Monday Motivation: Get Connected

If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that being a writer is a lot easier when you're connected with other like-minded writers.  Sure, you can be friends with poets or illustrators or essayists or what have you, but if you're going to be a successful writer of fiction, you need to connect with other fiction writers.  And when I say other fiction writers, I mean other people who write in your genre or style.  And if you can connect on a more personal level and become good friends, even better.

Yes, writing is a solitary endeavor.  You can escape into the writing cave and not emerge for days or weeks, but eventually you'll need to connect once again with the outside world. (Especially once you're published.  So I hear.)

I've been writing for a long time, and during that time, there have been long stretches when I wasn't writing much.  Looking back, I can see that I'd either let go of important writing connections or I wasn't doing the work to maintain them.  And sometimes you reach out to make those connections and it doesn't work.  The relationships aren't useful or they fade as life gets busy.  That's okay, but then it's time to find new connections.

The times that I've been most productive are the times that I've been actively connecting with and have been motivated by other writers.  I'd like to give you a couple of examples.

I joined SCBWI in 2006.  I'd broken my foot at work and had a lot of extra time on my hands due to work restrictions.  That's when I started writing YA and trying to make connections again.  I'd been out of graduate school for three years and had lost touch with most of my classmates.  The Minnesota chapter of SCBWI has a great email system and plans lots of events to try to get people together. Unfortunately, with two small kids at home and living way out in the country, I was not a very active participant in this group and was very slow to make any connections.

In August of 2010, I took a chance and responded to this email from Dawn Klehr:
Re: Meet up at Edina Galleria B&N lower level cafe Tuesday, 17th at 7 PM
Hi Kristi,
 I'm a new member and would love to join the group.  Unfortunately, I can't round up a sitter for tonight.  Think anyone would be willing to critique my work via email?  I could do the same for others.  Let me know!

Now, I didn't know if Dawn wrote picture books, middle grade or YA, but the fact that she couldn't find a sitter resonated with me. Turns out she writes YA.  We began sending our work over email and several months later met In Real Life.  Over these last couple of years, she's become a trusted critique partner, confidante, cheerleader, and friend.  She inspires me and pushes me and believes in me.

Dawn and I are now a part of a critique group.  I've mentioned the group before - MNYA Writers.  We all write YA of various genres and we're at various stages on the road to publication.  We meet once a month and workshop 30 pages from two writers.  Over the last few months we've grown as a group and the connections continue to grow.  Occasionally I'll meet one or two for a weekend write-in at a coffee shop.  We're all growing and learning as writers.  Now that I've found them, I can't imagine what my writing life would be like without their encouragement and motivation.

One last thing: I've found so much value in connecting with writers all over the world via blogs, twitter, and email.  I've made some important and lasting connections this way and am grateful for each and every one.

Last week I was honored to be a part of Erin L. Schneider's DEAR TEEN ME Blog Tour post.  She created a video with photos of YA and MG writers and their 6-word memoirs.  It's amazing and you've got to watch it.  Her letter to her teen self is pretty hilarious, too.  Check it out HERE.  And a shout out to my friend Maris of Maris Ehlers Photography who graciously took my 6-word memoir photo.  If you're looking for visual inspiration, her portraits are fantastic and creative.

Here's my quick NaNo update - I'm  up to 40,298 words and it's looking good for me to finish by Thanksgiving.  Here's a little snippet from Addie's travels to 1979:

I followed Dave out through the garage to his bright yellow soft top Bronco.  I kicked a few empty cans of Tab and Marlboro packs below my feet when I climbed into the front seat.
“You know the way?” I asked.
He nodded.
“How are things going?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked.  “How are things going with this dirt bag family of mine and a dad who is always drunk?  Or do you mean with the boyfriend who hits me and happens to have a mother in a pill-induced stupor at all times and a brother who just committed suicide?”
“The grass isn’t always greener, is it, Adeline?  Things don’t always work out the way we want them to.”
The grass isn’t always greener.  Somehow, Dave knew about the time travel, the parallel lives.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there had to be some connection.  I hadn’t seen him every time I’d gone back in time, though, so he couldn’t possibly be it.  Could he?
“How do you know?” I said.  “How do you know what’s going on with me?
He shrugged.  “Just do.”
“How, Dave?” I asked, my voice raising an octave.  I sounded panicked.
“Hey, cool it, sister,” he said.  “You’re going to be fine.”
“In what decade?  Things are total shit here.  I didn’t want to come back.”
He nodded.  “Sometimes you don’t get to choose.  Sometimes you do.”  He took his eyes off the road for a second and leveled me with his glare.  “You just need to figure out the best choice.”

I had a couple of sluggish days last week, but after the weekend I've gotten back on track.  I'm still loving it and look forward to getting back to the story every day.  And I'm so excited to revise as soon as possible!

Have a fantastic week and Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends.  I can't wait to watch a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with the kiddos.  Here's a little something to make you smile:


  1. Your writer crit group sounds like an amazing bunch of people! It's so awesome to have individuals that you connect with that well, that also support you and keep you motivated as you travel this uneven road to publication. And even when you step away for several days at a time, it's nice to know they're still there, no matter what!

    Loved your NaNo snippet - I can't wait to see what else is in store for Addie! And congrats on moving along so fast - that's awesome that you'll be done by Turkey Day! I just couldn't do it this year, too much on my plate and a pesky bout of pneumonia really did me in. Bleh. But I'll get back to it again next year!

    And thank you so, so, SO much for being a part of my DEAR TEEN ME video project - it's because of awesome writer friends like you, that any of it was possible! So thank you, Sara!

  2. Love this post, Sara! I can't believe you have that first email I sent to SCBWI -- not much has changed since then, I still can never find a sitter.

    Thanks for the inspiration this Monday morning. You know, I think the sign of an amazing writer is someone who can have you crying one minute and laughing the next, and that's what I did when reading this post.

    I'm so glad you took the chance and answered my email :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    PS- Dying to read your NaNo project!!

  3. Congrats on NaNo. You're doing really well. And I agree that writers need other writers. It's such a supportive community. I wouldn't survive without it.

  4. I've been wanting to get involved with some local writers here, but I haven't gotten up the courage to attend any events, and it's hard to make the time. That's why I've loved NaNo this time around--I feel like there are other writers keeping my accountable for my work.

    Good luck finishing before Thanksgiving! I loved the snippet.

  5. That's so great that you've found a good bunch of local writers. There are some writers in my area meeting during NaNo, but so far I've been too chicken to go and check it out. I would love to meet other people writing YA and who are big into reading YA as well. I think that's why I love all of my Twitter and blog friends so much.

    You've made such awesome progress on your NaNo WIP! You'll have no problem reaching 50,000 by the end of the month, even with Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing a snippet. It was great! :)

  6. I'm so jealous of your writing group! They sound awesome and it must be great to have people like that around to keep you going. If only I could find some awesome writer people where I live (not likely...)

    Wasn't the Dear Teen Me video so great? I was thrilled to be part of it :)

  7. Congrats on the Nano wordcount! I'm so glad to be connected to some amazing writers. Reading about your successes and failures definitely gets me through the rough spots. I love the concept of Dear Teen Me as well. I wonder what I'd say to my former self? :)

  8. Your writing group sounds amazing!!! :D And I´m glad you have them around!
    I´m also very thankful for all the wonderful connections I´ve made thanks to my writing, including you :D :D :D
    Thanks so much for sharing this snippet, it sounds great!


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