Guest Post: The Importance of Community By Laura Stanfill

Hi friends,

It is my pleasure to welcome author Laura Stanfill as my guest on Writing Between the Lines.  I was delighted to discover Laura through her blog, which she uses to inform and inspire our global writing community.  As bloggers, this is a community that you all belong to.  But Laura’s message goes deeper than that.  Today she is addressing The Importance of Community.  She will also tell us about her newest book, Brave on the Page.  How can any writer not love a book with that title!  Check out her website, and better yet, since today is her release day, check out her new book!



The Importance of Community

By Laura Stanfill

Creative people feed off other people’s creative energy. Or at least I do. Visiting a museum will get me thinking about green, a slash of color across the canvas of my mind, and days later, I will write a paragraph about a girl leaving a room, and that slash of color will become a glimpse of her skirt as she shuts the door on my protagonist, a young boy lying in bed, afraid he’s dying because that glimpse of skirt set his heart beating way too fast.

My relationship to other writers is more direct, more immediate. Back when I was in my twenties, I used to joke about being the “writer in the corner” at parties, or in other environments when I felt different from the people around me.

“Don’t mind me, I’m a writer.” That was a joke I told back then, but it was also a comfort to be able to cite a reason for not fitting in with the suit-wearing political types in the D.C. metro area.

And then, in 2001, I moved to Portland, Oregon, and met my writing kinsfolk. Our tribe, Liz Prato terms it in her interview, which is included in my new book, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life. Liz writes beautifully about how, when in the throes of story-making, we think about our characters all the time. People who don’t exist suddenly take up as much brain-space, or more, than what we’re actually doing in the real world.

 Harold Johnson, whose poem “When I Am in My Write Mind” is part of Brave on the Page, and Laura Stanfill, the editor of the collection, visit during a mid-August writing party. Photo courtesy of Brian Biggs, another Pinewood Table writer.

“When you’re doing something that crazy—and undervalued, in a culture obsessed with poorly behaved celebrities—you need a tribe,” Liz writes. “We keep each other sane, and we give each other a hand whenever we can.”

My writing community—my tribe—is centered around the Pinewood Table, a seminar-like writing group taught by Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose. I met them soon after moving to Portland, and after the initial nerves wore off, I knew I had found my home. I loved sitting around a table for four hours a week, reading my own work aloud and listening to others’ voices dip into quiet or grow fast in anticipation of sharing a certain hard-earned passage. Talking about the finer points of the craft. Using language in our own particular ways, and learning how to use it better by studying each other’s words on the page. On those afternoons, several years of them, I grew as a writer. I grew as a person. And—five or ten pages at a time—I grew two complete novels.

Martha Ragland, Julia Stoops, Jackie Shannon Hollis and Laura Stanfill attended a women’s writing retreat in May 2011. Flash essays by Martha, Jackie and Laura are included in Brave on the Page, and Julia is featured as an interview subject.

I was no longer the writer in the corner. I was the writer at the table. The Pinewood Table. And my writer-friends didn’t just know me by my appearance or my career or what I liked to eat for lunch. They knew the people I carried around in my head. The ones I thought about when doing dishes or driving to the community I covered as the editor of a small-town newspaper.

 Brian Biggs listens to the discussion during the second annual summer potluck. 

This summer, when I came up with the idea of publishing a book of the Seven Questions interviews I post on my blog,, it didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to feature Oregon authors. I asked everyone I could think of, not just my Pinewood Table brother and sister writers, and the result is a mix of styles, genres and backgrounds, from bestselling narrative nonfiction author Lauren Kessler to Gregg Townsley, who just started writing westerns because, in the last few years, as an ex-pastor and martial arts instructor, he fell in love with reading fiction.

Brave on the Page, which is being released on Monday, October 8,features fifteen interviews and twenty-seven flash essays about who, what, when, where, why and how we write. The collection is a 200-page meditation on craft and community. I am truly inspired by every heartfelt word, and am so honored that these amazingly creative people shared their time and talents with me for this project. Just as exciting, I now have a great reason to voice my admiration of these authors—and their dedication to the craft—by talking about Liz, and Stevan, and Joanna, and Lauren, and Gregg, and all the others, in forums such as these. Thanks for the opportunity, Naomi!

Brave on the Page, $14, can be made-to-order at any Espresso Book Machine in as much time as it takes to make a latte, or it can be ordered online from these retailers.

Laura’s Bio: Laura Stanfill is a novelist, knitter, coffee-drinker, amateur photographer, the editor of Brave on the Page and the founder of Forest Avenue Press, which strives to publish quiet novels.


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me today, Naomi! I had so much fun writing about community.

    1. Naomi Baltuck says:

      It shows, Laura. What a wonderful one you have created for yourself. I hope everyone finds it as inspiring as I do. I wish you great success with your new release!

