Posted in Writing

Inspiration Only Gets You So Far

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Austin is such an amazing town for writers. Independent book stores, author events, poetry readings, book festivals, literary archives, professional organizations, classes, workshops, meet-ups, indie presses, conferences—we have it all. I gushed about some of my favorite local literary highlights in this post, and I stand by everything I said.

I have friends in other parts of the state/country/globe that don’t live on such fertile writing ground, and I feel a little sorry for them. They can’t even imagine the number of opportunities I have for networking, listening, and learning. There’s just so much inspiration here!

This summer alone, I participated in a writing conference and an online workshop, attended a panel discussion and an author interview, led a write-away day at The Writing Barn and met up with various writer friends to drink coffee, share ideas, and bond over this strange and wonderful writing life. All of it was excellent.

But… (Yeah, there’s a but.)

This may sound a bit blasphemous, but I’m actually starting to envy those writers who DON’T live in a thriving writing community because, well, I bet they get a lot of work done.

The thing is, inspiration only gets you so far. Eventually, you have to actually sit down and WRITE. Otherwise, all those techniques you learned and exercises you practiced and great advice you heard and connections you made don’t matter. You have to put the inspiration to use or it doesn’t mean anything. The writing is the key.

Calendar

I recently went back to work full time-ish. (I’m a substitute teacher, so my job is pretty flexible, meaning random and confusing and literally all over the place, but I’m trying to book a job every day because I like having money to buy things.) All of a sudden, my available hours have shrunk and my available hours that I am awake and running on at least 70% brain power have shrunk even more.

This weekend, I looked at my calendar for the month and—man, oh, man—it is full of so many amazing things! Volunteering for one writing organization and monthly meetings with two more. Two book launches at my favorite local book store and one poetry reading followed by an open mic. An author interview, and a meet-up with writer friends, and a panel discussion, and a poetry festival, and one event that even has free wine. Yes! Yes! Yes! Wait… Noooooo! When am I supposed to write???

I sat down, put my head in my hands, and wished I lived out in the country or possibly in a city of illiterates. I found myself envying those friends who don’t live in thriving literary communities.

Which is silly. Utterly and completely silly. Because, obviously I don’t have to go to all these things. There is literally ONE event on my calendar that I have to go to because I’m assisting at it. The rest? I can just say no. Remember that, kids of the eighties? JUST SAY NO.

But it’s not that easy, because I WANT to go. The book launches are both for friends of mine, and of course I want to celebrate their amazing successes. The poetry festival is always so much fun and all my poet friends will be there. The author interview is with someone really interesting who I’ve been wanting to meet. And free wine? Come on!

Sadly, though, I can’t attend everything. I will have to pick and choose. I will have to say no. I will have to live vicariously through others when it comes to some of these events because I am a writer, so what I have to do is write. There’s no point bottling up all that inspiration if I don’t make time to let it out.

So here I sit, erasing some events from my calendar. I’ll miss you, friends! But if you don’t see me at a meeting or a workshop or a festival in the coming weeks, don’t fret. If I’m not there, it means I’m writing. And that’s a good thing.

Posted in Writing

Writerly Resources in Austin, TX

AustinTX
This ATX skyline pic is a little outdated.

It seems like every week I meet someone new to Austin. That’s probably because people JUST KEEP MOVING HERE. Luckily, all these recent Austinites are super nice and many of them are writers.

This is a great city to live in if you’re a writer. (I know, I know, I’m supposed to tell everyone Austin sucks, don’t move here, but I can’t. I’m too honest for my own good.) I didn’t know Austin was such a great writing town until I became a writer myself and even then I didn’t understand just how unique our community was until I started hearing about it from people who live elsewhere. Jennifer H. Robenalt called Austin “the best literary town in the United States” when she talked about being a good literary citizen at WLT’s Third Thursday event in July. (<– More about what that is later.)

It’s true that we have a plethora of amazing resources for writers, as well as a supportive atmosphere for creativity. I just didn’t realize other places didn’t have that too. Now I understand, and I’m so grateful to be here.

When I meet writers new to Austin, I can’t help telling them about all my favorite local resources. Three times last month I sent emails to people detailing all the awesome stuff they have to check out. So, to save myself some time in the future, I decided to put all that information here. Next time I can just point ATX newbies to this post.

Carie’s List of Writerly Resources for New Austinites

*Organizations:

Writers’ League of Texas

No matter what genre you write or how long you’ve been writing, you will benefit from a membership to the Writers’ League of Texas. WLT is a long-standing, well-run organization full of friendly faces and excellent perks. Membership gets you discounts to their weekend workshops and annual agents & editors conference, as well as access to their open office hours, where you can schedule time to discuss pretty much anything you want. If you want to check out the organization before signing up, attend one of their Third Thursday events at BookPeople. The panel discussions are free and open to the public and cover a different topic every week.

Austin Poetry Society

If you’re a poet in the Austin area, I encourage you to join the Austin Poetry Society. I’m on the board of this small, but enthusiastic organization, and we’re always on the lookout for new members. By joining the society, you get access to our monthly meetings as well as eligibility to enter our monthly and annual contests. Members can also advertise their events and publications through our newsletter and social media sites. Want to learn more about us before signing up? Follow our Facebook page!

