calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of this series is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities. If you have some experiences you’d like to share, please let me know.

Today’s guest is Maureen Flynn: poet, author and fan. I had the great pleasure of catching up with Maureen at Conflux in October, where she spoke movingly on David McDonald’s Paying for Our Passion panel. Being a Doctor Who fan, she spent part of the convention cosplaying Missie and I always keep my eye out for her commentary on the latest episodes. Like me, she’s a candidate for the NAFF race this year (so if you enjoy her post here, please consider voting for her).

 

Why building community matters

When Elizabeth kindly asked me to guest post for this series, my head reeled. There are so many different places I could go with talking about my journey in being both separate and part of community. It started from my days as a young carer feeling like a fish out of water amongst other children, but there is also teenage days experimenting in online fandom and fan fiction during 2007-2011 as a form of escape and self-discovery. There is also discovering safe places to participate in community through blogging, involvement in local clubs and societies in the geek fandom space and, recently, cons and the speculative fiction community in Australia. Even, I now realise, organisations like my brother’s disability support provider, who I don’t need to justify myself to or explain myself to because they live and breathe not just disability every day, but also local relationships and the values that matter an awful lot to me. The truth is I can’t separate these disparate communities because they all provide me with the same thing. They keep me connected to people that I love and value and care about, and keep me connected to the people who love and value and care about me.

For me, sense of community starts with my carer role, with my experiences of isolation and difference because of that role, and my participation on the Helena Bonham Carter forum as a way to escape feeling different.  I can tell you this without any shade of embarrassment: Helena Bonham Carter probably saved my life, helped me realise who I was at my heart’s core and helped me to be the writer I am now. Her fandom gave me permission to be weird and wonderful and to write like my life depended on it, no one judging my words. She was, and is, a wonderful role model: funny, smart, down to earth, and always honest about being herself. Her fans were creative, fierce, different, daring, pushing boundaries. They also told me I should never give up on my writing or apologise for who I or my family was. When I was part of that fandom, I made myself a promise: I would never be judgemental or unkind if I could help it, never exclude people because they are different, never worry about how others saw me or judged me, or do what people expected of me again. It set the tone for the range of communities I chose to be part of in later years.

Why does participation in my communities matter? There is an interesting discussion happening in the community care space as federal reform rocks the sector. That discussion is around two things that link back to community: inclusion and the concept of ‘the good life.’ What does meaningful inclusion look like for Australian citizens and what does a good life look like? Is it the same for all? And how do people, especially marginalised and/or disadvantaged people, achieve it? These discussions are complex and there are no easy answers, but there is basic consensus on some of it.

  1. People who are connected to community are less isolated and less vulnerable
  2. People who are connected to community have greater social opportunities
  3. People who are connected to multiple communities are more likely to feel good about themselves and have greater resilience

It should be evident from both this post and my post for David McDonald that these statements hold true for me. Without the multiple communities I identify with I wouldn’t be the strong, resilient carer I am today. People in the speculative fiction community are sometimes surprised that I put so much effort into attending book launches, bringing along friends to events and participating in things like the Aurealis Awards, but for me it is a no-brainer because community works both ways. Let me give you two examples. In Melbourne, I met a bunch of Helena fans for the Tim Burton exhibition. One girl I met lived in the same LGA as me and we’d never known despite chatting on a forum. She didn’t have a big friendship network. I recognised that she’d fit right into mine. I invited her to a bunch of events and she’s now firmly ensconced in my friendship group. She paid it back by becoming my brother’s volunteer through his disability provider, enthusiastically supporting my brother to finish university and expand his social networks. Without Elise in my family’s life, I doubt my brother would be where he is today. I doubt I would have had half as much fun as I have had in the past few years at countless dress-up parties, movie nights, and this year, at a memorable ‘alternative valentine’s day’ and a charity ball.

