Why do all the writers know each other?

I sat in on a young writers’ workshop in Brooklyn a few months back. In the midst of our chatter about the horrors of the publishing industry, the joys of writing, and the inadvisability of living on a steady diet of ramen noodles, one of the students asked how come all the writers seem to know each other and are always thanking each other in the acks of their books. The question was sparked by a student telling us his favourite writer is Jonathan Lethem and my mentioning that I once house sat for Lethem. (Yeah, yeah, I know, shocking name dropping.1)

Sarah Mlynowski answered that writing is a lonely business and that as soon as she moved to New York City she made it her business to meet other writers because she didn’t know any. I met her that very day at the workshop and we’ve since corresponded some more. Cause that’s one of the ways writers know each other—they meet at workshops.

One of the first writers I met and became close friends with was Yvette Christianse«. We were both postgraduate students in the English department at Sydney University and shared an office. Neither of us had published books at the time, now we both have. I also met Mandy Sayer that way. Later at my first science fiction convention I was introduced to so many writers I thought my head was going to explode. Some of them, like Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, have become dear friends.

I met Scott Westerfeld at the Dixon Place Science Fiction reading series. Now we’re married.

So how do all us writers know each other? From hanging out in places other writers are likely to be: conventions, conferences, book festivals, university English departments, writers’ workshops.

Which means that those teenagers in that Brooklyn workshop were also writers meeting writers: each other, as well as their teachers and all the folks, like me and Sarah, who come to sit in on their workshop. When I first started meeting other writers (like Yvette and Ellen and Delia and Scott) I was an unpublished aspiring writer.

Now, there’s the added avenue of the intramanet making it easier and easier to meet other writers. All these blogs and chatrooms and critique groups and NanNoWriMo etc.

Not very mysterious at all, eh? It is, however, wonderful. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think about all the amazing and talented writers I know. Samuel R. Delany! Karen Joy Fowler! Angelica Gorodischer! Margo Lanagan! Very cool indeed.

  1. I am now house sitting for Melina Marchetta. Nyer nyer! []


  1. jenny d on #

    i loved marchetta’s “saving francesca,” what an appealing book–and lethem is totally one of my favorites…

  2. Rebecca on #

    i’m in a writer’s group as a result of last year’s nanowrimo, and i’ve even gotten to talk to real live authors (one in person!), thanks to the wonders of the internet. it’s really cool to have that around. my writer’s group also happens to have some of my best friends in it. 😀

  3. Diana on #

    yeah, the big question is how to avoid you all. writers are everywhere. it’s a plague, i tell ya.

  4. Justine on #

    Jenny D: Yeah, Melina Marchetta is a fabulous writer. You should read her other books too. Lethem also. I love Motherless Brooklyn. I should add: I’ve never actually met Melina and haven’t seen Lethem in years and years.

    Rebecca: Exactly!

    Lee: If you want me to respond to comments best do ’em here. I always forget the lj feed thingie exists.

    And, yeah, the Aussie sf scene is even smaller than most. It’s fun impressing the yanks with the fact that I know Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix. I don’t tell them that there’s hardly anyone over here who doesn’t.

    Diana: I hear you! It’s a nightmare trying to keep up with all the books my friends write! Help!

  5. jennifer, aka literaticat on #




    i’m starstruck.

    melina marchetta!!!!!!!!!!!

    please steal something of hers for me!

    oh did i say that out loud?

  6. jennifer, aka literaticat on #

    (and this, by the way, is why i’m not allowed to go to australia)

  7. Rebecca on #

    garth nix. *sigh* I read shade’s children ages ago, but i am only just now reading sabriel b/c my friend loaned it to me. it’s coooooooool. 😀

  8. Justine on #

    Jennifer: No, I will not! Under no circumstances will I steal for you! (P.S. Email me privately)

    Rebecca: Garth is a fabulously talented writer and all-round nice guy.

  9. Lee Battersby on #

    And let’s be honest, in Australia, if you go to the aurealis Awards you get to meet, what, a couple fo hundred at a time?

    God, i’m an idiot. I posted this, then realised I’d replied to your feed off my flist, and I have no idea if you read the comments there. I am having such an idiot day today….

    Anyway, My first, and to date only face to face meeting with your good self was at Kate Eltham & Rob Hoge’s after-AA Sunday morning sausage-a-thon last year. And I met *them* in 2002 in line at a Joe Haldeman signing. And so it goes, and goes…..

    Get about enough, you’re going to bump into *somebody*

  10. ed on #

    It boils down to this: people who are hard-wired in a particular way will meet others who are hard-wired that particular way. Throwing yourself into your interest begets the most unexpected social circumstances. Case in point: an author I interviewed for The Bat Segundo Show is now one of my fiction writing buddies.

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