Message from the Managing Editor: Cultivating Community

sage.gifBy Sage Cohen

At the Willamette Writers Conference in early August, I spent three glorious days completely submerged in a critical mass of people who value their writing enough to dedicate three days to it. There’s a kind of alchemy that happens when we take ourselves seriously as writers—and do so in the company of other writers. We expect more of ourselves. We believe more in ourselves. We feel a part of something important…something far more energizing than the blank stare of the computer screen. I was reminded that no matter how much I love the privacy and silences of my writing life, community is the pilot light that keeps poetry burning in me.

Don’t know where to start building your very own writing community? Here are a few ideas for fueling your creative fires in the company of other writerly types.

Book Clubs
A great way to keep your literary head in the game is to participate in a book club. Meeting at regular intervals with a chosen group of peers can challenge you to engage with material you might not have chosen yourself, provide valuable insight, and make reading more fun—and frequent.

Public Readings
Bookstores, libraries, cafes, and writing collectives all great places to seek out—or create your own—readings. When I moved to Portland, Oregon, almost five years ago, there were plenty of literary events happening around town. But I knew that I was most likely to dive with both feet into the literary community by starting my own reading series. So I did. And so can you.

Writing Groups
When you want regular critical feedback about your work, a writing group can provide both great support and valuable structure. Having a deadline and feeling responsible to the group can keep you focused on your goals and committed to achieving them.

Publishing Groups
Why not meet with published and aspiring-to-be-published authors and writers to share ideas about agents, journals, presses, or markets. Strategize with other folks in the publishing trenches about where your work belongs in the world––and how to get it there.

Writing Dates
I meet with a group of women once a month on a friend’s farm. We each choose a special place in the house or out on the property and spend three hours writing on our own. For me, this designated time and place where I write in the company of friends is quite energizing and productive. Maybe it could work for you, too. Try meeting a friend at a café or park or library for a regular writing date. See what happens.

Whether you tap into an existing writing community or create one yourself, I encourage you to commit to at least one regular activity that engages you in the writing world beyond your desk and reminds you of your rightful place in it.

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic, a creative companion for poets forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Oregon Literary Review, Cup of Comfort for Writers, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. In 2006, she won first prize in the Ghost Road Press annual poetry contest. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University where she was awarded a New York Times Foundation fellowship. For organizations including Writers on the Rise and Willamette Writers, Sage teaches poetry writing and publishing workshops. Visit Sage at


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