I almost didn’t attend this year’s Aurealis. I was feeling down for a number of reasons, largely relating to the carer role. I felt like no one in the writer community could really understand what I felt. The effort of even thinking about going all the way to Canberra was exhausting. At the last minute, I went. I was shocked by the amount of people who came to speak with me, to ask me how I was doing, to offer writing advice and titbits of knowledge. I had been an idiot to try to shut myself away from community. The more I did, the less I wrote and the less resilient I felt, the more isolated I became.

It’s interesting to me that the values about community I learnt from my HBC years still hold true today. It’s interesting that again and again different communities I am involved with have halted hard falls, offered new horizons, supported me, offered friendship and advice. I am often asked to speak with carers about reform and about caring for themselves. I give them this advice: find your own passions, don’t be subsumed by the caring role. Get out there and find community, because it will be your opportunity and your salvation, and because if you never try to put yourself out there, you will never know what might have been. I am beginning to see more and more that this advice applies beyond carers because here’s the thing: if people put into the community, the community puts back into you. Building community matters because community connects us together, unites us, reminds us of human relationships and why they matter. Without them the daily grind wears us down, plunges us into tunnel vision, reduces opportunity, and decimates social capital, leads us to despair and isolation and danger as we fall off cliffs we never needed to fall from. That’s why I’ll fight hard to support my communities. All of them. Because belonging to them matters to me and to countless others. Because as long as I’m part of communities I’ve chosen, I don’t have to be the isolated and frightened and timid person I was all of those years ago.

 

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Maureen Flynn works with community care providers in disability and aged care as they navigate federal reform. In her spare time, she writes young adult speculative fiction novels and short stories, verse poetry and she has just ventured into writing crime. Currently, she is looking for a home for her YA fantasy manuscripts and is working on a crime novel and a verse novel about ‘the historical Merlin’. Maureen reviews speculative fiction novels at her WordPress blog, InkAshlings. Never one for saying no to a challenge, she also reviews genre books, films and TV shows and has interviewed authors for her blog. Her self-published verse novella, My Heart’s Choir Sings is available from Amazon and Smashwords. You can follow Maureen at her website, on Goodreads or Twitter.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of this series is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities. If you have some experiences you’d like to share, please let me know.

Earl Grey Editing would not be here today without the talent of web designer Melissa Hartfiel. However, web design is just one of the many hats she wears. She is also an incredible creator of community. Today she shares a bit about the communities through which we met, and what led her to create Food Bloggers of Canada.


 

When Elizabeth reached out to me and asked me if I would like to share my experience with community I knew I had to say yes.

You see, if it weren’t for community, I would never have “met” Elizabeth.  I use quotation marks because, as of yet, we still haven’t met in person.  I live in Canada and she’s in Australia. But we’ve known each other for nearly 12 years and it all started back in 2003 with a small, online community of booklovers known as Bookcrossing.com.

We met through the forums and a small group of us discovered we had not only the common love of reading, but also of writing, and, for many of us, photography as well.  Most of our little group wound up starting private blogs on the LiveJournal platform that we shared with one another, and when I look back on it, it was our way to keep in touch.  We shared so many details of our lives in those LJ posts that I would never even think of blogging publicly about now!

We exchanged books, care packages and Christmas cards with one another, started photography projects together and cheered each other on through NaNoWriMo slogs.  And all this while we were located in all corners of the globe: Canada, Switzerland, Australia, the USA, and the UK.  As social media started to emerge and LiveJournal and Bookcrossing started to decline, we found other ways to stay connected, like Facebook, Twitter, our own websites and now, Instagram.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of these ladies in real life and, as the years have gone by, I’ve even had some of them become clients as well as friends.

The story doesn’t end there but fast forward to 2011 and a much more sophisticated internet!

While I had been blogging through my business site for a while, I was craving a more personal outlet and so I started Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach – my personal blog. It was a way to share my food photography, my travels, and my other creative endeavors that weren’t client related.

