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Get out of your PJs and jump into your local writing community

After publishing her first novel, Gennifer Choldenko, Newberry Honor-winning author of Al Capone Does My Shirts, waited seven “interminable years,” to publish again. During that time, Gennifer found support in her local writing community. For many writers, getting involved in a writing community is the single most important thing they can do to boost their career.

But jumping in can be hard. Many writers are introverts, so joining a writing club or attending conferences goes against their instincts. Here’s what Gennifer said: “I’m an introvert, so when I was starting out, I really didn’t want to get involved in the book community. I wanted to observe from a distance. But the more I pushed myself to go to book events and writing conferences, join critique groups and network with other writers, the more connected to the industry I felt. I don’t believe any of us can improve our work in a vacuum.”

Of course, there’s a lot we can learn on our own by reading and studying craft books. We can even take writing classes from experts who will share their knowledge with us online. All while we’re wearing our pajamas!

But, being part of a writing community delivers benefits beyond sitting around in your PJs. When you engage in a writing community, you find out how other people “do” what you do—how they stay motivated when inspiration runs dry, what their favorite books are, how they organize their research, balance career, writing, and family, and what they know about the book industry. And, if you’re brave enough to share your work-in-progress with a critique partner or two, you’re bound to learn something that will make it even stronger.

Plus, attending writing conferences can bring you up to date on industry trends, help you meet industry professionals, and provide educational opportunities so you can hone your craft. There’s really no downside to getting out there. What’s more, writers are really nice people. Once you engage in your local writing community, don’t be surprised if you make some new best friends.


Danielle Sunshine is the Regional Advisor for the San Francisco South chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She provides developmental editing for picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels and also offers editorial assessments, line editing, and query critiques. Find out more about Danielle here.

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