No writing style is off limits in The Writers’ Rooms

Imagine Other Worlds with Authors

The Writers’ Rooms, online at -- Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 6-7, Free

via The Writers’ Room on Facebook

When Erin Casey and Alex Penland started The Writers’ Rooms, the idea was to create supportive environments for writers who worked in one of several specific genres. As the organization’s website puts it:

“The Writers’ Rooms endeavors to help all writers with their craft. We strive to encourage and foster community-sourced knowledge to help lead literary sessions and provide a safe, positive writing environment. We are writers helping writers.”

In 2018, as a way to thank the individuals who lead each of the Rooms, Penland and Casey collected, edited and published work by the Rooms’ “concierges.” That book, A New Adventure, was the Writers’ Rooms’ first foray into publishing.

With that experience under their belts, Casey and Penland saw they might be on to something that could serve a wider group of writers while also serving as a fundraiser for the nonprofit.

“We realized that it would be great for our writers and for our community to publish an anthology once a year,” Casey explained via Zoom.

They made an early decision that has guided the organization’s publishing efforts since: using the four natural elements — water, fire, air, earth — as themes for the next four books.

The first call for submissions was fairly straightforward: “All we asked was that people submit work with a water theme,” Casey said.

No writing style was off limits. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry — all of these and more were welcome by design.

“You can interpret the theme a lot of different ways,” Casey said, “and then the anthologies have something for everyone.”

For the forthcoming anthology, Writers of the Flame (set to be published in March 2022), the founders have relied on the help of a volunteer committee to help them get the book ready for publication and then out into the world.

“We’re encouraged that people do join the committee with the promise that they will learn how to publish an anthology.”

The learn-by-doing experience includes content selection and editing; book formatting and publishing for both the electronic and physical editions (the Writers’ Rooms uses a self-publishing service to create the books); and marketing and publicity — including setting up readings and the like for the participating authors.

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Any writer in the community is welcome to submit work for consideration for the Writers’ Rooms’ anthologies. Casey anticipates the submission period for the next anthology, which wraps up the elements theme by focusing on earth, will open in April or May of 2022.

“It won’t be long after Writers of the Flame comes out,” she said. “It is basically a yearlong process to do this.”

While there are plenty of challenges from the moment submissions open to the moment the books are in the hands of readers, Casey believes all the effort is well worth it.

“We’re really proud of them,” Casey said. “It’s a lot of work, but we like to be able to showcase our authors and show people what they can learn about their work through the Writers’ Rooms.”

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 300.