I’ve been thinking a lot about tribes and how important they are in a writer’s life. Writers are often solitary beings so joining a group, any kind of group, can be stressful and intimidating. We writers write because writing is easier than interacting. Not for everyone, I know, but it’s certainly the case for me.
So while I’m a writer who enjoys being alone, I also yearn to connect with people. Not often, probably far less than others, but I do have that yearning. I realized this when I first took up fiction writing as an adult about 12 years ago. I’d left my job as an editor and while I knew other nonfiction writers and editors, I lacked a creative writer tribe. So I applied to an MFA program.
The Goddard College Group
I chose Goddard because it was a program that focused on quality work but didn’t discriminate against writers who wrote plot. My interest was not only in the literary, the strong sentence and profound insight, but in the thrill and ride of suspenseful events. And so, I attended Goddard’s low-residency program for two years. I ended up getting what I’d wanted from that experience. I stretched my mind and skills as a crafts person and I found a community. I mean, a really great community. I met writers who were as serious as I was and we went through the growth trenches together.
It’s not surprising to say I felt untethered after graduating. All of the students scattered back to their respective cities from across the country and I was left with a small core group of Seattleites that eventually dissipated. I still have a couple of local friends but mostly my Goddard tribe is spread far and wide.
What Social Media Offers
Enter the internet. So, when I wasn’t raising my kids and spending time with my family (how did I, a loner, end up with three kids again?), I joined groups on Facebook and made friends on Twitter. I found a core group of online gardener pals who I was able to share my passion for plants with, and I joined writer tribes. I joined a group called Women Writers who were supportive and caring. Later, I joined Sisters in Crime (even though I was unsure I belonged there), and a writing moms group called Writer Moms. I added the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association too.
These groups have given me so much support. I’m able to ask for specific advice and have received useful help and experienced wisdom. I’ve found free information about building an online presence, book marketing, how to publish, how to write, and other tips I didn’t know I needed. I also got integral support in balancing my mom life with my writing life. I’ve found online friends who’ve been generous with their time and knowledge. It’s been a productive and amazing experience. In return, I’ve tried to offer my own support and advice.
Twitter in particular has been fruitful for me. In addition to making friends, I’ve received a few professional opportunities. I also found my author coach. And I made one very important connection.
Stumbling Upon Publishing
I found the Writer Moms group via their usual Monday night Twitter chats. I started participating in these chats and checked in a couple times a week on the Facebook group. I got an incredible amount of support as a mom and a writer here. During these months, I stumbled upon quality articles and excellent feedback. I even learned about a couple of small presses I didn’t know existed. I had been querying for a few years and submitted my manuscript to the two small presses. Within months, I had a book contract. It was unexpected and wonderful. All because I’d joined and participated in this particular online writers tribe.
So today online, when a writer friend threw out the question of whether online social media was a waste of time, I didn’t hesitate to answer. And after reading this, you probably know what my opinion was. I think it is worth joining writer tribes, you never know what might happen, who might notice you, who you might notice, and how you might connect. I don’t think writers should expect to make instant friends and have instant success. The network of fellow creatives I’ve built has taken me years to foster, and even now I’m still, arguably, a nobody! But at least I’m a nobody with a huge supportive tribe, headed toward a brighter horizon in my career.
Autumn Lindsey writes women’s fiction with characters that bite. Her forthcoming novel, Remaining Aileen, is about a mom with a very dangerous secret. She lives in Northern California with her husband and kids. I talked with Autumn about her debut novel, her online group, Writer Moms, and an interesting way she handled writerly rejection.
When did you first become interested in writing fiction? Have you written stories since you were a child or did you come to writing as an adult?
I didn’t become interested in writing fiction until 2014 while writing screenplays with my husband, so just before I turned 30. However, as a child I loved reading and writing stories and poems.
Once you knew you wanted to be a serious writer, what approach did you take to educating yourself on the craft? Did you go through any school programs, join groups, read books, etc.?
I have no formal training or schooling when it comes to writing, so I took to the internet (blogs, Writer’s Digest, etc.) to figure it all out.
The Hidden Life of a Vampire
Your forthcoming novel is entitled Remaining Aileen. Can you tell us more about it?
