Charitable writers giving back to communityA list of ways writers can put their skills to extra-good use this holiday season

Self publishing continues to grow and evolve at a rapid pace. Yet even as new trends or topics pop up on an almost daily basis, we’re starting to gain some understanding about this very young industry and the way it works. Some of these discoveries are not all that surprising (for example: authors’ increasing need for book marketing and promotional help). Other truths were not so predictable, like this news item: as of July 2014, self-published authors are now earning nearly 40% of all eBook royalties on the Kindle store, per the Author Earnings Report.

One of the nicest surprises for me has been learning about the makeup of the people in this fascinating industry. As a whole, the people I’ve met or corresponded with are literate (given!), smart, interesting and ambitious. But there’s another shared trait that stands out. In a word, the writing community is generous. The need to give back is strong amongst writers, publishers and everyone else in our industry.

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Building a writing communityA couple years ago I moved from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. (What can I say, I like Portlands!) But despite the identical names, they're very different cities. I'd been in Oregon for a decade, spent much of that time immersed in the various writing and music scenes, made good friends, and felt well-supported within those communities. Then suddenly I'm in this new place on the other side of the continent with no literary connections — and having to use GPS to get around town too. Ugh!

So I've done a lot of thinking over the past two years about literary community, what it means to build or join a community of writers, and why it's crucial to be a part of such a community. I've also done a lot of reaching out; I've attended many readings; I've joined a writing group that meets monthly; and what do you know, slowly but surely I've become a part of a new community of Maine writers that I turn to for mentorship, feedback, or just to grab a drink and talk about books we love.

The solitude that people often experience when they move to a new town can be great for writing. You can be a lot more productive when your social options are limited. But at some point every writer craves that sense of community, or what Daryl Rothman calls a "literary network of resources, opportunity and mutual support which can help take your writing and publishing dreams to the next level."

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Richard Nash seems to be everywhere lately. The current issue of Poets & Writers features a Q&A with this very busy editor/publisher/entrepreneur/idea-guy, and recent issues of the same magazine have given major coverage and praise to some of the authors he champions (Portland’s very own Vanessa Veselka among them). Besides that, he’s involved with several projects (Red Lemonade, Small Demons, etc.) that hope to “disrupt” (excuse the buzz-word) the usual way things get written, read, sold, and talked about in the world of publishing. Chief among these noble experiments is Cursor, a social platform that seeks to power the future of independent publishing.

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