Dec 262013

As we approach the New Year, I am reminded of our need as writers to stand up from our desks from time to time and shout to the world “Here I am!” And by that I mean that we must, as writers, become engaged in our community.

As a Bay Area resident, I have found there are several great ways to be engaged, and have listed them below:

1) Writers conferences. In the Bay Area we have two big ones that I am a fan of, and those are the San Francisco Writers Conference and LitQuake.

sfwcI attended the San Francisco Writers Conference for the first time last year, and have to admit it was pricy, but I loved it. The conference is set up with many educational and motivational presentations, networking events, and the opportunity to pitch agents. I met one author that I went on to meet every couple weeks to discuss writing and share critiques, several others that I keep in touch with from time to time, found myself a critique group that has been AMAZING, and I met my fellow Redwoods Society bloggers here. If you get a chance to attend the 2014 San Francsico Writers Conference, I highly recommend you go.

Litquake is more literary focused, which is great for those of us out there that read McSweeney’s or the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. My first year I attended I went to a presentation by Irvine Welsh about his follow up novel to “Trainspotting,” and wrote a piece on it. I pitched my middle grade novel in front of a group of fifty or so other authors and two agents, and went to panels on voice and finding an agent, among many other topics. Another great thing about Litquake is it is NOT expensive. That’s right, you can go to many of these events for free, and others for around $5 to $10. Why not go and at least meet some other authors. And on the last Saturday (it lasts over a week), there is a “Lit-Crawl” where authors read from their novels, short stories, and poetry at great San Francisco bars. Tell me that doesn’t sound fun.

2) Critique groups. I could go on and on about why you need a critique group (and maybe I will in a follow up post), but the main point is that this is not all about workshopping your material. This is about forming bonds and setting deadlines and of course about workshopping your material. Find a critique group and congratulate each other as you each find new levels of success, and pull each other up if possible. Writer blurbs for each other, share your experiences and tell your group members about the upcoming writers conference. You need a critique group, and if you can’t find one I advise you start your own. You can do so via online sites like, or you can go to a writing class and meet other writers and ask them if they’re interested in starting a group.

3) Writing classes. As I mentioned above, this can be a great way to meet new members of a critique group. It can also be a great way to find a mentor, as the instructors are sometimes so great that they stay engaged way after the class is over, or you may meet a classmate who has a lot to offer. In the Bay Area there are classes at the Writer’s Salon, which I have heard great things about. Having come from Washington, D.C., I can highly recommend the Writers Center of Bethesda, and of course the Johns Hopkins nighttime and weekend MA in Writing program.

4) A blog. That’s right, if you haven’t already started a writing blog, go out there and do it. That’s what we are doing here at the Redwoods Society, and we appreciate you taking the time to read what we have to say. No think of what you can share with the world, and go out there and do it! We have this blog as a group, and I personally run a screenwriting focused blog at, and have learned a lot by forcing myself to sit down and pump out those posts.

So for the New Year, in addition to setting those writing focused resolutions, commit to becoming more involved in your local writing community. Find some way to get yourself out there. Good luck!

Justin M. Sloan


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I studied fiction in the MA in writing program at Johns Hopkins and interned with Folio Literary Management and “The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review.” I have published short stories and poetry, as listed on, and am a writer for Telltale Games. If you would like to keep in touch: Twitter @JustinMSloan Facebook at

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  2 Responses to “Writers Staying Engaged”

  1. […] years, it seems), check out your local writing classes or writing groups (see my advice on the New Year’s post). If time is your issue, maybe you should consider low-residency programs? I hear Spalding has a […]

  2. […] John, Justin, and I are fans of the San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC) and Justin has blogged about it. […]

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