Something my students hear from me all the time, and which I’ve probably written about in one or more of my DIY MFA columns, is that writing doesn’t occur in a vacuum. At least, our best writing doesn’t. What I mean by that is, even the best and most seasoned writers have always found it important to solicit feedback on their work, to read and critique others’ works, and to communicate about the art of writing in general. For LGBTQ+ writers, in particular, the writing community is a powerful and necessary factor in both improving our work and in becoming self-confident about our place in the literary world and its conversations.
“But Adam,” you’re thinking, “surely there are those who wrote without critique groups and writing circles, and who managed to write brilliantly without any feedback!”
Well, maybe, but I tend to doubt it.
Even notorious recluse Emily Dickinson would send her poems to trusted advisors via “snail mail” to get their feedback, though she published almost none of her poetry during her lifetime.
The truth is, while there might be one or two writers who can accomplish their very best work in total isolation, that’s going to be the exception, not the rule.
The Benefits of a Writing Community
Writing communities help us see what we otherwise couldn’t see in our own work, from the smallest errors in mechanics or dialogue to the bigger issues of theme and structure. They inform us from the audience’s perspective, which is invaluable in the early stages—even if we’ll never make every reader happy—but they also provide expert, practical advice from those who are engaged in our craft.
In addition, writing groups composed of LGBTQ+ writers and readers are especially important to those of us writing from that perspective and with those readers in mind. For example, most of us in this group acknowledge that we can’t possibly know everything about every experience, and while our imaginations and invention strategies can take us very far indeed, there are some things that we don’t know and might make mistakes without help.
Writing groups that are made up of diverse members can help us illuminate our blind spots and make us aware of where we might be stepping out of bounds or getting something wrong.
Tips for Finding Your Writing Community
As this year is ending, community of many types might be on your mind. If you’re an LGBTQ+ writer who hasn’t yet found an LGBTQ+ writing community, why not make it one of your goals of the season to do that for yourself?
Perform Google search for “LGBTQ+ writing groups”
You’ll find several excellent online and local/in-person groups to choose from through a simple search like this one.
If you tend to be the shy type, it might be a good idea to start with the online groups and see if you can search the rosters for active members, and even ratings/reviews of critique partners.
Just as you might research publishers to submit to, or agents to query, you should also do your due diligence in seeking out a writing group that will work for you and that has a good reputation.
Check out Lambda Literary
This group is devoted to all things LGBTQ+ literature and there are resources for readers, writers, and teachers.
You’ll also find things like writer’s retreats, resources in specific genres, and even book recommendations. Reading in your genre is crucial to growing as a writer and to understanding the conversations happening amongst your colleagues right now, so this is a good place to start for a few reasons.
Search for Local LGBTQ+ Centers
Locally, you can search for your nearest LGBTQ+ centers to see what sorts of writer’s programs exist, if any. There might be book clubs or creative writing groups hosted at or by the Centers themselves, or through their affiliates, like local community colleges or universities.
You can also suggest one or offer to host one if they don’t have it, yet!
Look for Your State or Federal Arts Council
Another local or regional option is to search for your state or federal Arts Councils (places like Arts Council England, the National Endowment for the Arts, or state-level Arts and Humanities organizations; for example, the Nevada Arts Council).
Research the Major Writer’s Publications
Check with major writer’s publications to see what kind of sub-groups or independent communities are available to their members. Many of these are already well-established, such as LGBTQ Voices at Poets & Writers magazine.
If All Else Fails…
If you can’t find anything online that seems to fit, or if there’s nothing local to you, or if you’re just the more adventurous type, you can always consider starting a writing community of your own!
Items to consider are:
- Do you want to conduct this online or in-person?
- How many members do you want and must they identify openly as LGBTQ+?
- If you’re meeting online, what platform will you use to meet, to share work, etc.?
- If you’re meeting in-person, can you secure a location?
- Will you require dues or other contributions in order to rent a space or purchase technology?
- What are the operating rules and etiquette guidelines for your group?
- Will you establish a reading critique format and rubric for discussions/responses yourself, or will this be something the group puts together at an early meeting and revises occasionally?
You can find many more tips on starting your own group in Gabriela Pereira’s DIY MFA book or on the DIY MFA Community Resources website.
Remember, as uncomfortable as it can be to share our work and face critique, it is ultimately going to help us strengthen our writing, ensure we are being sensitive in our work, and allow us to grow personally and professionally.
So, the only question now is, what are you waiting for?
Adam W. Burgess is an English Professor at College of Southern Nevada. He has a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University and is pursuing a post-doc writing certificate at the University of California, Berkeley. He loves engaging in all topics related to LGBTQ literature and craft.