I think that there’s something we can all agree on: building a writing reputation is tough. In the Literary World, there’s all sorts of obstacles you have to jump through as you barrel your way up through the hierarchy. Even the way you have to write your bio nowadays sounds as if you’re participating in some sort of medieval tournament.
But there are some core facets to a writing reputation that I think most people would argue are valuable. Are they necessary for being successful? No. Do they help with getting your name out there and/or give you the opportunity to learn from professionals? Yes.
Here are a few pathways for writers, including resources to help you get started. (Side note: some of these opportunities are provided for those pursuing an education and not just in general. Others can cost money, but there are free options out there that I did my best to find!).
I’ve talked about this before in one of my earlier posts, but it’s important enough to talk about again. Literary journals can open up a lot for you, even if you’re rejected. Submitting and getting a rejection but getting to converse with the person heading the journal up is better than hearing a simple yes or no from larger journals going through their slush pile, in my opinion. For one, if the journal is run by only a couple or even just one person, they email you back about your piece themselves, giving you an opportunity to talk with (and thank) them whether they accept the piece or not.
For another, smaller journals (and even more established journals) will sometimes send out applications for reader positions or even editors. Not only is this something you can add to your resume, but it also helps get you acquainted with people you can network with.
I once received a rejection from a newly formed journal. The person had started it on her own (no easy task), and she had mentioned that the journal was looking to hire more people to work on the journal with her. Even though my piece was rejected, I thanked her and inquired if she was still looking for anyone. Her response? Yes, and she would love to see my resume.
In the end, journals become a great source for networking, even if you don’t publish.
A few opportunities and resources:
Fellowships, Conferences, Residencies, Internships
I included all of these in one group because, whether it’s intentional or not, you tend to see a lot of opportunities like these placed together. (Also so this post won’t end up being ten thousand words long). Opportunities like these tend to be most important at certain stages in a writer’s career, as well, such as when you’re taking that big leap and applying to grad school. And all of them allow you to work with professionals in one way or another.
Creative writing fellowships are one of the important assets to funding your creative writing career. These are almost like a cross between scholarships and grants. On the one hand, this is money given to help you through your academic career like scholarships, on the other, it’s money given based on promise rather than need, like grants. The range of options depends on your field, to be honest, so I included this source here to help. With fellowships, you might be talking about professionals directly, but it says something when a school recognizes you for your ideas and urges you to keep going.
Creative writing conferences are great opportunities for networking specifically. I’ve seen some that are held annually through writing organizations such as SFWA and others held by universities. With schools specifically, there’s a lot of opportunity for workshopping and getting to connect with faculty at the institution, and having to do everything virtually gives the opportunity without the travel. The best part? You don’t have to be a college student or even an experienced writer to participate! (However, this is usually where money comes in, and if you’re broke like me, options are limited as of right now). But I did have the opportunity to attend a conference over the summer as part of their MFA program. I met tons of writers at all different stages of their careers and I participated in a poetry chapbook workshop with Dr. Rebecca Morgan Frank. When researching some of these conferences, there’s also bound to be ones that don’t cost as much to attend (or are even free in your local community!) so see what you can find.
Residences are a new kind of opportunity for your writing career. Because sure, you can still have community and workshop with other writers, but lots of residencies give you the chance to finish that thing you’ve been working on away from everyone else. And honestly, who wouldn’t want to get that inspiration to finish the last few pages of their novel in the middle of the woods or in, I don’t know, some hut on a mountain somewhere? Some of these do, however, act like conferences in that you spend time in a location with other writers, only for a longer period of time, usually. And even if you don’t interact with anyone in your residency, it’s still a great opportunity to include in your resume! There’s even some free options!
Internships are the last option I want to include in this section. These are especially important for gaining experience in your field when you’re applying to schools or even just looking to learn more before finding a job. True, a lot of student internships are non-paid, but there’s a chance you could work for school credit so it would go toward your degree. There’s also a lot of variety when it comes to writing internships since there’s all different types of writing. Again, the remote option only adds to what you can do. So far this year I’ve had not one but two student internships, and I would highly recommend them based on the experience I gained!
A few opportunities and resources:
Blog and Website
Lastly, after this barrage of information, I’m including a blog and website. This is probably THE way to network, according to many. It’s also a great source for putting your work out there while networking at the same time. While there’s no shortage of ideas for what kind of blog you can create or what you could discuss in your posts, there’s also plenty of things you can do to promote your blog. If you make a blog on WordPress (like this one!), WordPress not only offers courses for getting a feel for the program, but it also advises you on routes you can take to get the most out of your blog, such as adding social media or starting a podcast.
A personal website is also essential for showing the kind of work you do, the experience you’ve gained, or work you have published in the past. For reference, when you start publishing something as important as your book, your audience needs to be able to find the place that tells them about you. You can find mine here as an example! Of course, both come with some cost, but it’s still something to consider.
A few opportunities and resources:
None of these opportunities are requirements for being a successful writer, but they all offer some form of community. Writing may be a very individualistic career, but you have to admit that it’s difficult developing a career without a community.
Want to know more? Click the LEARN MORE button at home. You’ll find some helpful links to my own work in journals (which I have started posting here too!). You can find my work at Ariel Chart, the Cedarville Review, Nailpolish Stories, Bluepepper, 50 Word Stories, The Aurora Journal, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice! Also look for me in Anti-Heroin Chic, Sledgehammer Lit, later this year!
Want to see a sample? Check out this post!
Need help proofreading a story before you send it out? You can find me on Fiverr!