When I first launched the Ottawa Writer’s Circle on September 1, 2013 on the Meetup platform, the plan was to get a few people together who also enjoyed writing and wanted to take it more seriously so we could get better at what we loved and help hold each other accountable. The response was equal parts surprising and overwhelming, and we’ve been learning on our feet on how to run and manage a community so large and wide-ranging. The last two years in particular have been a challenge. Pivoting to online-only delivery was brand new, unexpected, and always thought to be temporary, but as it is wont to do, the OWC had different ideas about that.
As we enter our tenth year (!!!), the leadership team has done some reflection on where we’d like to take the OWC and what our focus should be, which brings us to this month’s theme: Community!
The people who make up the OWC have always been the most valuable part of our group. We have such a wide variety of writers here, and that's a testament to the space we’ve built and how important it is to surround ourselves with fellow creatives if we want to grow, learn, and build our own networks. Moving into Year Ten, we want to lean into that.
What does that mean?
I get questions all the time about why I haven’t monetized the OWC, and while I have many reasons for not having tried even though being able to do something like run the OWC as a full-time job has always been kind of The Dream, the biggest reason has always been, “It’s going to take the fun out of it.”
Even with the little “professional” programming we’ve been able to offer over the years, we still get people coming to the OWC wanting more. They say they cannot find critique partners or people who have similar goals and skills, demand more craft workshops and industry presentations or more (free or low-cost) resources. We know this would inevitably get worse if we charged a membership fee.
The catch is that, also inevitably, the people who are disappointed are also people who never actually attend events and aren’t active members of the community.
Here's the rub: You get out of the community what you put into it and to get the benefits of the OWC, you have to be willing to take the time and energy to be a reciprocal member. It’s just not possible to bundle and hand out community.
What I’m most proud to come out of the OWC are the relationships it has facilitated, even if they don’t stay here. There are groups of writers who hold regular critique groups with writers they met here but aren’t on our event calendar. The connections people have made here have gotten them book deals and literary agents. And there are people who may not even write anymore but built their friend group here. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of places that offer editing services or teach how to write or connect you with industry professionals. But what makes the OWC valuable is the community it fosters, and that can only happen if the people in the community participate in it.
Mostly, this reframing was important for us as a leadership team to understand where our values and priorities lie, and we found it firmly in our community and our membership. All the events we’re currently doing, like critique circles, discussion groups, write alongs, and mixers, all align with fostering a writing community. We’re just doubling down on what already makes us great. And so much of that is you!
What do we hope Year Ten will look like for the OWC?
We’re aiming move to hybrid delivery and offer more in-person events again while continuing to offer online options as we emerge from this whole global pandemic thing. Our current events are going to continue, and we’re going to be trying out a few new ideas and tools to facilitate community and relationship building, in-person, on the website, and on the Discord. This might include some new ways to match up with like-minded writers, more discussion-focused groups like book clubs, and more asynchronous activities. (We’d love to hear suggestions if you didn’t get a chance to share them on the survey!) Basically, more of what you already (hopefully) love in new and exciting ways!
We’ll continue to use writing workshops and resources (and maybe merch?!) as fundraising activities, but these won’t be strictly under the OWC umbrella and will be absorbed into the limited writing coaching and editing I already do on the side. (If you’d like to keep up to date on what I offer and when I offer it outside of the OWC, I have a mailing list you can sign up for, but it’s not terribly exciting at the moment!)
Mostly we’re really excited to dive into our big milestone year! Scribble some words, meet some more amazing people, and support each other as we grow as writers and as people.
For those who would like to celebrate with us, we're hosting an in-person mixer on September 17th to mark this exciting occasion!
Here’s the next nine! 💖
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Do you have a writing craft question you’d like answered? Shoot me an email!