Remaining Aileen is (in short) about a mom who becomes a vampire. The deeper “about” story is that it’s an exploration of the changes that come with motherhood. Sometimes you choose motherhood, sometimes it chooses you, but regardless of how you became a mom it changes you, sometimes for the best, sometimes not, and oftentimes a mix of both. In Aileen’s case her “change” is in the very visual form of becoming a whole different creature.
Before Aileen was Remaining Aileen the novel, she was an idea I had for a screen play. A few years back, around 2014, I had this super vivid vision of a young mom, who was on a plane that was falling from the sky. All hope is lost. Her thoughts revolve around never seeing her children or husband again, and the devastating reality that she is going to die. Until she wakes up, alive, completely unharmed — or so it appears.
The Journey of a Story
This scene became the inciting incident that would propel Aileen along her journey. It’s also what started me down my path of becoming a writer. At the suggestion of my amazing husband, Aileen became a novel instead of a screenplay. Now she is about to be released into the world and I truly still cannot believe it.
Fun fact: my very first title idea was Vampire Mom. It was going to be this light-hearted story of a mom who becomes a vampire until I realized just how HARD it would be to actually try and be a mom and a vampire. While there is some light-heartedness in the story, it did take a darker, more emotional turn than I originally planned. But if there is one thing I have learned about writing stories, it’s they tell you what they want to be regardless of your original intentions. It’s best to just see where it takes you sometimes!
For Every Rejection, a Plant
You’ve mentioned when you were in the querying stage for Remaining Aileen, you engaged in a fun and unusual form of self-care. You bought a plant for almost every time you received a rejection. How did that start?
I honestly didn’t realize I was buying plants in correlation to my rejection emails until I was about 30 rejections in. Then I realized each day I got a rejection email, I tended to buy a plant on either that day or soon after.
What did acquiring houseplants do for your soul? Did it soothe pain?
To me, plants represent growth. The querying process was such a learning period for me as a new writer. Rejection is tough, really tough, but think of it as the fertilizer necessary for you to grow as a person and as a writer.
Do you know how many plants you have in total? What are your favorites and why?
I actually had to go count for this one. It’s been a while since I’ve done a headcount of my plants. In total, I have 83 (not including all my little starters sitting in water on my kitchen windowsill). I did lose a few plants as well in the learning process of keeping houseplants. Ferns are VERY hard for me to keep alive.
The only ferns I seem to be able to keep are my bird’s-nest fern (Asplenium nidus) and two staghorn ferns (Platycerium superbum) that I have in my bathroom. My absolute favorite plants are my Monstera deliciosa, fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), and ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). I am also fond of my rubber plants (Ficus elastica) as well, but nothing beats a giant monstera!
You live in the woods of Northern California. Are you both an indoor plant person and an outside gardener?
Currently I am sticking to indoor plants. Our backyard is on the “to-do” list for our home renovations (we’ve lived in this house for only a year now) so the yard is off limits as far as gardening, though I am itching to get a backyard garden going as soon as I can!
Support for the Writing Mother
You founded an incredibly supportive group on social media for women writers with children. It’s called Writer Moms. What was the impetus for it?
Writer Moms Inc. is my way of making sure writing moms have a safe and positive place of support for their writing. I feel very fortunate to have a supportive family when it comes to my writing endeavors, but I do know many women don’t have that. Writer Moms Inc. serves as a place where women can come to find whatever support they need in not only their writing lives but their mom lives as well. It’s quite the balancing act isn’t it? They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I also believe it takes a village to raise a mother, and in this case, a writer mom!
When will Remaining Aileen be released to the world? And where can readers buy it?
Remaining Aileen is set to be released this MAY! Since it is a book about a mom, I thought May, somewhere near Mother’s Day, would be a fitting month for a release. Hopefully, that will all work out! It will be available through Amazon and I am unsure of other options yet, but I will definitely post about it as soon as I know! I also believe it will be available for pre-order sometime this March.
Autumn lives with her husband and three kids in a deep, dark, magical forest. She is the founder Writer Moms Inc. so if you happen to be a writer mom in search of community and support, check it out! She’d love to have you join! Also, watch for Remaining Aileen in May 2019 from Magnolia Press.