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Communities of writers: it’s who you know

I was talking to an up-and-coming memoir writer a few days ago when it struck me how fortunate I am to have a community of crime writers in Canada. Many of its members are right in Toronto where I live.

I was telling her about the importance writers’ networks. Crime writers like myself have a wonderful national organization, Crime Writers of Canada, that’s been around for almost 30 years promoting and developing crime writing in Canada. The CWC sponsors the annual Arthur Ellis Awards for best crime novel, best crime short story, even best unpublished crime novel, as well as awards in a number of other categories. It has a mentorship program. And its website has a list of  members, which makes it easy to find and contact them.

Since 1999, we also have our annual Bloody Words conference. The three-day event is held in a major Canadian city (Victoria in 2011, Toronto next year) every June, and is an opportunity to meet writers and fans, and learn about everything from publishing trends to the latest in forensics.

Crime writers are a gregarious group of people and they seek one another out whenever they can. They meet at book launches, CWC parties and events at mystery book stores. In Toronto, writers and fans gather every month at Sisters in Crime meetings. They swap stories, they help build the buzz about books that are coming out. They introduce their friends, fans and people from the media.

They also connect via social media, and they can be a huge help to new writers who will eventually use this platform to market their books.

I was telling all this to my memoir-writing friend, when I realized that I’d never heard of a group of memoir writers that she could plug into. And she hadn’t either.

The next day, a Google search brought up an organization called the National Association of Memoir Writers. This U.S.-based group welcomes memoir writers from all over the world, and offers members online classes, teleseminars and teleconferences. It sounds like a place to start building a network of memoir writers.

Networks can be built. It takes time and effort, but it can be done. Courses in memoir writing and in many other genres are taught in continuing education programs, which shows that you are not alone. There are other people out there writing memoirs, writing for children and young adults, writing in just about any genre that you are writing in. Get to know them and build a writers’ community.

Because so often in the world of writing and publishing, it’s not what you know but who you know.

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