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Conference Spotlight: WriteCamp Milwaukee

I met Boone Dryden several years ago at a National Novel Writing Workshop. Boone introduced me to WriteCamp Milwaukee, and I have been a fan ever since. This year, WriteCamp will be held on Saturday, May 19 at Mercy Hill Church (at The Hide House) from 9 AM to 6 PM. I’ll be there—and can’t wait to see all of you! Until then, read about Boone Dryden’s quest to build community among writers.


WriteCamp Milwaukee by Boone Dryden

I graduated in 2005 disillusioned by the idea that I had come out with a bachelor’s in creative writing knowing what I was supposed to do with it. I felt woefully unprepared for the business side of being a writer, and even more unprepared with how to truly face some of the emotions and pitfalls that come with simply being an artist.

So I gathered a small group of college friends to look over work. It lasted all of a summer—mostly due to moves and a realization from some of them that writing wasn’t actually what they wanted to do. I, too, was discovering what it was I wanted to do with writing. That group turned into another, then yet another, until in 2006 I created the Milwaukee Writers Workshop.

My goal then with the group, as it remains today, was to critique work. What one might not readily realize is that when they join a writers group, however, is that by helping others critique their work, and yours in turn, you learn valuable things that I don’t recall ever learning in college. Or perhaps I was simply too stressed out about exams to really understand that I was learning something. I discovered quickly from the group that my goal was not merely to critique, but to educate, as well as build community. To me writers in this digital age truly need to branch out, join groups, find friends, and be social (at least to some minor degree), because there is a wealth of information that you learn from other writers that isn’t found in the Writer’s Market Guide or Writer’s Digest.

With that sense of community, came an epiphany (I like that word; I use it whenever I can): community meant more than just fiction writers, more than just poets, more than just novelists. In order for writers to grow, in my opinion, they need to interact with editors, copywriters, publishing people, and all those folks in the industry that hide behind the shadows for most people. Community means bringing together all those people who are part of the process and allowing them to exchange knowledge, experience, and desire amongst one another.

Thus WriteCamp was born. I had been a part of BarCamp Milwaukee, an unconference notion born out of Palo Alto, California in 2005, with the idea of exchanging technology amongst peers. For the tech community, that made sense; one shares knowledge because it breeds creation and innovation. For writers, on the other hand, it felt a little like sharing the arcane, things that ought only to be kept by the “literary elite”—a group that in my mind does not exist. It’s hard to train writers to come out of their caves, to mingle with the world, and to be a part of the community.

WriteCamp Milwaukee, along with the Milwaukee Writers Workshop, has evolved, as all good artistic communities ought to, into something more than just a group. It is a collection of knowledgable, professional, and passionate individuals who all recognize more than most that Writing Is Art and that art comes in many forms.


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