6 Benefits of Joining GrubStreet’s Boston Writers of Color Group
Last year, Boston Writers of Color (BWOC) turned 6! Under the leadership of BWOC Program Manager, Serina Gousby, the program focuses on artistic and career development for writers of African, Indigenous, Native, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander and Arab heritage in New England and beyond.
Founded by If I Survive You author and GrubStreet Instructor, Jonathan Escoffery, this program includes literary support funding, free writing sessions, a network of BIPOC writers and artistic leaders, and a variety of free events that focus on community, artistic growth, and publishing.
BWOC’s mission is to amplify the work of writers who are often marginalized and systemically undervalued in the existing publishing industry, and strive for cultural, economic, and financial equity.
As we start the new year in 2023, here are 6 takeaways and benefits from being part of this group.
1. You gain a safe space and writing community
Boston Writers of Color recognizes the nuances of being a writer of color in a world of predominantly white publishers and programs that cater to the white writer. This group is a space where writers of color come together and share their stories, experiences, accomplishments and challenges with one another, as well as advice, ideas and so much more.
“BWOC feels approachable. This type of repository of people and resources—I haven't really seen too many places like it. It's really been invaluable,” said Deanne Battle, a Philadelphia-based writer who joined BWOC when she lived in the Northeast.
2. You have access to many opportunities within the writing world
Every week on the BWOC Facebook page, the intern and members post about various writing opportunities. Publications accepting submissions, job opportunities, author visits, and more! All of these have a home within the BWOC Network.
“I really like the Facebook group because it feels like a community,” said Leslie-Ann Murray, writer and founder of Brown Girl Book Lover—a blog and website that features book reviews and interview. “You can see what people are doing, and if it’s of interest, you can befriend that person. It’s how I reach out to people.”
Publications and other literary successes are elevated and celebrated on GrubStreet’s website and in BWOC’s newsletter. You can scope out BWOC’s good news here!
3. You get to share your insight and experiences with other BIPOC writers
BWOC strives to be a space for BIPOC writers to find their voice and share it. Seasoned writers, novices, and those somewhere in the middle are all welcome and make the community one of learning and growing.
Cynthia Yee, who joined in 2016, said she’s grown as a writer since joining when she wanted to dabble into genres of writing she hadn’t worked with much before. She’s witnessed the challenges and growth BWOC has faced and experienced over the years.
“It's been a great support for amplifying, as well as helping us find our voices. As a beginning writer, my voice was shaky,” Yee said. Six years after joining, she started her own website, won awards for her poetry, and was featured in the documentary A Tale of Three Chinatowns, which features the history of Boston, Washington D.C., and Chicago’s Chinatowns.
4. You can attend events by and for BIPOC folks
BWOC regularly hosts author visits, free writing sessions, and meet ups for its members. BWOC takes suggestions and incorporates members into the event itself, such as during the author visits, where members can take on the moderator role. Eddie Maisonet did just this back in 2020 when BWOC hosted Homie author Danez Smith.
“We had shown up for an event and it was so exciting to be around other writers of color,” Maisonet said. “I felt really connected.”
Need to get writing? BWOC offers regular writing sessions. The hour and a half sessions are filled with discussion, writing prompts, workshops, and more. Alvilda Sophia Anyana-Algeria, a BWOC member who joined in early 2020, said her favorite part of the writing sessions is the workshopping.
“When I hear other students asking questions and talking about what we’re working on, I think it’s amazing,” she said.
When Anyana-Algeria joined, she said she had no idea how to tackle literary writing. She had a masters in economics and was versed in writing for academia. Since then, she’s attended the majority of BWOC’s writing sessions and is currently working on a memoir that incorporates a variety of genres.
5. You are supported
Through initiatives like the BWOC Literary Support Fund, BWOC members are able to apply for funding to help cover costs of their writing endeavors. Deanne Battle applied in 2020 and again this year to help cover submission and residency application fees. She said Serina’s posts in the Facebook group were a huge motivation for her to apply.
“When you have that extra support, I think it makes you more likely to take a risk and be like, ‘You know, I'm not sure if I'm who they're looking for, but let me give it a shot,’” Battle said.
6. You get to expand your network
BWOC is a unique place for people to network, share, and have a good time while taking their craft to the next level. Instructors and writers of various backgrounds and genres have a central place where they can gather and share work, advice, opportunities and progress.
Murray joined BWOC five years ago when she first started working on her novel. She said participation led to numerous opportunities.
At a BWOC event, she met Margo Gabriel and the two of them eventually started Writer’s Nook, a collective for emerging writers. Their last event in June celebrating Caribbean Heritage Month had over 60 attendees. Murray said BWOC was crucial in helping make the connections and starting Writer’s Nook.
“BWOC gave me a lot of opportunities to grow and network,” Murray said. “I think being in BWOC gives me the confidence to connect with other writers.”