In 2009, The Statesman reported that more and more writers are coming to Austin: “Over the past decade, Austin has become a hotbed of literary activity.” A growing number of journalists, screenwriters, novelists and memoirists are deciding to call this central Texas city home–permanently.
Had it not been for the literary slant, I could have easily been profiled for Jeff Salaman’s piece about novelists, short story writers and other literary stars who came to Austin and stayed put. I arrived in September of 2009, less than a year after what I call New York City’s Great Magazine Genocide. I had spent more than a decade toiling away at your garden-variety life and leisure, health and entertainment, weekly and monthly magazines. I never thought that would change. I never thought the world would change.
Print media, however, suffered terribly from the financial crisis and I was faced with few desirable choices. While I knew–on an intellectual level, at least–that I would eventually find another magazine job, I felt that if there was ever a good time to start over, it was now. A friend said that I would like Austin. I had never even been to Texas. Within four weeks, my zip code was 78704.
Starting over in this capitol city with a prominent tech industry is an extraordinarily challenging proposition. I thought that if I could socialize with other writers, I would have a better chance of finding work. A writer you don’t know is your competition. A writer you befriend is still your competition, but she may forward job leads.
By 2010, the only social groups I could find were for creative writers and those hoping to become writers. Meetup.com had groups for memoirists, poets and short fiction writers, but nothing for professionals, those who had already broken into the field. I decided to start my own group. The only qualification for membership in the Professional Writers of Austin Meetup group was that you had to be a professional writer or editor.
The positive response was instantaneous. I was joined by newspaper columnists and bloggers, magazine editors, Internet content creators, educational curriculum writers, environmental writers, grant writers, video game storyline developers, and so many others. In six months, we grew from one lone member to nearly 60.
Now, we’re moving on and moving up. Professional Writers of Austin, from here on out, is an organization independent of Meetup.com. PWA is for all writers of all levels. Our mission is to identify and develop a community of professional and aspiring writers, provide networking and social opportunities, and most of all, encourage relationships with colleagues you may not have otherwise known.
I am extraordinarily pleased to introduce Professional Writers of Austin and ProfessionalWritersofAustin.com. This is a collaborative effort between myself and Justine Tal Goldberg, owner of WriteByNight. We have been working hard and will continue to work hard to develop a thriving community of like-minded professionals, but we can’t do it without you.