That’s when I started looking for a community of food bloggers to join – something that would give me resources and other bloggers to talk to and share experiences  with and learn from.   I found a few but they were all based out of the United States. The resources were great but always referenced US law, which is quite different from Canadian law. Many of the opportunities to work with food-related companies were only for American bloggers.  I looked for similar organizations in Canada that focused on Canadian bloggers and there really wasn’t one… sooo…

I asked two friends if we should start one.

And so we did.

In September of 2011, the three of us  (my current partner Ethan Adeland and Mardi Michels, who has since left the executive team) launched Food Bloggers of Canada (FBC), a membership-based organization for Canadian food bloggers to network, get access to resources to help them with their blogging, and find paid opportunities.

In the last four years we have grown by leaps and bounds – we are just shy of 2000 members – and now manage a thriving community of Canadian food writers, food photographers, food stylists, cookbook authors, recipe developers, restaurant reviewers, and dietitians & nutritionists.

What do they all have in common? They’re all Canadian, they all love food and they all blog about it!

Belonging to a community can be extremely fulfilling – especially when you take advantage of all of the opportunities to connect with your fellow members – either online through forums or Facebook groups or by meeting face to face.  It provides you with a built-in support network when you’re starting out, need advice, are learning something new, or just struggling in a rut.  It’s a way to make new friends, find people to collaborate with and even make professional contacts.

Starting and running a community brings you all of that but there’s so much more.  For us, the biggest responsibility, and hands down the most difficult, is making everyone feel welcome, supported and equal – as well as keeping the peace.

As with any large group, there will always be a small handful of people who are always negative.  Minimizing their impact on the community is always a priority but can be really hard when the internet can encourage drama.

There will always be people who will challenge the community’s rules and sometimes you can feel like a police officer, always on patrol, always having to make hard decisions.

And cliques will form.  We have a very strong internal policy that we are inclusive, not exclusive because we both know how painful it can be to feel that you’re not included or one of the “cool kids”.  So while we work very hard to encourage friendships we also work hard to ensure anyone who joins us is made to feel welcome and valued.

FBC now provides me and Ethan with a full-time income (albeit a very small full-time income that’s supplement with freelance work!).   We do that by helping brands who want to create blogger outreach campaigns and work with our members.  Now that our living revolves around FBC we’ve also realized that it’s more important than ever for us to ensure we have a happy, active and engaged membership.  For us, that means constantly evolving, staying on top of the digital publishing world and constantly engaging with our members to see what they need, what they’re looking for,.  It also means supporting our members publicly – we maintain multiple programs designed to promote their work across Canada.

But the rewards have been huge.  We have made so many new friends, we have watched other friendships grow, we have found so many great projects to collaborate on professionally with our members, and we get to bring them incredible opportunities to help them grow and be successful.   And that is truly rewarding.

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Melissa Hartfiel is the co-founder and Managing Director of Editorial for Food Bloggers of Canada.  She is also a graphic designer, illustrator and food photographer and owns her own boutique design company, Fine Lime Designs.  You can follow her creative exploits and her love for food and food photography on her personal blog, Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach.  When she’s not travelling around the rest of Canada for work, Melissa lives just outside of Vancouver, BC, and in her spare time you can find her mucking about by the Pacific Ocean with her goofy yellow lab, SamTheDog.  She drinks a lot of tea, eats a moderate amount of chocolate and watches too many British murder mystery shows on Netflix.  She is also on the eternal quest for the The. Best. Mac and Cheese.  You can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of this series is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities. If you have some experiences you’d like to share, please let me know.

Leife Shallcross joins me today. I’ll let her tell you the tale of how we met. Being the sucker for punishment community-minded person she is, Leife is currently both the president of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and the co-chair of Conflux, Canberra’s speculative fiction convention. Being the Secretary of the former and a keen participant in the latter, I’ve been able to witness first-hand just how hard Leife works to support the local spec-fic community.

