Launching a writing life happens one step at a time

At the end of every retreat, conference, or class, I always want to give writers concrete suggestions on how to keep the momentum going, how to carve out a writing life, and how to tap into networks of support. This post builds on a handout I have developed for those last days of great work together. Please send me your ideas and additions.

Want to know my thoughts about launching a writing career? This blog post points you to some helpful resources:

A good book on freelancing is The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003), put together by members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. The blurb on the cover says it contains “the trade secrets and industry practices every freelance writer needs to know.”

You can always, always improve your craft. Classes are available at all levels of writing. Many colleges and universities offer MFA programs or masters in journalism or communications. (Bennington, Goucher, Iowa, and Warren Wilson, for starters.) Want something less intensive? Look into continuing education programs like these:

Many local literary organizations and writing schools offer classes in everything from flash fiction to grant writing and yoga for writers:

Bookstores and Bookstore events:
A great way to find out more about the literary life and to support other writers and meet our greatest supporters—readers—is to attend book events at independent bookstores. The best booksellers are incredible resources for writers, too. Almost every large town has an independent bookstore (a much more valuable one-stop-shop place than the chains), but here are some with national reputations:

ConferencesWriters conferences bring together editors, agents, and fellow writers. Some of the largest in the U.S. include:


Internships & apprenticeshipsIt can help to get a staff job or an internship to learn the ropes before launching a freelancing career. Even if it’s unpaid, it’s worth it. It’s also possible to work as a research assistant or even to “shadow” a willing writer. Another option is to work with a private editor or writing coach. Check out these collectives if you’re looking for a coach:

Professional groupsDeveloping a network, building your Rolodex, being a connector—all of these will help you find work and, even more important, find support. Consider joining a professional group—or three or four—to meet colleagues and have a safe place to ask dumb questions. These can range from small local cooperatives to large national organizations:

Events and gatherings Book readings, literary salons, and literary festival events are great places to get inspired, or to meet other members of the writing tribe. Here’s a short (really!) list:

All these lists are intended to be suggestive rather than all-inclusive. Start building your own resources, and send me your best finds.

—Constance Hale

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