Yesterday, for the first time in two months, I met with my writing group. I had no idea how much I’d missed them.
The last time I’d seen them was in November, and then only briefly. I’d been in Montreal at a conference, and only popped in to the video conference for a minute or two before running off. That was also the week after the election, and I’d been seriously considering going off the grid and staying in Canada (come on, I wasn’t the only one!). We’d taken a break in December to give everyone time to rest, recover, and reassess their writing. So, it was a reunion of sorts, and although I’d always known how important this group was to me, yesterday was a reminder of how crucial it is to share space with like-minded writerly women.
As most of you know, writing is a lonely endeavor; we usually write in solitary confinement, with only a bit of music and maybe a pet to keep us company. I like to write alone and in total silence, although when I’m revising and editing, I like a little classic jazz. And when I’m really feeling myself, a little funk. But last year, my writing/publishing partner Lauren and I decided that we needed to create a space for Black lesbian and QOC women writers to work on their craft (among other things). There are other writing groups/salons/workshops out there, (I see you J.P. Howard and Sheree L. Greer), and we realized that we could start one too. So, we started the Black Lesbian Literary Collective and with it, a writing workshop. All of our members save one identify as Black and lesbian, (we’re queer, trans* and hetero-friendly), and we’re rather proud of that. You see, there aren’t many literary spaces where our identities and our writing aren’t questioned or challenged. We needed a space where we didn’t have to defend our decision to write about Black women, or about lesbians, or about other aspects of our intersecting identities. We wanted to focus on improving our writing, to talk about the craft, and support each other through our process. To push each other to be better writers. Yeah.
Eight months in, and we’re still at it. My first collection of stories was published this month, and one of our other writers submitted the first draft of her manuscript last week. We’re working on novels, short stories, essays, everything. I’ve watched our writers grow more confident, improve their story-telling skills, and create stronger, more relatable characters. The work is sometimes slow, sometimes painful, but we’re committed to it because we have to be. Now more than ever, it’s important to share our stories, to remind folks that we matter. That our intersecting identities matter.
So yes, it made my heart happy to see my writers yesterday, and even though we were missing a couple of them, we had a wonderful workshop and picked up right where we left off in November. We’ve got work to do. Don’t you?