 

The Best Advice Ever

You know those articles that appear now and then with advice about writing from famous authors to, well, the rest of us? (Like this one, which is a little more fun than most.) Well, if anyone ever asked me, “find your writing community” would be the first thing I’d tell them.

Back in about 2010 I decided to “take myself seriously” as a writer. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, except that I was going to stop just writing for an audience of me, and start trying to see if what I was producing was good enough to get published.

I joined my local writers centre and did a bunch of workshops, including a Year of the Novel course. This was my first experience of something approximating a writers group. We were all working on very different stuff: I was working on two fairy-tale based novels (couldn’t decide on which), others were working on romance novels, thrillers, memoirs, children’s stories, historical non-fiction. All sorts of stuff. This group offered me my very first opportunity to share the experience of writing with other aspiring authors, and to have my work critiqued by other writers. It was immensely valuable, but it also taught me another key lesson.

It’s really important to find the right writing community for you. After the workshop, a few of us did make some initial efforts to critique each other’s work outside the workshop, and I even went to a few sessions of a much smaller writer’s circle with another colleague. But I think we were all probably heading in such different directions with our work, we weren’t able to offer each other what we really needed. What did we need? Well, critiquing and encouragement is one thing. But what I needed, and what I subsequently found, was a community.

There are two communities I want to talk about.

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild

Somewhere in that heady first year of Taking Myself Seriously, I submitted a short story to a call out for an anthology called Winds of Change being published by the strange and arcane-sounding Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. The editor was discerning enough to instantly spot the brilliance of my work (Hi, Elizabeth!!), and Voila! I had my first publication credit.

More importantly, though, this was my segue into my writing community.

When I joined CSFG, I discovered a group of people who got the stuff I wanted to write. They were actually interested in my stories, and I found their stories interesting. They were writing for the same audiences and the same markets, they were trying to hit the same beats. They were drawing on the same collective consciousness of the genre.

Critically, because of the size and makeup of the CSFG, I was also mixing with writers who were heaps more experienced than me. They knew about markets, and who was who, and plot arcs, and character archetypes and Mcguffins and all sorts of stuff I had no clue about. They taught me things like Finish What You Start, and Pick ONE Story To Focus On. I’m not sure if they see it this way, but I’ve got several good friends who I also regard as my writing mentors. They’ve provided invaluable guidance over the years. My writing has improved and I have a better understanding of how the industry works because of them.

I have writing buddies, too. These are the peeps I know I can rely on for an emergency critique to meet a deadline, and who I crit for on a regular basis. I trust their judgement because they’re all awesome writers in their own right. And they’re great friends. (And you know what? That’s the difference between a writers group and a community.)

CSFG is a great community that draws strength from both its diversity, and its commonalities. I’m so grateful that at some point in the dim dark past (maybe around the year 2000, I think) a bunch of people decided to put a bit of structure around their community at the time and build something that was going last. The CSFG now offers a raft of activities to support its members, including short story and novel critiquing, as well as a novel writing group, workshops and even the odd writers retreat.

I’ve been on the CSFG committee for a few years now (I’m currently the president), because it’s important to me to see something like the CSFG work. We’re all volunteers, so you can only take what people are willing and able to give. But the trick is to harness that, and draw on everyone’s strengths, and make it fun. The CSFG community has been so valuable to me, I want it to keep offering the same great support and opportunities to anyone who wants to write in the spec fic genre. Plus, I get to hang out and eat chocolate biscuits and drink wine with some of my favourite people.

Conflux

One of the things I’ve learned from the more experienced, more savvy members of my writing community, is that it’s not good enough to be a good writer. It’s a good start, but if you are going to be a successful artist in any art form, you need to understand the business of the industry you’re in. That means local circles aren’t enough.

This year I’ve been involved in organising Canberra’s main spec fic writing convention, Conflux. Conflux is a bit of an unusual genre convention, as it’s aimed mainly at writers, rather than fans. For this reason it attracts a large number of spec fic writers from all over Australia. It’s been great fun so far, and I’m really pleased and proud to be helping such a fantastic thing continue.

