Writer's Bloq Takes on the Nation's Writing Scene
April 23, 2012
Writer's Bloq, an online writing community that went live in February of this year, has quietly gained buzz around the New York City MFA and post-MFA writing scenes. Approximately 500 approved writers and readers have so far logged on and participated. Users edit work, give and receive criticism, and help cultivate a following for one another. The first thing one sees upon signing in is work from other writers presented in a format reminiscent of an online literary magazine, a blog, or Facebook, intuitively fused together. It also feels like sitting in a workshop, but without the tuition, funding issues, and classroom posturing. It’s just writing and readers.
What started as an idea for creating a user-friendly writing community for writers who are finished with school but still seek workshop-style help has become a well-organized, attractive space for writers to convene and share work. Nayia Moysidis, Founder and CEO of Writer’s Bloq, is celebrating this early success by hosting Unsolicited, a reading/MFA mingle at the Strand Bookstore in NYC on May 3, 2012. The top writers, determined by user evaluations, will read their work, and thanks to savvy and dogged networking, publishers, agents, and editors will be part of the informal audience of writers, readers, and MFA’ers.
Moysidis gave AWP an interview on what Writer’s Bloq—which receives funding from multiple sources including investors from Silicon Valley—is all about, how it was founded, and what her plans are for its future.
In the Fall of 2010, she was a senior at Columbia University. She had written a novel, shown it to editors and faculty, worked on it some more, and felt ready to send it out. After roughly 100 unsuccessful submissions, she began asking herself, How does anybody get published? What is the barrier? She looked into self-publishing, but she really wanted an editor. Then she attended an MFA panel on how to acquire an agent, thinking it would really help her out and restore her fervor. Here’s the advice she received: “Go into teaching or become a paralegal.”
“If you are working on a career, you aren’t in a workshop. So, what actually keeps you writing? What keeps you engaged? What’s your muse?” Moysidis said, commenting on the options for a writer post-graduation. “I’ve heard from more than a few graduates that it’s a cold world. You don’t have a community anymore.”
About one and a half years later, she breathed life into Writer’s Bloq, found funding, and accrued a staff of five others to help develop the organization. “Through word of mouth, spreading the idea on LISTSERVs and across MFA programs, we’ve built a community that now grows across the country. People say to each other, ‘Hey, I respect and admire your work—put it up here and let’s work on it.’”
The Writer’s Bloq staff didn’t stop after simply creating the website and building the initial community. Moysidis said she drives people crazy, constantly picking the brains of her literary friends, attending readings, cold-calling writers and editors—all in the service of really making certain that Writer’s Bloq is as important, helpful, and necessary as she wants it to be.
“We want to create something that is actually useful,” she said. “(After graduating) I missed that feeling of being able to see somebody’s fresh, unique work that sets off creative impulses that I couldn’t acquire by myself. Writer’s Bloq tries to do this. We want to create our own kind of parlor.”
After graduating from an academic workshop environment, should writers feel limited to attending expensive writers retreats, hoping for fellowships, or having to force in-person workshops with the same old friends? Those are all proven avenues for continuing with the craft of writing, but the network quickly spreads thin, the exposure lessens greatly. Editors of journals and presses will offer Yes’s and No’s, attending readings and literary events will provide positive exposure, but its not that simple, especially for people with full-time jobs or those struggling with adjuncting positions, to truly bring back the writerly workmanship of being in a workshop.
“I talk to writers I really respect, and when those people started joining Writer’s Bloq, it really inspired me even more. It’s not always feasible to just contact writers you like and ask to see their work.”
For Moysidis, this job is full-time, all day, everyday, “and I have not felt overworked.” All the creative passion, the energy, keeps her going. Though, it must be said that passion alone doesn’t ensure success, it also takes plain old good ideas and precise tact. Just having a website for writers to share work, just hosting an event like Unsolicited doesn’t mean people will show up and engage. Writers can often be competitive, jealous, snobbish, and also painfully shy and introverted. So how can anyone say for certain that a reading that promotes engagement between unproven, success-hungry writers and potential publishers can work?
“Even though you don’t enjoy the negative, competitive frustration (of being around other writers in a program), it pushes you to a creative level that you didn’t know existed.”
Moysidis boasts that she has invited all the literary professionals in the city that she and her staff admire—publishers, professors, agents, and writers. They’ve also focused on inviting specifically younger literary professionals, and they’re having them attend in personal capacities, so attendees can approach them and not know immediately who/what they are.
“We might keep it kind of blind,” said Moysidis. “If you know you’re approaching somebody from a pretty significant magazine or press, you might not approach them. That’ll be less intimidating, and we’ll have some professional mingle-makers in attendance.”
Perhaps the most unique idea behind Writer’s Bloq is that it’s a network, much like an MFA program. When one writer excels, the network excels. It’s shared enthusiasm and shared success. “You’re not competing with anybody on the website,” she said.
“If the end result is that one person wins…that’s destructive. But if we compete as a community, we’ll help people gain a following by association. We want to promote cooperation, not competition.”
Writer’s Bloq is not about continued association among writers, but about encouraging writers to associate differently. The intention here is not to have just another reading series, another New York City writer’s in-crowd.
“We’ll let the members shape what we want. But, what I can say with certainty is that we want to create a community that furthers our goals. We’re asking ourselves, how can we actually help you gain an audience, get readers for your work, and get your work published?”
Moysidis plans to reconvene with her staff to evaluate the success of their first reading. She aims to schedule a second event in New York in September, but beyond that, she wants these readings to become a staple event, in cities all over the U.S. “We want people to know that it’s going to be something good every time,” she said. “We will never create an event that doesn’t have value to the attendees.”
The Writer’s Bloq network already connects writers from both coasts, from California to Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia.
And when will Writer’s Bloq consider its mission a success?
“When the writers consider themselves succeeding,” said Moysidis, “we’ll feel we’ve succeeded.”
Learn more about Writer's Bloq's reading and purchase tickets here: Unsolicited
Check out this essay on the importance of writing and by Nayia Moysidis in Forbes:Imagine a World Without Innovation in Literature.