You're Not Alone: Women, Writing and Online Networking

Writing is lonely, especially that first draft. You kinda know what you want to say, but aren't sure how to get there and there's always a surprise blip along the way that throws you off your game.

Then you begin to wonder, is this piece even any good? You need another set of eyes. You need a writing group. A collective of people whose honest opinions and writing talents you respect and who push and inspire you to be a better writer.

"Writers need other writers," said Michele Weldon, assistant professor emerita at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. She has been in a writing group for 12 years that meets once a week.

"I have found that it's been enormously successful, having that camaraderie, the editorial help and the brainstorming -- it's helped to enhanced my writing and my life."

There's something special about sitting elbow to elbow with fellow writers as you read your words. "You hear them sigh at the beauty of a sentence, or laugh at a line," she said.

But with all the lean-in/lean-out hubbub of today, it can seem impossible to set aside time to talk about our writing. Many of us are ecstatic that we've managed to find the time to write. (I type this as my 3-year-old is napping across my lap.)

This is where online writing groups come in handy. There's so many out there, you can pick which group speaks to you and participate on your own schedule.

Some prefer bigger writing communities, such as She Writes, which has more than 20,000 members and is similar to Facebook. When Kamy Wicoff launched She Writes in 2009, she told that she started it "to share our knowledge, to aggregate and harness the information each of us has hard-earned, and make it available to our community in an organized, efficient way that will make all of our lives easier."

Other writers are active in smaller online groups, which can come out of umbrella communities such as She Writes. Increasingly, small writing groups have been creating their own online platform to share their work.

For example, Mary Breaden started PDXX Collective in 2012 because she became concerned by "the media's depiction of women -- from Hillary Clinton to Sandra Fluke," she said.

"I wanted to encourage my many brilliant women writer friends to publish their work and mitigate the overwhelming male perspective represented in the media," said Breaden, who is also an education assistant at Mediabistro.

PDXX Collection is comprised mostly of women from the Portland, Oregon area and aims to provide a woman's voice on various literary facets including news, personal essays, fiction, science fiction and pop culture.

"At PDXX, I don't think we live in the 'pink ghetto' of topics -- I'd say we have a full complement of writing and I believe we break the boundaries of the four F's (food, family, furniture [home] and fashion," said Andrea Janda, writer and PDXX member.

Another member, Jessica Null Vealitzek, recently released her critically-acclaimed novel, The Rooms Are Filled, and is grateful to be part of the collective.

"It's cool to have this online connection," Null Vealitzek said. "We don't know each other that well online, but I feel like I have this resource of writers that I can not only read, but ask questions of and pick their brains."

"I think it can be awfully lonely if you don't have a sort of real-life, physical book club or writing club that meets," she added.

But actually Null Vealitzek is about to meet members of the collective for the first time in person. She lives in suburban Chicago, but is on a book tour that includes a stop in Portland.

On Monday, she and several members of PDXX Collective are reading their works at In Other Words, the feminist bookstore featured in the TV show Portlandia.

"I've known these ladies online through their writing and I'm so excited to meet them in person," Null Vealitzek said. "We are a true collective because I feel pretty mainstream and some of the other chicks are so raw in their writing, it's cool that we seem so different but we all write from the heart."

*Post originally featured on She'sWrite.