cubicles. I'd take the train downtown, make my way through the crowds of tourists and office workers, and work silently among other writers. Talking is not permitted in the Room, but there is a strong sense of camaraderie. Messages are exchanged between members on the chalkboard in the bathroom, and quiet conversations are welcome in the kitchen. Members can also be found attending each others' readings and book launches, and rooting for each other on Twitter. At the end of the day, it's not about where you write, but what you write--but having a room of your own, especially a room AWAY from the comfort and distractions of your own home, helps. And having that room among other writers who share your dedication and seriousness of purpose is inspiring.
On the 3rd Monday of the month, the Boston chapter of the National Writers Union reserves a row of tables at Christopher's in Porter Square. Writers with all levels of experience, who work in different genres, traditionally and indie published alike--order dinner and drinks and chat. Every meeting is a mix of regulars and newcomers, and the conversation is consistently engaging, informative, and fun. These meet-ups are especially cozy in the colder seasons, when Christopher's light their fireplace. The NWU Boston Chapter also hosts panels on publishing and marketing throughout the year.
The largest creative writing center in the country, Grub Street is Boston's literary hub. I took my very first creative writing workshop at Grub's inaugural YAWP program in the summer of 2000, and they have been a helpful resource along every step of my writing path. They offer a wide variety of workshops, manuscript consultations, and the annual Muse and the Marketplace conference. I recommend their newsletter, Spreading The Love, to anyone who is looking to stay up to date on the Boston/Massachusetts/New England literary scene.
Every Thursday night in the basement of the Cambridge Public Library, a group of artists, writers, and artist/writers gather to discuss comics and exchange feedback on their work. This welcoming group offers the same structure every week: introductions, announcements, then time for feedback. The BCR also hosts a monthly Writers' Nite, where writers offer each other feedback on scripts and pitches, and the annual MICE Expo. Their newly founded Comics Workspace also offers workshops, events, and professional development seminars.
Although not technically in the greater Boston area, I had to include Maat publishing on this list. Run by Marilynn and Steve Carter, their mission is to help empower other artists and writers and help them share their own stories. Last Fall I had the chance to read my work at a few of their events. Their author nights, hosted around Southern New England, are well-organized and intimate, offering live music and refreshments, and gather fascinating non-fiction and fiction authors.
Book Builders has been connecting Boston area publishing professionals since the 1930's. They have a great Jobs Board on their website, and host networking events throughout the year. Their annual summer networking picnic is especially lovely. This group is primarily made up of publishing professionals--editors, designers, manufacturers--but if you are a writer looking for a vendor, these meet-ups are a great place to start your search.
This list really would not be complete without some of Boston's amazing local indie bookstores. Porter Square Books is one of my favorites. They have a super friendly staff (many of whom are also authors--and members at the Writers Room!) and an in-store coffee shop, Cafe Zing. They also have a wonderful signed book program, where you can request to have your book signed by a participating local author (including yours truly!). Porter Square Books also hosts a ton of readings and events in a wide variety of topics and genres. Over on the Boston-side of the river, Papercuts JP has a beautifully curated selection of titles and host thought-provoking events--whether they are cozy readings in their shop on Green street, or larger conversations or panels held at U-Forge gallery. Their event offerings are so unique, they put together an anthology that will be released later this year!
Bonus Online Community:
Founded in 2015 by author-bloggers Jenny Bravo and Kristen Kieffer, the #StorySocial twitter chat has become a regular part of my Wednesday night plans. Each week they host a conversation on the writing life, focusing in particular on how to engage with readers and other writers. Each chat ends with a challenge for the week. I've met some of the friendliest authors on the internet from this group, including Amanda Schofner, Linda Sienkiewicz, Karah Rachelle, Matt Orlando, Laura Teagan, and Briana Morgan. Wednesdays at 9pm EST--don't forget to use the hashtag!