I’ve got a youngish family, so it’s not that easy for me to travel to interstate cons at the moment. So Conflux has been my main opportunity to network with writers and others in the industry from outside Canberra. I think we’re incredibly lucky in Australia. Given our relative size, we really punch above our weight when it comes to the top-shelf spec fic writers we’ve produced. And, lucky for us, that small size means that our spec fic community is also pretty small and tightknit. Even for relative novices like me, due to the two-or-three degrees of separation it comes down to, it’s possible to meet some amazing people with truly international careers if you go along to some of our genre conventions.

It’s not just that, though. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely thrilling to sit next to someone like Trudi Canavan in a pub, or be on Kate Forsythe’s team at a spec-fic romance gauntlet, or to be chauffeuring someone like Alisa Krasnostein between the airport and the hotel. But I have made some great friends with writers in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and even further afield through Conflux. Which is one of the reasons why I put my hand up to help out this year. I love that somewhere as small as Canberra is able to offer up something as wonderful and jam-packed with opportunity as Conflux.

Plus, going back to the theme of community, as Conflux is entirely run by volunteers, everyone who’s involved is there for the love of it. Which makes the Conflux committee its own little community of awesomeness. Which is why I’ll be putting my hand up to help out again next year.

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Leife Shallcross lives in Canberra, Australia, with her family and a small, scruffy creature that snores. She reads fairy tales to her children at night, and then lies awake listening to trolls (or maybe possums) galloping over her tin roof. Her work has appeared in Aurealis and several Australian and international anthologies, including the forthcoming CSFG anthology The Never Never Land. She is actively involved in the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and is the current president. When writing is not consuming her spare time and energy, she plays the fiddle (badly). She can be found online at leifeshallcross.com and on Twitter @leioss.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of this series is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities. If you have some experiences you’d like to share, please let me know.

Regular readers here will know I’m quite a fan of Pia Foxhall’s fantasy erotica series Fae Tales. What you may not know is the series originally started as fanfiction.  Today I’ve invited Pia to share her thoughts on community and fandom.

 

Spaces of Liberation

I didn’t realise I was occupying fandom spaces when I first started learning from fandom spaces because the term hadn’t been invented yet. I first became a part of fandom in the late 80s, when I began mail-ordering X-Files fan magazines, and a world of fanfiction, fanart, meta and speculation opened up to me. I knew I enjoyed reading fanfiction, it gave me something I couldn’t seem to get as an avid reader of traditionally published literature. Over the years, I became a part of it in rambling comment threads on Livejournal and Dreamwidth about characters and their development. I saw it in articles, in author’s notes, in the rise and fall and rise (and fall?) of fanfiction.net (FF.net) and the creation of the Organisation for Transformative Works (OTW) and one of its projects: Archive of Our Own (AO3).

Fanworks – fanart, fanfiction, fanvideos, cosplay and more — originated in primarily female and queer spaces. It was a space where a person could take two straight characters in a heteronormative world and queer them (if they wanted, het (heterosexual) fiction exists as well), queer the culture, place their work into the world (or a new universe) and have people come to them not only with praise, but with comments like ‘I relate to this’ or ‘I wish this had happened in the canon.’ Around this act of freely sharing creativity and getting commentary-as-love as a form of payment, community built.

Fandom spaces are transformative spaces. They can even be the early adopters of increased cultural awareness. I first realised I was gray-asexual from a fanfic and the subsequent comments about romantic asexuality versus aromantic asexuality. I learned about issues to do with representing ethnicity, minority and oppression through intense, emotional debate in fandom spaces, and in fanfiction itself. My social awareness – still growing – has expanded more from fandom spaces than anywhere else. I tend to see these social justice subjects trickle through into mainstream writing spaces sometimes months, or even years later. Though the veil between these spaces is thinning. More often these days, traditionally published and self-published original content authors are proudly announcing their fandom beginnings and attachments, and are more willing to talk in transformative terminology.

