Cultivating a Writing Scene in Houston

by Monica Shaughnessy

downtown-houston-745017-mHouston’s writing scene is lacking. There, I’ve said it. And I’m not taking it back.

Sure, sure, we have local branches of national writing groups, like SCBWI (the local link was broken at publication time) or MWA or RWA. And we have inprint. And while these are great, Houston’s literary milieu feels marginal compared to Austin’s. The reason? Houston is a city of commerce, not a city of art, and it shows. That, and I’m convinced Houston’s official motto would be “So?” The apathy of my hometown is palpable, but I don’t really care. 😉

We are the fourth largest city in the U.S. and we still don’t have a proper book festival. And I mean a BOOK FESTIVAL. We have very little that compares to The Writers’ League of Texas (another Austin thing), the closest of which is the Houston Writer’s Guild. I have high hopes for the HWG. They’ve had a few leadership changes these last few years and are moving swiftly into what I hope will be a progressive season. And lastly, we have nothing half as cool as NYC’s (take that, Austin!) Gotham Writers’ Group.

Years ago, I was on a business trip in NYC and found one of their course catalogs on the street. It blew past me on the ground, and I picked it up. (I can hear you screaming: “Don’t pick it up! Don’t! People spit on the ground!”) Anyway, that course catalog changed my life. I remember reading it, thinking that I would one day take a course from them. And I did. In fact, I went on to take several, all online, and they made my writing gooder. 😛 But I secretly hoped that something like Gotham would come to H-town.

And it has.

Writespace is the brainchild of my friend and fellow writer, Elizabeth White. If she accomplishes half of what she has set out to do (workshops, retreats, write-ins, etc.), then we will have a fledgling Gotham Group on our hands. But she can’t do it without your help, Greater Houston Area writers. Right now, she has a Kickstarter campaign that is nearing its final stretch. If, like me, you’ve been pining for an expanded literary scene in the Space City, this just might be the start of something awesome.

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Prove me wrong, Houston. I’d love to hear about writing initiatives I’ve overlooked, if only to discuss them in the comments section. I’m sure others would like to know about them, too.