Why you should be part of the DMV writing community.
I may be biased, but I don’t think there are many greater places to be a writer than the DMV. While drafting and editing are solitary tasks, sustaining the writing practice demands community.
Through community, we learn about the writing world, gain confidence in our craft, get valuable feedback, make new friends, and get to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Being a part of community is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a writer, especially here, where we have so many fantastic literary citizens creating fantastic resources for the writing journey.
Even though I’ve been writing professionally for a while, there are times when I wonder what I’m doing. Sometimes, the stories I’m most passionate about get silence on submission. I sit down to write a new novel and have no idea how I’ve ever done this before.
Sometimes, I need to complain to fellow writers about obtuse and vague edit notes, submission delays, the publishing industry at large, or trying to find the energy and inspiration to write after over a year in a global pandemic. It is through community that I am reminded I’m not alone and am refreshed to return to the page.
When I first started writing, I joined the Maryland Writers’ Association. This is an excellent organization I’m still involved with, speaking at local chapter meetings and their conference. It’s here that I met great local writers who I continue to be friends with. It was at the MWA’s annual conference that I met the amazing E.A. Aymar, when we were both in line to pitch our novels to agents. As we waited, we practiced our pitches on each other and thought each other’s novels were pretty cool. Now, we’ve both published multiple books and are actively involved in our genres’ communities.
There are other terrific organizations and conferences in the DMV area. Some of my favorites are Split this Rock, Conversations and Connections, the Inner Loop Reading Series, ESWA’s Bay to Ocean Writer’s Conference, SCBWI, and the Independent’s own Washington Writers Conference. These events stand out to me as ones where I’ve really been able to make lasting connections with fellow writers and feel a part of the local writing community.
In fact, I think of the Washington Writers Conference as almost a DC writers’ alumni event. Every time I go, I’m excited to see my friends. There was one year when I was tangentially involved with Twitter drama during the weekend of the conference. I remember showing up overwhelmed and distraught by the situation and constantly fiddling with my phone trying to deal with it.
But I also remember, at lunch, finding my writing friends, who, as soon as they saw me, hugged me and asked how I was doing. They knew I was impacted by what was happening and said they were thinking of me and hoping I was doing okay. It’s moments like these that really remind me I am not alone as a writer, that I’m part of a community and have people I can go to when I need help.
For those writing in specific genres, there are great specialized resources, too. Local events like Balticon, Chessiecon, and Capclave tailor to speculative writers. Organizations like SCBWI have rich resources for kid-lit writers. Beltway Poetry Quarterly is an online magazine but also has fantastic lists of resources for local poets.
There are also some wonderful journals in the DMV. Some of my favorites are Little Patuxent Review, District Lit, Smartish Pace, Poet Lore, Free State Review, Gargoyle, and Barrelhouse. Little Patuxent Review was one of the first journals to publish my poetry. The editor at the time was Laura Shovan, who generously mentored me — and continues to mentor me — in both the literary poetry world and then the kid-lit world when her debut novel-in-verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, came out. If I hadn’t submitted those poems, I have no idea if I ever would’ve had the privilege of getting to know Laura and her work.
I could go on and on with stories about this incredible DMV writing community. There are so many ways to be a part of it, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as a writer, it’s to put yourself out there and try everything. Strike up conversations with other writers in lines at conferences. Volunteer to help at events or reading for lit mags. Submit your work to local publications and read at area open mics. Start a critique group or join a chapter of a writing organization.
As someone who writes, you belong in this community, and I’m sure you’ll make lifelong friends in the process of joining it.
[Editor’s note: This piece is in support of the Inner Loop’s “Author’s Corner,” a monthly campaign that spotlights a DC-area writer and their recently published work from a small to medium-sized publisher. The Inner Loop connects talented local authors to lit lovers in the community through live readings, author interviews, featured book sales at Potter's House, and through Eat.Drink.Read., a collaboration with restaurant partners Pie Shop, Shaw’s Tavern, and Reveler’s Hour to promote the author through special events and menu and takeout inserts.]
Meg Eden is a 2020 Pitch Wars mentee and teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She is the author of the 2021 Towson Prize for Literature-winning poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (Press 53, 2020) and children’s novels, most recently Selah’s Guide to Normal (Scholastic, 2023). Find her on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.