I’m an original fiction and fanfiction author. I’ve devoted love equally to both. Socially, I get more from fandom spaces. I love the authors of original fiction I’ve met – incredible, hard-working people. But I get acceptance as a queer person writing queer literature in the often queer spaces of fandom that are also filled with incredible, hard-working people. It’s not only my words that are embraced there, but who I am. There’s not many places in the world I can go and be accepted for being gray-asexual, panromantic, polyamorous, childfree, genderfluid, kink-friendly and disabled, and experience acceptance for every one of those things. In a healthy fandom space, I can expect it.

Most people in fandom understand that writing fanfiction is an act of love, not an act of love that is tied to making a profit. It divorces itself from capitalism, and, as such, opens itself up to liberated creation. It has a wonderful gifting culture. There is a freedom in devoting hours and hours to something that will never see a cent of payment. There’s no business-oriented catchphrases like ‘you’re only as good as your last book.’ Marketing lingo is shoved out the door, it’s unwelcome and stifling in these places. It’s not about money, it’s about writing what you’re not seeing in the world around you, or even just writing something for yourself.
There is liberation in writing the kinds of characters, genres or stories that you desperately want to read, but that many publishers aren’t getting behind because those stories aren’t meeting their formulas and requirements. In the world of fandom, stories aren’t first and foremost categorised by genres like ‘action,’ ‘adventure,’ ‘drama,’ ‘science fiction,’ but by emotional terms like ‘fluff,’ ‘hurt/comfort,’ ‘angst,’ or even PWP (porn without plot, or confusingly these days: porn with plot).

I’ve read thousands of original books in my lifetime, and I have found original literature that’s made me cry, shake, laugh and stay up until dawn. Some of it resonates in very deep, fundamental places. But when I’m tired or heartsore, when I’m sick with chronic illness or feeling disconnected and misunderstood, it’s fanfiction I turn to.

It’s not all sunshine. There’s been growing trends towards mob mentality, callout culture, even – rarely – doxxing those who aren’t following ‘fandom rules,’ which are mercurial at best. Because fandom as a collective can veer towards the self-reflective, I’m confident this will change over time. After all, writing a Mary Sue (think a female Batman – can do just about anything and is loved by just about everyone) was considered a cardinal crime of fanfiction. Now, most understand that Mary Sues are self-inserts by people who often never had a ‘female Batman’ type character to grow up with. We understand that there are misogynistic trappings in the way one can aggressively go after a woman who writes a woman self-insert, while hypocritically loving the male equivalent (Iron Man or Batman, as an example) in the mainstream media. Evolution is a part of fandom space.

I’m aware of the shame and stigma that some original content authors direct towards fandom spaces and fanfiction writers specifically. I’ve experienced it. I often try to keep my fandom life and my original fiction life separate, but it’s getting harder over time, especially as I have launched an original fiction career out of a fanfiction space. I’ve realised that I’ve become fiercely protective over fanworks and fan spaces and their right to exist. I celebrate transformative culture and the potential acceptance to be found there. It’s not a perfect space, but it’s a liberating, transformative one.

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PIA FOXHALL lives in Western Australia. She studied writing and scriptwriting at university, and has published speculative fiction and cover illustrations under a variety of names. Pia Foxhall writes dark gay fantasy romance and erotica, and runs a successful Patreon account. Most of her original and fanfiction work is freely available on AO3 under the username not_poignant. Currently, she is pursuing a dual publication career (self-publication and traditional publication), and spends time enjoying fandom and her fanbase over at Tumblr.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of this series is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities. If you have some experiences you’d like to share, please let me know.

Today I’m joined by Helen Stubbs. Helen and I first met when I edited her story The Stormchilds in Winds of Change and we quickly became firm friends. She’s currently working on a very exciting project centred around brewing community, so I’ve invited her to share it with us.


