Writing as Community

I’ve been thinking for a while now about writing as community, and how we can encourage such community to develop among writers.

Recently, I’ve been trying to get officially published. I’ve been writing short stories and submitting them to various magazines. I’m still waiting to hear back. It’s been a very emotionally draining situation because I know that the chances I will be rejected are high, and I know that being rejected is part of being a writer.

The experience has made me regret that I had not been involved in my college’s literary journal very extensively (I was part of it for one semester as one of the requirements for my minor in creative writing). The other day, I was reading an article by a writer who was talking about their own experience with their school’s journal–and it made me wish again that I could be a part of something like that.

Since most of the journals I’ve been submitting too are also e-zines (ie, I don’t think they actually publish a printed work), I was also thinking about zines that encourage a community. I remembered the fanzines of the past (and present) and how communities develop around these shared passions.

However, writing and submitting has been a very lonely task for me. Most of the people who help me with my stories are out of state, and I’ve yet to see one of them face to face. I keep intending to use meetup to find a writing group, but I am hesitant to do so. My heart fails at workshopping even more stories. I didn’t find the experience in college very helpful and I’m afraid that I won’t have the energy to do it again–unless I manage to join something like Clarion which is something I’ve thought about a lot, but I do not have the money or probably even the skill for such an enterprise.

But what if there were community centered literary magazines that were created by your local community for the local community? And when I mean literary, I mean it in the literal broadest sense of the word, not just for what is considered “how brow” but also genre works, which are frequently seen as inferior (I know that my creative writing professor had nothing but scorn for genre pieces and we were forbidden to write those pieces for class).

I suppose, if I’m using this sports analogy right, a community based literary journal would be considered “little league” in comparison to the official literary journals who are associated with official associations or guilds or groups etc.

But I think community centered literary journals would be important to have because it would welcome the individual and varied voices of the community, which might not necessarily find a platform with the voices of a traditional literary magazine.

I do not believe that the journals one could find in a school–whether a grade school or a university–satisfy the need for community centered literary journals because it relies very heavily on the attendance to those schools to be accessible–but not everybody goes to school, especially college.

Such an endeavor would of course have to be fair to its community. I recently found out there is a prison in town and I can already imagine that, were a community literary journal alive and publishing, that it would do something similar to a project my university in Texas was working on: publishing a volume of texts written by inmates.

Ideally, a community literary magazine would be very encouraging for people to submit to it. Since it would only serve the community, only accepting submission from the community, I don’t think it would receive the influx of entries that other zines, whether professional or not, receive all the time.

That means rejected submission can come with why it was rejected instead of just a polite form letter. People who submit to the community literary magazine get experience in submission/rejection, but would also receive something instructional to help them improve their writing endeavors. This could help encourage/prepare someone to jump from the little leagues to the big leagues.

Not only that, but the formation of a community based literary magazine would provide editing experience for people who would rather focus on the publishing side of the table instead of the writing side.

Is there something like that somewhere? I can’t imagine that there’s not–I did a search for my own area but all I found were literary magazines for schools from grade school to the university area. But my area is just my area–it doesn’t mean much.

I can’t help but think that creating a community centered literary magazine would take a lot of effort and cooperation–I could easily imagine the library system assisting, maybe even the community theaters. It would probably have to be run by volunteers since whatever money would come in would be used to pay the writers whose works were accepted and published.

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for the past few days. I think it’s something I like to see in my own town, and I think it’s a goal that I’m definitely setting for myself. I want to work with people to see this happen.

I know that I can’t do it by myself, and I know that I’m not currently in a position where I can even work towards this goal–but it’s definitely something that I’m going to keep looking forwards to.


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