Literary Immersion Therapy: How I dove into the Lit scene…

If you’re a writer and you know me, you’re never going to believe this but I’m going to tell you anyway…

Before I began writing I wasn’t one to show up at a party alone or strike up a conversation with a stranger. I have always been on the shy side at introduction, and my raucous and rowdy self once you got to know me. If I was going to dive into this new community of people I knew the shy side of my personality wasn’t going to get me anywhere. This goes back to, “Am I willing to do anything for my project? Do I believe in what I’m doing?” I did and I do, and so I struck out on my own, fearless.

Fearless is important, even if you fake it. Though I never misrepresented who I was, in any way, I looked at it as an acting part. When I am “Melissa the Writer” I introduce myself to other writers, I talk to strangers, I put myself out there without hesitation. What did I have to lose by taking advantage of every opportunity to connect with writing community?

Like I said, I dove head first into the Lit scene. This is where I started…

LitQuake. If you’ve never been, go! It’s amazing. Imagine 14,000 creative minds descending on the San Francisco Bay Area, new writers rubbing elbows with the literati in bars and shops and even alleyways. In 2010, they had 46 events during the festival and 65 events in the infamous LitCrawl on closing night. The New York Times even picked up the story. This is our Sundance, our Cannes Film Festival, and it’s a blast.

My first LitQuake was in 2009. I hopped BART, MUNI, and buses, I drove into the city after work, and I did it all alone. It was actually freeing to be alone at these amazing events, I could go to anything I liked and no one knew who I was or what I had or hadn’t written. Anonymity is comfortable.

My favorite event took place in the San José library. It wasn’t glitzy, there wasn’t a bar or crowds of rowdy writers, it was a single author: Mary Roach. You may have read: Stiff, Spook, Bonk, or the recently released Packing for Mars. She’s as witty and brilliant in person as her writing makes her out to be. Scientific information doesn’t have to be dry and her books prove it.

At the end of her interview, I stood in line with the rest of the room hoping for a minute of her time. I was thinking about breaking into science writing and was looking for a little advice. What I got was several minutes, and an email. Ms. Roach didn’t mind holding up the line to talk to me and didn’t mind responding to my emails. If you can find an author as generous as Mary Roach, talk to them, pick their brains, and for goddsakes shut up and listen.

The best large-scale event, held at Hotel Monaco on Geary, was Mouthy Dames with: Kim Addonizio, Christine Comaford, Jane Ganahl, Kim Wong Keltner, Wendy Merrill, Terry McMillan, April Sinclair, and Jane Smiley.

Never in my life have I seen eight people speak at an event and have eight people knock it out of the park. The room was electric with cheers, laughter, and roaring applause.

You’ll hear more about some of these amazing people later because as I found out, one thing leads to another, and another, and another. Everyone is connected to everyone else, you just have to get out there.

I don’t know how I ever thought I could fit all of my initial literary adventures into a single post so stay tuned for Literary Immersion Therapy: Part 2.


4 Responses to “Literary Immersion Therapy: How I dove into the Lit scene…”

  1. This is actually really inspiring for me. I’m incredibly shy–I mean incredibly, incredibly shy. I live around four hours from San Francisco. Might check into this LitQuake!

    I randomly found your blog on WordPress and thought I’d say hi. Hope to read more of your posts.

  2. Melissa Henry Says:

    Thanks so much for your comment, Elisa, I’m glad you found it helpful! Definitely check out LitQuake this fall, it’s a blast. The great thing about the writing community is that, in general, everyone is kind and supportive. I’ve found that everyone sort of welcomes you into the community and is exceedingly generous. Perhaps it is because we tend to expose ourselves so much when we write, fiction or nonfiction, and can relate to that feeling of vulnerability. I’ve met so many amazing people by putting myself out there (LitQuake, writing workshops, etc.) and my writing is so much better for it.

    Eventually, the “faking it” transforms into just being normal. It gets easier and easier, until you don’t even think about. Best of luck out there, be fearless!

    It would be great to see your blog, shoot me a DM on Twitter or email when it’s back up 🙂 or let me know if I have the wrong url (

    Thanks again,

    • Elisa Michelle Says:

      Yeah, I’ve noticed how welcoming everyone is. Just from other writers (like you!) that seem so supportive of me. I’m not used to it, haha, but I definitely love it. My husband actually surprised me by registering me to go to a local writer’s conference! I’ve never been to one, so I’m very excited. Hoping to meet great, encouraging people and to learn a lot at the lectures.

      I hope so. I’m incredibly, incredibly anxious just about this conference. I mean, I feel like Rapunzel from Tangled in the scenes where she goes between loving freedom and kicking herself for being such a horrible daughter. I go between being super excited to super freaked out and seriously considering backing out and getting a refund. I’m so weird!

      And that link was to a publishing business I had tried to set up. As you can see, it sort of failed, haha, and I didn’t know I was accidentally linking people to it! My actual blog is here:

      • Melissa Henry Says:

        Excellent, I’ll take a look! And have heart, I did that exact thing you’re going back and forth on with the writer’s conference the first night my writing was workshop’d. It was simply fear of the unknown, easily conquered by taking a header off the cliff 🙂 Take the dive, you won’t regret it!

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