Dear Readers,

Writing communities are wonderful, and helping to build them is satisfying work. I first discovered writing communities through Authonomy, Write That Book – a course supported by my local council, Vision Writers and the Australian speculative fiction community (through attending Aussiecon in 2010).

These communities certainly have taught me about writing and provided opportunities for publication but more importantly they’ve introduced me to writers with whom I share deep friendships sprung from a love of literature and a special weirdness writers seem to have!

As a result, when I come across the opportunity to develop local writing communities, I pounce on it. My current project, supported by Gold Coast City Council, is called Writers Activation.

I started planning Writers Activation when the council put out a call for applicants for the Found Mentorship program. They asked for creative projects that would enliven Southport.

My initial idea was to create a short story project, and collect short stories onto a website while also spreading them through the city through words on walls or public artwork and products such as napkins, as Tiny Owl Workshop did with Napkin Stories.

As an artist and cultural producer, I know that projects change! You develop a definite vision of what you want to do, and then respond to new opportunities, restrictions and whatever resources are available. When I had been shortlisted and was preparing for my interview, my prospective mentor asked me to show how this project could work within a defined space – a shop or a room.

This naturally transformed the project in my mind from something spanning a suburb or more to something that could happen within a space that belonged to writers.

When I began to ask my network what writers wanted from a dedicated space, the response was overwhelming – they want everything! The Gold Coast is yearning for a writing space. So that is what Writers Activation is becoming, within the parameters of limited resources and timeframe.

While I’m still working out exactly what can happen with that space, (it looks like it will be a shop in a shopping centre), our local writing community is jumping with ideas and enthusiasm.

The space we’re looking at would work well as a hub where writers can meet and chat. We might also host writers in residencies, workshops, talks and book launches. As a pop-up project, it might only be for a very brief period of time – possibly just two months. However, if the project grows legs and leaps off into a gallop, it could lead to a permanent writers’ space in the city.

The Gold Coast is really growing culturally. It always has had a vibrant creative culture, though when I moved here thirteen years ago I found it hard to find. Maybe it was harder to connect because our city is a sprawl along the coast.

It seems like the network’s connections are growing rapidly now, thanks to the development of social media and also the momentum for growth the upcoming Commonwealth Games is creating.

Writers Activation should be up and running quite soon. I’ll drop by again for an update.

Helen Stubbs photo July 15

HELEN STUBBS writes stories that are dark with pointy edges. Some have been published in venues such as Winds of Change, Next, Midnight Echo, Subtropical Suspense and Mirror Dance. She recently won a Ditmar Award and is currently curating Writers Activation on the Gold Coast. Helen is on the committee for Contact 2016 in Brisbane. She interviews speculative fiction writers for Galactic Chat and tweets as @superleni.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Photo by Chris Fitzgerald. Used with permission.

Brewing Community is a series of guest posts in which readers, writers, artists and fans are invited to share their experiences of community. Whether online or in person, these groups bring a great deal of support and sometimes stress to their members. The aim of this series is to share the joy and find ways to brew stronger communities. If you have some experiences you’d like to share, please let me know.

If you’ve taken a peek at my bio, you’ll know that the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild is a community that has supported me in many ways. One of those ways involved giving me a chance to edit my very first anthology. Today I’ve invited former president and current editor Ian McHugh to share some of his experiences with this community.

 

CSFG anthologies and community

Elizabeth asked me to write this post for her community blog series, on how community has helped and hindered us in pulling together CSFG’s forthcoming anthology, The Never Never Land. It’s a topic Elizabeth knows a fair bit about, having edited Winds of Change, the anthology before the last one, which was Next – although the Next anthology isn’t to be confused with the one that’s currently forthcoming, that’s The Never Never Land…

promotionalnevernever

Cover by Shauna O’Meara

A moment of your indulgence, if you please, for an explanatory digression: Thanks to our esteemed comrades, the good Doctors Simon Petrie and Rob Porteous, we are forever constrained from calling any future anthologies the next one, because Next was the last one. This means that Winds of Change, as the anthology before the last one, is also the anthology before Next. Which is not to say that it’s the current forthcoming one, which is The Never Never Land, being the anthology after Next and, therefore, the one that’s immediately forthcoming.

