Finding My Writing Tribe

by Constance Emmett
published in Community

My writing life began late in life. I had to catch up, make up for lost time writing, but I also had to catch up finding my writing tribe. Perseverance won the day, as it does, but it’s hard to recognize that while no obvious goals are met. It’s a matter of hope and faith, really: faith in the evolution of your writing, faith in yourself, and hope for the future.

Hope and faith are a large part of writing, but can they sustain the lonely writer? At this point in my journey—I’ve published two novels and am making good progress on two—I’d say, no. I believe that finding a writing tribe, one that is supportive and knowledgeable, is key.

I’d been writing steadily for 18 years before traveling to the Historical Novel Society UK conference last fall. Meeting inclusive and serious historical fiction writers helped me find my writing tribe. As is the experience of many writers, the road to finding my writing tribe had been a lonely one. Alone, I toiled away in ignorance of my craft and the world of writing, publishing, and perhaps most importantly, readers. There was no obvious reason to keep going as the rejections piled up—no obvious reasons except hope and faith.

My early years of writing were littered with too-early submissions and subsequent rejections. But at some point, something made me pick my head up and join groups of writers. I began with Writer’s Digest, an organization thousands strong. WD holds annual meetings in the settled furnace blast that is New York in August. Packing zero talent for networking, I got on the train to New York. Sitting on that train, I still hadn’t a clue, but it was the first step to finding my writing tribe.

The First Step on the Road to Finding My Writing Tribe

While spending days inside the vast refrigerated Hilton Hotel, I failed to connect with anyone. I attended panels, keynote addresses, speed-dating style agent pitch sessions, and talks, many of which were stand-outs.

One led me down the road to finding my writing tribe and my writing life. Given by Gabriela Pereira, founding instigator of DIY MFA, it was kismet. I knew nothing about DIY MFA or Gabriela. But there on the stage was a young woman who spoke directly to this member of her audience. She urged us to call ourselves writers, aloud and loud—to shelve our imposter syndromes—if we wrote, we were writers. Period. How liberating was that? It was life-changing.

I Am A Writer!

I joined DIY MFA and enrolled in the P2P course. Among other things, the course taught me how to navigate marketing for authors and to create my website/blog. My website went live within months of the course ending. After P2P and starting the blog, I contributed short pieces about experiences as a writer to the DIY MFA website.

Heroine of Her Own Life, published by Next Chapter 2019, Book 1 of the series Finding Their Way Home 

At the same time, I continued work on my debut historical fiction (family saga) novel, Heroine of Her Own Life. I also joined the Historical Novelist Society, which includes branches in Ireland, the UK, and North America, and began attending the annual conferences online before joining in person in 2022.

Finding a Writing Tribe

As I moved down the road to finding my writing tribe, I found a publisher, Next Chapter. My novels, inspired by my Northern Irish family, led me to the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin. As Covid overwhelmed the world, organizations adjusted by presenting everything online, from courses to conferences, which opened a new world.

My first course at the IWC was called the Northern Soul Roadshow with Fiona O’Rourke, author, facilitator, and mentor. Each week, we met Northern Irish poets and writers such as Michelle Gallen, Olivia Fitzsimons, Maria McManus, and Sue Divin, and listened to them read and describe their journeys. As a class, we shared our writing, exchanged feedback, quickly gelling into a tribe, one that has held. A tribe—I found my writing tribe!

My Writing Tribe for Life

Every step toward finding my writing tribe has been one of growth for me, as a writer and as a person. The supportive writers and poets in the tribe have become my friends, advisers, editors, and comrades—a tribe for life. I characterize myself as a dedicated lifelong DIY MFA HUB member and active participant, and many are to be found here.

My writing course work through the Irish Writers Centre continues. I belong to an online weekend writer’s group and they have become like family. Writing with a group of people in silence is a wonderful feeling and very productive. I hope to attend as many of the future Historical Novel Society conferences as possible, made easier by continued offering of virtual versions.

Nothing replaces getting on the road and meeting the members of your writing tribe in person—those met, those yet to meet. However, even virtual contact and participation are key to the evolution of a writing tribe, key to the evolution of a writer.

My best advice:
get out there and find your writing tribe! If you stumble into one that is not supportive, not in your corner, and the members don’t seem to be dedicated writers, move on, and find one that will nurture you as a writer. Finding your writing tribe will change your writing life, your writing, and your life.

Everything Will Be All Right, published by Next Chapter 2022, Book 2 of the series Finding Their Way Home.

Constance Emmett was born in Brooklyn, New York where her mother’s family landed after leaving Belfast, Northern Ireland. Constance’s debut novel, Heroine of Her Own Life (2019) and sequel, Everything Will Be All Right (2022), books 1 and 2 in the Finding Their Way Home series, were published by Next Chapter. A Massachusetts Hilltown dweller, she is writing book 3 in the series and a novel set in 18th c. New York.
You can find her on her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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