Community Keeps You Writing


The Heart and Craft of Writing


Lesson Info

Community Keeps You Writing

If there's not an open mic in your area, or a place for you to read your work, I really, really urge you to be that person in your community that goes out and starts one. That's what I did, I started this thing called Sister Spit in the 90s. It was really, really fun. A lot people came to it. It became something much larger than itself and became a tour that we went on and a literary imprint with City Lights. People got literary agents from coming around with us and got books. So you don't know what you might be able to start for your community. I have found that when you do something to lift up your literary community, you are lifting yourself up as a writer also. I got so many opportunities because I was doing this work. And it's not necessarily why I did it. But I was really happy (laughs) about it cause I was very disconnected from any sort of literary world and so you know, do what you can to connect yourself to the literary world. Let me see. Community keeps you writing. Here's a...

nother thing. I don't know about you guys, but I'm kind of goal-oriented. Like I need to know if I'm gonna spend a lot of time on something like writing a book, then what am I gonna do with it afterwards? Like if I look out there and I'm just like, I don't know what I'm gonna do with this when I'm done with it, I just might not have done anything. I don't know if I would have kept writing. But because there was this thriving literary community around me that I was both participating in and making happen, I had someplace to bring these stories that I was working on. And it really kept me going. I mean I think a lot of people go to school for this reason. You know, you have deadlines and you have assignments and you have peers around you. But if you're not going to school, there are other avenues that you can take to help give yourself that kind of a structure. So my literary community has been really important to keeping me going. And it also showed me that books aren't the only thing that you get as a writer. Like you get this community, you get this writer's life. You know, writers don't only make books, they make events, they make performances, and so I really encourage that. If you do want to start an open mic or some sort of event, you can do a literary salon at your house and invite friends over. But it's easier now than ever, like you just find a venue, a bookstore, a bar, a coffee house, an art gallery. I mean, I know a girl in Oakland who is doing these things out of her house. She just like lets strangers come in her house and like read their work, which is so beautiful. And then just make a flyer. And in the 90s I used to have to like, go and hand it to strangers, and just be like a weird annoyance to people. But now there's the internet so you can annoy people that way. (audience laughs softly) And you just put it out there and you see who comes. I just can't stress enough how this has just been a lot of what has given me the career that I have.

Class Description

If you’ve embarked on the process of writing your first book, there’s a good chance that you’re struggling a bit. Books are big, unwieldy creatures, and even the bravest of among us can feel overwhelmed by the thought of filling all those hundreds of blank pages with intelligent, effervescent words.

Award-winning author, editor and teacher Michelle Tea offers this class to help you believe in your abilities as a writer, stick to your goal and push through that first draft. She’ll outline some of the key tricks to writing a great book and inspire you to produce the vibrant, sparkling and unique work that’s inside your head and waiting to come out.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Be specific and avoid vagueness.
  • Bring your five senses to your writing by including sound, light, scent, texture and taste in every scene.
  • Find your pacing: write slow, write strong.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Build your unique voice and create a shelf of voices you wish your voice to be in conversation with.
  • Keep your editing brain away from your creative brain.



What a wonderful class! Michelle is knowledgeable, authentic, generous and open-hearted with her experience and advice. She offers a genuine sense of validation and practical tips for new writers. I especially liked her thoughts on how to carve out a space for your writing.