Clear?

Good. About hindrances? See Doctors Petrie and Porteous.

How has community helped us with The Never Never Land?

Well, CSFG’s anthologies wouldn’t exist without the community of writers and editors in the Greater Canberra region (draw a triangle from Melbourne to Hanoi to Vancouver and you’ve about covered it). Community is what makes these books happen and community is the reason why they happen.

CSFG’s anthologies exist primarily as a development exercise for our members. Which is not to say that they’re a sheltered workshop, because those don’t develop anyone. What I mean is, if not for that underlying purpose, we probably wouldn’t do them.

Each anthology is edited by one or two members of the group (we had three for The Never Never Land, but lost one, which was careless, admittedly, but we knew starting out that we were more lackadaisical than most so that’s why we packed a spare). The editors choose a broad theme for the book and then go out to the open market of Australian writers for submissions.

This means that, when CSFG members submit stories for the anthologies, they’re competing against writers from all over the country. Typically, somewhere around a third of each book is comprised of stories by members. A surprising number of those are first or second publications from new writers in the group. Many of those member stories are workshopped in CSFG’s monthly critiquing circle. The editors exclude themselves from crit circle, though, and submissions are de-identified so that members really are having to compete as they would in any other market.

Nicky Rowlands’s story “On the Wall” from the Next anthology (the last one, not the forthcoming one) was her first publication and was one of four stories from that book selected for The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013. CSFG’s reputation as a community keeps attracting good new writers, and that community, focused on nurturing its members, helps them to keep getting better at what they do.

Leife Shallcross, our current President, is another good example. Leife sold her first story to Elizabeth for Winds of Change (the anthology before Next, the last anthology), her third to Simon and Rob for Next (the last anthology) and her most recent publication is in volume three of The Apocalypse Triptych, co-edited by John Joseph Adams (Lightspeed, Nightmare Magazine). There’s four more CSFG members with first sales in The Never Never Land: Angus Yeates, M. James Richards, Rivqa Rafael and Linh T. Nguyen.

Community helps us with the other two thirds of each book, too. Established writers (members and non-members) like Thoraiya Dyer, Charlotte Nash, Cat Sparks, Claire McKenna, Martin Livings, Janeen Webb, Alan Baxter, Richard Harland, Carol Ryles, Maxine McArthur, Donna Maree Hanson, Nicole R. Murphy (those names are just from the forthcoming anthology, the last one, and the one before Next) think enough of our books and what we’re doing to send us stories, even though we’re only paying about six cups of overpriced coffee.

Everything that needs to be done to make one of our anthologies happen relies on community. Aside from editing, that includes wrangling submissions, proofing, typesetting, marketing and selling: all done by members of the group volunteering their time. That also means that producing the books can be susceptible to life happening to the people who’ve put their hands up. Life has seemed to happen rather a lot to The Never Never Land. At moments it’s felt like we’re Sideshow Bob, surrounded by a circle of rakes. I’m making light of it, but a number people have made their contributions to this book in spite of particularly difficult and demanding circumstances elsewhere in their lives.

CSFG’s anthologies happen because of the community that contributes to making them, and community is the reason why we make them.

the beard in memorium

Ian McHugh’s debut short story collection, Angel Dust, was shortlisted for Best Collection at Australia’s Aurealis Awards in 2015. His work has appeared in publications including Asimov’s Science FictionAnalog Science Fiction and FactBeneath Ceaseless SkiesUrban Fantasy Magazine and the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies. You can find all of Ian’s past publications either in Angel Dust or at ianmchugh.wordpress.com. Ian is co-editor of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s forthcoming (but not Next) anthology, The Never Never Land.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

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