      1. Thanks, Naomi! I feel so lucky to have connected with such a great group of writers. Each one of my writer-friends has affected me personally but they’ve also profoundly affected my growth as a novelist.

  2. Elyse says:

    Terrific. Can I telecommute to your group?

    1. We actually do have one member who moved away, and she sometimes Skypes into our sessions! It’s a little chaotic, but we missed her voice too much when she wasn’t with us.

      1. Elyse says:

        It sounds wonderful. I think I need to look for a similar (local) group to help with the motivation and the “I’d better write something or I will be too embarrassed to show up!” incentive!

      2. laurastanfill says:

        That incentive was one of the things that helped me write two novels at the Pinewood Table, Elyse! I just got into the habit of writing ten workable pages a week.

        If you don’t find a good local group, try taking a class (to get those deadlines!) and then approach anyone whose work resonates with you. Maybe you could start your own group that way. I really believe in the power of community, and I hope you find yours soon.

      3. Elyse says:

        Thanks, Laura!

    1. Meg Philp says:

      Thanks Laura. I gasped when I read your post, realising that I worked hard at uni to get a Masters in Creative Writing and didn’t find that kind of table of writers there – which was all I really wanted. You’ve got me wondering how to connect with one here in my local area (Brisbane). Am going to put my feelers out. 🙂 Meg

      1. I wish you luck in finding your community, Meg! I always planned to get an MFA, but then when I found the table, I never went that direction.

        If it helps, I found this community by starting a writing group at my local bookstore (in this funky upstairs room). A local writer, Steve Arndt, saw my fliers and joined, and he was involved in the Pinewood Table group. He brought me over there to meet Stevan and Joanna and to listen for an evening, and I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I worked out a deal with my employer so I could leave early every Wednesday to go sit there surrounded by writers once a week.

        I do know how unbelievably lucky I am, and I’m so grateful and thankful to all my brother and sister writers for giving me a community that nurtures me as a person and as a writer.

  3. The whole idea of brave on the page can keep me going many a-mile. Thanks ladies. 🙂 Carol

    1. Thank you, Carol! I’ll be smiling knowing the concept is making you smile. The title essay, by Kristen Forbes, begins with a really wonderful list of all the things she’s terrified of in real life. It’s just brilliant, and once I figured out that was going to be the title of the book, I realized how many other writers discussed bravery (or fear!) in relation to the craft. Bravery is such a part of creating worlds with words, I think.

  4. Bumba says:

    Sounds like a fine venture and a good book. Good luck with it.

    1. Thanks, Bumba! It’s exciting to have it out in the world and to be able to promote all the amazing writers who lent their time to this project.

  5. eof737 says:

    excellent post Laura and you tap the heart of community building; support and structure… Best wishes with the rest… 🙂

  6. I enjoyed this guest post, Laura. I don’t know what I would do without my writers’ group. It’s so important to be able to share your work with people who you trust and who support you.
    I shall be following your blog. It looks like a place I will enjoy. Thanks for the great post and thanks to Naomi for having you.

    1. Nice to meet you, Tess! I agree–if I didn’t have my writing group, I don’t know what I would do as a person or as a writer. I look forward to visiting with you over on my blog, too!

  7. laura, it’s so great to see you out there promoting this fantastic project of yours! i can’t wait to get a copy. i would be lost without my own tribe of writers here in oklahoma who’ve helped me more than they’ll ever know. good luck with your book!

    1. Thanks, Valerie! I always appreciate your positive energy. Thank goodness for our tribes, yes? I totally recommend this type of project to other writers who are plugged into the local writing community–maybe that’ll be a how-to post once the book hubbub dies down. It has felt so amazing to vocally support other writers–ones I know well as well as some I haven’t even met. We’re all part of one large Oregon writing family.

      1. valerierlawson says:

        oh, yes. i look forward to that post in the future. for now, just keep riding the wave of the new book love.

  8. Sounds like a great local group and a wonderful book. Kansas City has a beautiful old stone house called, The Writer’s Place…and I too, enjoy hooking up with groups there.

    1. Ooh, The Writer’s Place just sounds divine, Holly. It’s so great to think about these vibrant communities of writers all across the country and the world.

  9. diannegray says:

    I love this whole idea – what a great spotlight, Naomi. Brave on the Page is certainly on my ‘to read’ list 🙂

    1. Oh thanks, Dianne! I’m so inspired by everything these authors had to say about writing–and I hope you will be, too!

  10. Madhu says:

    A truly inspiring piece Laura. Grateful to Naomi for introducing you to us 🙂 Good luck with the book.

    1. Thanks, Madhu! Nice to meet you!

  11. I just want to mention I am all new to blogging and site-building and actually savored this web blog. Very likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You really have really good well written articles. Thanks a bunch for revealing your blog.

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