Saturday, June 11, 2011

Strength in Numbers


Welcome to the SheWrites Blogger Ball!
"You can have anything you want if you want it desperately enough. You must want it with an inner exuberance that erupts through the skin and joins the energy that created the world." 
Sheila Graham, writer/performer (1904-1988)

There are two kinds of people in the world: the isolationists and the joiners. This comes pretty close to the crux of my whole Two Kinds of People philosophy. I spent close to 25 years as an isolationist, waiting for the world to discover the greatness of me. Never happened.

In my late twenties, I dibbled and dabbled, taking a class here and there, but still not really becoming part of a community. It wasn't until my twins were born and a neighbor dragged me to a Mothers of Multiples (MOMs) meeting that I finally understood the idea of strength in numbers, in shared experiences and common ground. 

My own mom was never much of a joiner, and I believe my early aversion came from a sense that groups that you had to join were all about exclusion, not inclusion. That can certainly be true. Even in my little MOMs group, if you didn't have more than one baby at a time, you couldn't be part of the group, which is too bad, because I learned most of the good things I know about how to be a parent from that group. 

But joining doesn't have to be about exclusion — it can be about creating and belonging to a community. In thinking about how I changed my joining tune, I turned (as I usually do) to the dictionary and found my perfect definition of community in the online version of the MacMillan Dictionary (definition #4): "the feeling that you belong to a group and that this is a good thing."

It is a good thing to belong. Since I figured that out, I have started a book club, been PTA president, and become a member of the board of a long-running writers' workshop, just to name a few groups. And now … now there is the Internet. Geography is no longer the delimiter in defining community. We can create virtual communities.

There are those (my Dad) who think we've come to far. There are those who doubt the veracity of an online community — isolationists who see the Interwebs as nothing more than a playground for perverts and procrastinators. Not true.

The online writing community, in particular, is one of the most vital. Just spend 15 minutes lurking at #yalitchat on Twitter and you'll discover a worldwide group of adults passionate about the creation of literature for young adults. Or follow #amwriting or #kidlitchat or #author.

Now I'm going to tell you my little story about how virtual became reality. About two years ago, I stumbled upon something called SheWrites.com. I was fairly new to Facebook and brand new to Twitter and trying to figure out the whole social networking scene, which seemed vast and uninviting, harder to crack than even the tightest PTA cliques (you know who you are).

I signed up for SheWrites. I joined a group called Chicago Area Writers. Nothing. Then I joined, on a whim, a group called Mother Writers. The group's "owner", E. Victoria Flynn, reached out to me in welcome. We swapped some info and she became one of my first Twitter followers. On my first "Follow Friday", she sent a shout out to her Twitter pals inviting them to follow me and suddenly I was in.

I've "met" hundreds (probably thousands) of people on Twitter and now have more than 900 followers of my own, but there's a kind of core group that has developed and we've become friends on SheWrites and Facebook, as well as on Twitter. If you're confused by all this tech talk, don't worry; I'm getting the the real part. Over time, my crew has been very supportive of each other's writing efforts and one of us, the beautiful and talented Rebecca Rasmussen has seen her first novel, The Bird Sisters, through to publication. We were all so excited. Really.

Then we heard that she was going on a book tour, just like a real author. And then we heard that she was coming to The Book Stall, a fabulous, still independent, still open book store in Winnetka, IL. And we hatched a plot. Our group would meet at for cocktails and dinner or whatever and go together to hear Rebecca read from her new novel. We would travel from around the midwest: Victoria (of Penny Jar) from Madison; Christi (of Writing Under Pressure) from Milwaukee; Julie (of Beginning a Life at 50) from Nashville; and our celebrity author (of The Bird Sisters Blog) from St. Louis.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans and good intentions and all that. It usually doesn't work out. Except when it does. Like this time. Maybe it was because we didn't have to do it, that everyone would have understood if the thing fell apart. But I think it's because we stopped lurking and joined in. We created a real community. It started out virtually and transformed each of us quite literally. I can't wait for our next book launch. Wonder which of us it will be?

