Interview: Writing Community and National Novel Writing Month (Part 3), with Becca Patterson

Writer Becca Patterson, aka Mreauow, is one of three Municipal Liaisons for National Novel Writing Month in the Minnesota: Twin Cities Region. In this three-part interview series, she talks about writing in community in November and year round.

E. P. Beaumont:  How has writing community changed your practice as a writer?
Becca Patterson:
It’s given me a lot more discipline. Before meeting all these writers, I could go about a week between writing sessions. I didn’t finish things and I really didn’t think much about getting published. I wanted to, but I didn’t know what to do to get there. Now, I have people who are checking up on me. It’s a lot harder to slack knowing that tomorrow I’m going to meet with someone who knows that I should have that story finished by now. I can’t wallow in a rejection for a year because friends are going to ask me what magazines I’ve tried so far.
It’s also made it a lot less lonely. I have friends who know what it’s like when your characters aren’t listening to you. Believe me, non-writers don’t handle that idea very well. But other writers, they get it. There is nothing like having someone who gets it to talk to when it’s rough going.
E. P. Beaumont:  What kind of community would you recommend writers who are working alone to seek out? And what would you recommend that people avoid?
Becca Patterson:

It’s hard to say for what to recommend. It’s a highly personal thing. The best advice I have is go to the places you are comfortable and find the people there. Those are going to be the people most likely to be the best fit for you. Join NaNo at least one year and go to write-ins. The ones you like are going to have the community you are looking for. Take some classes at the local writing school, again, if you like it the people there are most likely to be your community.
Don’t go where you aren’t comfortable.
Avoid MFA program without a lot of research into the program and yourself first. My experience with MFA is that they aren’t there to teach you how to write, but how to be a writing teacher (yea, it makes about that much sense). I’ve known a few people who’ve gone the MFA route only to have the love of writing stripped from them by the critical atmosphere. Although I will say that the one MFA program that looks the most promising for actually teaching writing is Hamline University. It is a rare creature though – known to be different among its peers.
Avoid bars – not so good for finding a writing community. And the alcohol only makes you think you are brilliant. The cold light of day will show how much the alcohol was thinking. That’s about it.
E. P. Beaumont:  Were there any final words of wisdom you wanted to add?
Becca Patterson:
Hmm… words of wisdom….
Writing is something that once you start, you either have to do or you’ll find it a chore. Sometimes both. The thing is that most writers – the names you see on the bookshelves – are the kind of people who couldn’t stop writing if you forced them. They write, not because it is a lucrative hobby (for most it is not – most authors have day jobs). They write because if they didn’t the world would lose it’s color. If you are one of those, get ready for a life of wonder. As long as you keep writing, the magic will always be there. Put it aside at your own peril.
E. P. Beaumont:  Those would be words of wisdom for sure, speaking as one of Those People.

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