At last year’s Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association conference, I was shocked to discover that the coordinators hadn’t opted for wifi during any of the workshops or presentations, or in the lounge off the exhibit floor. Maybe they thought it was a nuisance, that the collective clicking of keys would be too much of a distraction from say, Robert Dugoni talking about suspense. I don’t know, give Robert Dugoni some credit; he’s pretty entertaining. And there I was with my month-old iPad, so excited to twitter away a live feed. I was disappointed. This was one situation that made me question whether I should have forgone the 4G connectivity, but it was too late to question, now wasn’t it?
At the back of the large lecture, two women sat together, one of them online with her smartphone. I asked if she’d found wifi, and instead, she hooked me up through her phone. And a friendship was born, much to their credit, and not really to mine. Kerry Schafer had written a book about a wandering penguin that sounded delightful. Johanna Harness seemed to have taken the Harriet the Spy concept, put it in her own image, and made it work for the newest century. Harness then slipped me a tiny envelope containing even smaller slips of paper like those affirmation cards of the 1990s. There was one three-quarter inch button with a little bird on it, hand drawn with simple lines, and all of these things read, “#amwriting.”
I looked it up, and saw she’d started not just a hashtag on Twitter, but a Web site for writers at any stage to list their work and find each other. I was interested, but I was a little preoccupied with not wanting to trip over myself on my way to an agent pitch. Although, thinking about it now, what better way to introduce a memoir about being a klutz? Damn it, I should have done that on purpose.
Amwriting has gone through some shifts over the last year, including a layout change and a lot of behind-the-screen updates so authors can tweak their bios. Writers list their projects, genres, successes, and writing techniques. A stream of people of tweets with the hashtag rolls through in its own corner, and the throes of people using #amwriting totals well more than 20,000 now. On this, its second birthday, many of us have found agents, gotten book deals, formed critique groups, or learned about new projects, and for that I’m amazed. I get excited when my daily blog visits top 250. Johanna has built something of a benevolent empire, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer person.
I’m happy to spread the word about the site; as I often say, writers need writers. Community reminds us that we all have our challenging moments, and that we’re in a long process akin to something like an overgrown taffy pulling machine. Finding people who can be our beta readers, and whom we can help support makes us better writers but also better people. One of my friends made an offhand comment the other day that John Grisham has given a lot of money to emerging writers over the years. He gets the idea. So should we all be as supportive of each other.
As this is part of a large blog party, let me link readers to the next blog on the celebration list, Carol Despeaux’s One Wild Word.