At The Bookstall, from left — Rebecca Rasmussen, Julie Jeffs,
E. Victoria Flynn and Christi Craig. (Where am I? Taking the
picture, of course.)
I'd been planning this post for some time, but the writing of it was prompted by the She Writer Blogger Ball Re-Re-Redux, another opportunity to meet and greet and join. Click on the little bookshelf image at the top of this post and join in the fun of a blog hop. No membership dues required, although your comments are always appreciated (here and on the other blogs you visit). 

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm the visitor from One sec sec ago

Susan Bearman said...

Welcome.

shebiteshertendermind said...

Susan, your She Writes experience--and the sharing of it--are fantastic. The sense of community you describe is just what a writer needs. The work can be isolating, and for it to instead be always connected to an audience of supporters . . . well, that's the ticket, as they say. I may have to get some Twitter tips. I've yet to forge that cyber-void. Looking forward to getting to know you better on SW. jev

Susan Bearman said...

jev — Thanks for stopping by. Twitter is a trip, but it's fast, fun and furious. I use TweekDeck to keep things straight. Good luck.

Helen Smith said...

Susan, I love Twitter. Great news about Rebecca's book - I keep hearing about it and must read it.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

I am SOOOO lucky to have a friend like you honey. Thank you so much!

anopisthographiste said...

So glad you stopped by my blog so I could find yours! I'm going to save reading it until I have a nice cup of espresso because I can tell it deserves my full attention. I will send you a friend invite on SheWrites...

Niranjana said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving all those thoughtful comments, and I'm so glad to have discovered you and your site.

I *so* hear you about the isolationist thing--just last week, I decided to be less about the "greatness of me", and the She Writes Ball popped right then. Cosmic coincidence, what?

Catherine Stine said...

Over here from Bloggers' Ball, so hey!!!
Yes, communities are important, and the writing community of She Writes rocks! You guys look like you were having fun at the Bookstall. Following you now. Cheers, Catherine

Elisabeth Kinsey said...

Hi! You need to let Kamy know how well you use SheWrites! Nice blog - geez, I need help with twitter!

wosushi said...

SheWrites has been a huge help for me in becoming part of a writing community. It IS wonderful having a group of like minded people to encourage you and learn from.

Bookmarking your blog. :)

Deborah Batterman said...

Writer to writer, all I can say (for the moment) is that we put ourselves out there with a certain faith that serendipity and community will conspire to place us where we belong. This is such an eloquent post. I'm so grateful for the writers that She Writes has introduced (and exposed) me to.

Linda Gartz said...

So cool you were able to meet all your Twitter friends -- many of whom welcomed me into the Twitter community when I started. Now I have to get more regular at it!

evf said...

Susan, I meant to comment here ages ago. First, I was thinking (groan warning) you were "in like Flynn" but I realize this Flynn has never been particularly "in".

I'm so glad to have met you, Susan, both here and there. I can't wait for more crazy nights like that one, but next time, I'm not driving home until morning. XOXO

Susan Bearman said...

EVF — well, you're definitely In Like Flynn. I offered lodging, so next time you'll take me up on it. Just think of us as a friendly neighborhood flophouse.

Laura said...

Susan -
Amazing. Loved this. As someone who has recently decided to be a joiner, I appreciate your ideas. I'm experimenting with my own identity in a sea of groups, but I'm finding my way. The fact that I lead two completely separate lives doesn't help (mom/teacher and foul-mouthed thirty-something), but I'm getting there. Thanks for the insight!!!!

Marina DelVecchio said...

I know I'm late for this blog hop, but I met you at She writes also. I'm not a joiner, but I'm trying. I've fallen off the she writes wagon, but trying to get back on. Anyway, love the post and how you came together with other great writing women from She writes. :)

Susan Bearman said...

Thanks for stopping by Marina. I come and go on SheWrites, too, but it's a good resource.