Building Community

We don’t talk about it much, but we writers are all about building community. In this time of strife and struggle, that’s a valuable thing.

Last weekend I went to Books in the ‘Brook, a monthly salon for readers and writers in and around Westbrook. Modeled on a similar monthly event that takes place in Cape Elizabeth, Books in the ‘Brook showcases two writers, usually on the first Saturday of each month. The event runs from 4 – 5 p.m., that in-between hour on a Saturday when the chores are done and the evening plans have yet to unfold.

Poet extraordinare, Betsy Sholl

This month the featured writers were Betsy Sholl, Maine’s former poet laureate, and Joshua Bodwell, who in addition to running the amazing Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance is an essayist and and editor. There was a good crowd, liberally sprinkled with other writers, some well-established, some brand new.

Betsy read a number of moving, funny poems from a new collection House of Sparrows: New & Selected Poems, which will be out next year.

Josh read a powerful essay about his youth in Kennebunkport and talked about his work editing the much-acclaimed three-book collection of Andre Dubus’s short stories, the third volume of which was published this month.

Joshua Bodwell reads from an essay recently published in Slice magazine

Two totally different writers, both of whom express big ideas on the page. It was magical. People hung around for quite a while once they finished reading, sharing the sweet sustenance of writer talk.

This evening I’ll get to enjoy another sort of writing community when I meet with a longtime book group in Portland called the Awesome Book Club.

The group is made up of eight or so women, most of whom have known each other for many years. They’ve read my first Joe Gale book, Quick Pivot, so that’s what we’ll be chatting about tonight. I know some of the members of the ABC and feel confident we’ll also be noshing on some fantastic food. I can’t wait.

I love meeting with book groups, especially in person, but also via Skype or Facetime. I learn a lot about my own writing from the wonderful, dedicated readers who participate in book groups. Sometimes they point out things I didn’t see, even though I wrote the book. Unconscious connections. Unintentional structural symmetry. But mostly it’s a blast to hang out in the host’s comfy living or dining room, eating, talking and laughing with other people who enjoy books and reading as much as I do. In that couple of hours, we build something together, a shared commitment to keeping the written word central in our busy lives.

The Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, decked out as a crime scene

At the end of this month a big gang of crime writers will be at Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor for the annual Murder by the Book conference. David Rosenfelt is the keynote speaker this year, and the supporting cast includes several current and past MCW members—Dick Cass, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Vaughn Hardaker, Bruce Coffin, Dorothy Cannell, Jim Hayman and me—along with Stephanie Gayle, Jane Sloven, James Ziskin, Lynne Raimondo and Nicole Seavey.

There’ll be Friday night readings and Saturday workshops, lots of great work shared and ideas sparked. Readers of this blog interested in joining the Murder By The Book community can find more info here:

Closer to home, on Sunday, November 18, a wild bunch of crime writers will be doing public readings in Biddeford at an event called Noir @ The Bar. Noir is a thing—an event crime writers put on in many cities. We each get three minutes at the mike to read from published stories or work in progress. Readers who exceed their time get the gong.

A picture of the group that read at a Noir @ The Bar in Portland last year.


I love that our little sub-community of Maine crime writers is part of this international phenomenon. Again, the date is November 18, a Sunday afternoon. From 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. we’ll be at Banded Brewing in the old Pepperell Mill at the foot of Main Street in Biddeford.  When I say “we” I mean, as of this writing, Barb Ross, Dick Cass, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Maureen Milliken, E.J. Fechenda, Bruce Coffin, Sandy Neily, Gayle Lynds, John Sheldon and me. There could be a few more.

In addition to the entertainment, Banded serves food and (of course) great beer. There’s plenty of parking. The event is free. It would be great to see some readers of this blog there. Everyone is welcome because we’re not a club, we’re a community.

Brenda Buchanan is the author of the Joe Gale Mystery Series, featuring a diehard Maine newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Three books—QUICK PIVOT, COVER STORY and TRUTH BEAT—are available everywhere e-books are sold.  She is writing a new series that has as its protagonist a Portland criminal defense lawyer willing to take on cases others won’t touch in a town to which she swore she would never return.







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3 Responses to Building Community

  1. The first I’ve heard about Noir At The Bar. I will join in.


  2. bethc2015 says:

    Books in the Brook sounds like a wonderful event. That sense of sharing, support, and community can create magic.

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