I’ve joined a few writing communities over the years with mixed results. At their roots, some of them seemed like they would be genuinely helpful as workshops and networking opportunities. Being new to the game, it sounded like I could learn much about a large variety of topics: writing, promotion, publishing, contracts and more. I fantasized that I would become part of a tightly knit group of genre fiction writers, helping each other along the way to greatness.
The first was a Yahoo group organized by an enthusiastic writer and geared toward speculative fiction. I liked the small size, which I hoped would mean lots of opportunities for submissions and constructive criticism of my work. Each week, we reviewed one story by a different writer in the group. I worked hard to give gentle but valuable critiques, being specific and offering the best suggestions I could. When my turn came to submit a story to the group, I expected similar treatment of my work. My expectations were met by some people, exceeded by a couple and left extremely wanting by most. Not much later, the group’s organizer decided to disband the group, and I was unsurprisingly grateful to move on.
The second group I joined was much larger. I thought the size would offer so many participants that I could statistically count on some helpful critiques. Instead, the group’s criteria for submissions was based on the number of stories one reviewed compared to those reviewed by other members. Only a few people who had time to review a dozen or more stories could hope to get any attention given to their own works. I tried for months but couldn’t seem to provide good reviews if I wanted to hit competitive numbers. Again it failed to be what I needed.
My third attempt was to enroll in a continuing education writing class at my local community college. It was even geared specifically for science fiction and fantasy authors. The catalog description claimed it would be taught by a published author, and it promised to enlighten me on publishing and marketing strategies as well. I received notice by mail that the class was cancelled due to insufficient enrollment numbers. This happened for two different semesters, so I haven’t bothered to try a third time. Thankfully my money was refunded, but I wish I could have talked to the other people who enrolled. Maybe we could have formed a local writing group, which was one of my initial reasons for signing up for the class in the first place.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a friend, Cliff, who has been the advanced reader for most of the fiction I’ve written. It was with his encouragement that I submitted “Catalyst” to Nonlocal Science Fiction. He also read my story, “The Hzeen”, which is due to be published in Nonlocal SF #3, coming out in September. Cliff also writes, and we’ve had a mutually beneficial author-reviewer relationship for several years now. I’ve encouraged him to submit to Nonlocal SF as well, since I feel like I’ve been very lucky to be included and helped out by the publisher, Dan.
Dan has been a different kind of editor/publisher than I’ve encountered so far. I was initially blown away by his willingness to offer suggestions for “Catalyst” rather than flatly reject it. I knew from previous submissions that this was a rare thing, and I was determined not to take it for granted. When Dan contacted the authors he’s agreed to publish so far and mentioned his intentions to establish a community around his publishing company, I couldn’t help but feel like I had come home. There will be some additional work involved. For instance, I might have to contribute content to the website from time to time and continue to periodically submit stories there. Honestly, it sounds like stuff I’d like to do anyway if I can find time.
For those of you anxious to check it out, here’s a link: http://nonlocalscifi.com/
You’ll find movie and book reviews, as well as articles about science fiction writing and other media. There are links to the podcast, including author interviews such as the one with yours truly. Dan also has plans for forums lined up, so not only will you be able to consume fantastic content there, you’ll be able to join discussions and be part of the community as it develops.
Please help me contribute to the growth of a thriving community, for all lovers of science fiction, by liking Nonlocal Science Fiction on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. As always, I thank you for reading and all the other support you’ve given me so far.