We moved to Muscatine in April. In May I went to the local author fair at the Musser Public Library and looked at, envied, and even talked with a few authors in and around Muscatine, feeling excited and inspired by the opportunity to once again be part of a face-to-face writing community, something I’d sorely missed at our previous home. In June, by sheer luck, I stumbled into the David R. Collins Writing Conference sponsored by the Midwest Writing Center of the Quad Cities, held on the charming campus of St. Ambrose University. I signed up for the fiction, creative non-fiction, and freelancing workshops and they let me in, let me sit in a room with other writers and talk about writing again, something I’d been starving for, if we must be honest. I walked away with new contacts, new friends, inspiration for at least half a dozen writing projects including the key to tackling the next round of revisions for the novel, and more than that, I felt I had found my writing home.
Since then, thanks to the MWC, I’ve heard some great poetry at the SPECTRA readings held at Rozz-Tox (and I even got to read once – remember the purple hair)? I was part of a fantastic book marketing series that showed me step-by-step how to get involved in the publication and promotion of A Lesson in Manners (forthcoming from Snake~Nation~Press!). I even got to host a workshop on one of my favorite topics, researching and writing historical fiction. And this Saturday, I will be behind the table, not the shy and longing person in front, at the local author book fair at Moline Public Library.
Those are the events. The inspiration has been immeasurable. What I’ve been able to learn from other authors about the writing, publishing, and promoting process has been invaluable. What I’ve learned about my craft has been helpful and eye-opening. Yes, after two creative writing degrees and four years of teaching I was pretty sure I knew the ropes, but the MWC has taught me I still have much to learn, and might as well be a little more humble about it.
Not only that, but I’ve come away with some great additions to my reading list: Reservations by Teresa LaBella (recently reviewed at femmeliterate), West Fork by Tom McKay, the sizzling One Night and One Day by Blaine Allen, the poetry of Salvatore Marici, and the beautiful Prairie Gold anthology put out by Ice Cube Press, which has helped me feel more at home in this new place I live.
What price can I put on having a writing home? On the chance to hang out with other adults over a glass of wine and listen to and talk about poetry? On knowing there are people nearby I can talk to, learn from, sign books alongside, lean on, support, cheer for, and commiserate with over the joys and pains, sacrifices and silliness of the writing life? Just having other writers around, knowing they’re near enough to smell, has had a wonderfully stabilizing effect on my mental health. And more than that, the sense of accountability is back, because the next time I run into one of my new friends, I better have something good to tell them about how the novel is going.
I may not be able to return the inspiration in kind, but I have a chance to make a monetary contribution to this place that has provided a haven, a community, a meeting place, and a font of inspiration for so many local authors like me. So yes, here’s the sales pitch. I’m writing a check to the MWC to as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign (Giving Tuesday is December 1, for those who don’t know) and I have the satisfaction not only of knowing my hard-earned cash will go towards worthy causes like supporting poetry readings, the Young Emerging Writers program, the David R. Collins conference, and the kinds of workshops I’ve learned so much from, but also—here’s the bonus—a generous anonymous donor will put a matching amount in the community endowment that will help keep the MWC going, I hope, long into the future.
That, to me, is money well spent. If you too would like to support the literary life of the Quad Cities and surrounding area, you can click here to send your hard-earned dollars along with mine. If it’s well past December 1st, no worries; the anonymous donor will match your donation anytime through the month of December, so your investment will double itself immediately. And when we meet, we’ll raise our glass of wine in a toast to inspiration, to poetry, to writing communities, and to the long, long life of the written word.