In Normal Life
1. Community writing groups: I don’t just mean writers circles and book clubs. If you live in the city, chances are you have a seriously organized writing hub. Just google “writing groups” in your city and watch the links fill the screen. These groups host writers on tour, workshops, mixers, and informal writing sessions.
2. Local bookstore and library events: Check out your local bookstores’ events calendars—they will typically have several readings a month. These readings are done by writers from all over the country, on tour for their latest books, and do you know who comes to support them? Their writer friends! And don’t forget the bookstore’s quiet cousin. Libraries often focus more on local writers, so there’s more opportunity for long-lasting connections.
3. Local college events: Colleges and universities make a huge effort to bring inspirational talent in several times a season, and these events are almost always open to the public. You’d be surprised how many local writers—and not just college students—have their finger on this pulse. Psst—your local colleges also offer beautiful concerts and stimulating art shows.
4. Summer classes: It may sound daunting, but summer classes are actually fairly low key, and the slightly more informal environment allows for more spontaneity and closeness. Some schools even name professorial chairs with additional honorariums on the condition that the recipient, always a preeminent writer, teaches a class or two each summer open to the public––so you could work with an honest-to-gosh living legend as well as networking with earnest classmates.
In Your Glitzy Writer’s Life
5. Conferences, conventions, and book festivals: These can require travel, but if you plan ahead of time for the expense they can be well worth it. AWP is the big one (and overwhelming to shy writers, illusion-shattering to MFA students, and offensive to teetotalers), but every large city holds one or several less-insane conferences annually, and these are definitely worth making the trek from rural areas. I used to attend the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville every fall, and would meet big names and local lovely writing groups alike, all with a serious commitment to writing and a welcoming attitude toward making new friends. Today I make an effort to schlep to wonderful gatherings in Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Find out what’s available in your neck of the woods! (Pro tip: almost all of these have tons of opportunities for volunteering, which is probably the best way to gain behind-the-scenes access to writers you want to get to know.)
6. Workshops: Big and small. Apply to the big annual ones—Bread Loaf, Sewanee, Tin House––but also look at off-campus workshops held by local writing professors (peruse local faculty rosters and then stalk the names online, if all else fails), and affordable options sponsored by your local writers groups.
7. Literary journal launch parties: This one isn’t that glitzy; it just makes you feel cool. Look up the literary journals and magazines based in your area—they may be run out of the graduate department of your local university—and you’ll see that they typically hold public launch parties for the release of each issue. Not many people read literary journals besides writers, so pretty much everyone—the staff! the readers! the random attendees!—will be writers like you, hoping to make connections and have interesting conversations. Plus there will be free food and drinks.
8. Writing groups: There are a million and one writing groups online in every genre under the sun. It may take a while to find one that fits your needs and upholds serious standards, but they’re out there. If you find a user whose work or input you like, ask them what groups they frequent, as well.
9. Writers’ blogs: Be a fan! If you’re cool enough, they will respond. Many a beautiful friendship has begun this way.
The Easy Way
10. Any gathering of more than five people: Just clear your throat and say in a pretend-offhand voice, “I’ve actually been working on a novel lately.” All the nearby people who “have always wanted to write a novel” or may actually be writing something will come out of the woodwork! The real trick here is fending them off.