Austin Chapter of SCBWI

If you write picture books, chapter books, middle grade, or YA, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is for you. This national organization has lots of benefits for members, including contests, webinars, discussion boards, conferences, and vast networking opportunities. The Austin chapter is an amazing source of support for both new and established writers in this genre. A quick look at their website will show you just how much they have to offer. Their monthly meetings (also at BookPeople) are on the second Saturday of each month.

*Bookstores:

BookPeople

Well, I’ve already linked to this fabulous bookstore twice in this post, so you know it’s important. BookPeople is my favorite store. Period. It’s the largest independent bookstore in Texas. Not only do they have a huge assortment of books, including many by local authors and publishers, but they also have an incredible staff of knowledgeable bibliophiles who can help you find whatever you need. Even if you forgot the title. And the author. There’s a coffee shop downstairs, a great space for reading or writing, and they host a wide variety of meetings, events, and author signings. Go. Spend some time and money there.

Malvern Books

Malvern Books is another independent bookstore dear to my heart. This much smaller shop also hosts readings and events. In fact, they were kind enough to invite me to read some poetry there last January. You can see my reading here. But this store is different because they specialize in “visionary literature and poetry from independent publishers, with a focus on lesser-known and emerging voices.” They have an enormous poetry section. Tired of seeing poetry books tucked into a sad little corner at the big bookstores? Come to Malvern and bask in the glory of their wall of poetry.

*Critique Groups / Meetups:

There are tons of writing-related groups in Austin. Just type “writers” into Meetup.com and you’ll see what I mean. I’m at bit sporadic in my attendance to these groups, but the three I frequent most often are:

Sit Down, Shut Up, and Write

Chat for thirty minutes with the other members of the group, then shut up and write for one hour. It’s incredible how much more work I produce in that hour compared to any single hour at home. RSVP through Meetup.

Austin Writers Meetup Group

Bring a chapter or short story or poem (see their website for details on word count and number of copies) or just come to read and listen. After introductions, members spend about an hour silently reading the pieces. Then they take turns discussing each one aloud. Good input from a variety of perspectives in a short amount of time. RSVP through Meetup.

Slug Tribe

Although I only recently became a “slug,” this sci-fi, fantasy, horror critique group has been meeting for over twenty years. Bring a chapter or a story (again see website for details on word count, etc) or just come to listen. Stories are read silently one by one in the order that the authors arrive. Feedback is detailed and insightful. This group also has an email list you can join where people ask questions, share publications, and discuss industry news. See their website for details.

*Other Unique Venues and Resources:

The Writing Barn

Workshops, classes, writing days, author events, overnight accommodations—The Writing Barn has it all and wraps it up in a serene environment perfect for providing creative inspiration. Read all about this lovely south Austin writing retreat in my post about it here.

Harry Ransom Center

This is one Austin resource I need to spend more time exploring. According to their website, the Harry Ransom Center is “among the nation’s finest research libraries and a place of unlimited discovery. The collections assembled here document the work of some of our finest writers and artists and provide unprecedented access to the creative process while also helping us understand the historical moment out of which this work emerged.” I spent time at the HRC in college and have seen a few exhibitions in recent years, but there’s really no excuse not to visit more, especially since it’s FREE. What a gift to have a cultural archive of this magnitude in my own city.

Annual Literary Festivals in and Around Austin

You’ll just have to click on the links to learn more about these events because I’m exhausted from typing.

WritingOrgsCollage

Whew! Now do you see why I wanted to stop sending all this through email? Now do you see why I can’t help but tell people about our awesome writing community? Of course, this post is only for those of you who’ve already made it to Austin. To everyone else: Austin sucks, don’t move here. 😉

Posted in Poetry, Reading

Poetry Reading at Malvern Books

Photo courtesy of Malvern Books
Photo courtesy of Malvern Books

Last week, I was fortunate enough to read some poetry to a great audience at Malvern Books in Austin, Texas. Malvern is a unique bookstore that, according to their website, “specializes in visionary literature and poetry from independent publishers, with a focus on lesser-known and
 emerging voices the world needs to hear.” They opened a little over a year ago and have quickly made a name for themselves in the Austin literary community with their distinctive selection of titles and the many events they host. My reading was part of Raw Paw’s Mind Maze series, and I was honored to share the podium with Tina Posner and Jack Brannon.

Malvern Books records all of their events, so you can see my full poetry reading on YouTube. The host’s very nice introduction of me begins at 2:20. If you choose to watch the video, you will hear me read a few haiku, as well as “August in Texas,” “Growing Up on the Oregon Trail,” and my award-winning poem “Balanced Rock, Big Bend National Park,” among others. The recording cuts out just before the end of the last poem I read, which is a favorite of mine by Billy Collins. Click here to read the last few lines of “On Turning Ten.”

Please don’t stop with my video though. Take time to listen to the other readers as well. Tina Posner’s poem about her mother-in-law’s death has stuck with me since I heard it, and Jack Brannon’s reading of his own father-themed poetry paired with poems by Li-Young Lee was beautiful. All of our videos can be found on Malvern’s blog. Ours is the second event featured in this post.

I’m very grateful to Malvern Books and Raw Paw for inviting me to be a part of their event. It’s a wonderful bookstore and a wonderful place to hear poetry, so if you’re in Austin, stop by and see them. (And buy a book.)