One of the most important things I have when it comes to my writing is what I call my “Tribe”. According to Webster’s Dictionary, tribe means a natural group of related plants or animals. When it comes to the writers I know and love, I am especially drawn to the words related and animals. I say that in jest but not really, because writers have been known to be a strange bunch. But I digress.
My Tribe consists of other writers who focus on writing for young readers. Given geography, most of my Tribe lives in other states and I interact with them via social media, email and at national conferences. They are essential in my journey as a writer. They are the ones I turn to when I have questions or need encouragement. What I love most about my Tribe is that they are always willing to offer advice. They tell me to go have some wine and chocolate and then come back to my story.
I am blessed beyond measure to have gone to a writing program filled with other children’s and YA writers. For two years I got to go to Vermont every six months for ten days of intense graduate work, made enjoyable by the community of writers experiencing it with me. We spent hours thinking about characters and plots, setting and pace. At the end of the day we spent time laughing at Muggle jokes and lamenting over our love of all things Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl. I have no doubt that those classmates and peers will be life-long friends.
Locally, I am getting to know others in the area who have published, or are trying to publish books and illustrations for kids. Slowly, as I participate in more of their events and groups I am becoming more comfortable sharing my work with them and offering feedback in critique groups.
Online, I am part of a Facebook group of YA writers that called themselves Binders, but I think of them more like the Bible of all things YA. It is a large group and most of them I only know via their posts, but they are responsive, have a wealth of experience both pre- and post-publication, and are constant reminders that even when I’m sitting at my laptop in an empty house, or quiet corner of a local library, I am never alone. That is invaluable because writing is a lonely task. It requires silence, time to think, and ridiculous Google searches that might make you blush if anyone saw what you are looking up. Most writers I know write when they are alone. This can make you feel isolated. Isolation doesn’t come alone; it brings its good friend, doubt along. When doubt creeps into my head, and I'm sitting at my desk with no one around, that Tribe becomes my lifeline.
It is those times when I turn to those who understand. They have been there. They offer reassurance that this moment will pass, and it gets me writing again. They give me people to aspire to. They help me create goals. They make me laugh with their stories of botched school visits and overzealous librarians. They pass along ideas and resources for becoming a better storyteller. They share good news that makes me feel happy for them, hopeful for myself.
No one can succeed in a vacuum. The most successful among us are those who value the opinions and experiences of others. Writers are no different. We may operate unaccompanied, but we need peers just like anyone else. If there are any aspiring writers reading this blog I hope you have a Tribe, a group of like-minded creatives who share in your journey, to be sounding boards and cheerleaders, coaches and role models. You may be good on your own, but with the support of your Tribe, you will be great.