There's a statistic floating around that says 23 percent of the population wants to be writers. It stands to reason then, that at least that many people--whether or not they're actually writing--find something interesting about the midnight disease. So, beginning this month, four Western New York writers will share this space to talk about the trials and triumphs of their craft, and especially what it's like to ply it in the Queen City.
This month's question: How is living in Buffalo good for a writer?
Alex Livingston: The public library system is fantastic. And some areas of Buffalo are fairly walkable, and walking is good for thinking. Add in the remarkable architecture and the surfeit of green space, and one would have to try pretty hard not to be inspired.
Melody Von Smith: But it's still close enough to bigger cities (Chicago, Toronto, NYC) that when you need a fix, you can get one. And it's cheap to buy a house.
Donna Hoke: Which means less time earning money to pay your mortgage and more time writing. I like how accessible it is. This is not a writer-heavy city, so what opportunities there are go to those who are here. I've expanded the types of writing I do since moving here, simply because opportunities presented themselves.
Gary Earl Ross: There are more than adequate resources for research and opportunities to publish and share. With 17 colleges and universities, numerous print and online outlets, the Just Buffalo Literary Center, countless groups and workshops, and enough reading venues and open mikes to satisfy those who want feedback and those who simply want to listen and learn.
MVS: But the creative energy here is erratic. There is a lot of energy at the conceptual stage of many great creative endeavors, but many great ideas never come to fruition.
DH: I think that's because there are so few career writers here. When you're trying to squeeze writing in between a full-time job and family and life, it can be hard to corral long-term commitment from people.
MVS: There is a strong network of playwrights established here.
DH: The Road Less Traveled New Play Workshop has helped with that.
AL: I participated in that for three years. I learned a great deal from the other writers and the people running it. If you're interested in drama, I recommend it highly.
MVS: But I'd like to see a similar community of novelists develop and flourish here.
AL: I have met very few people who write fiction here, and fewer who have been published in any capacity. "Oh really? A friend of mine is a writer" is a rare statement.
DH: Well, when it's not one of us talking.
GER: It has been my goal since childhood to explore every kind of writing, and in Buffalo, I have done that. I am a fictionist, playwright, poet, editorialist, reviewer, popular culture scholar, and public radio essayist.
DH: Gary is a very committed writer; that's the key. Living in a place with few writers and writing being the solitary pursuit that it is, motivation has to come from within. And while we've got that, we'd like to see a stronger external infrastructure develop as well.
Donna Hoke is a magazine journalist, playwright, crossword puzzle constructor, children's author, and editor of Buffalo Spree Home. www.donnahoke.com
Alex Livingston writes space opera, interactive fiction, and stage plays. http://about.me/alexlivingston
Gary Earl Ross is a professor at the UB EOC. His writings include the novel Blackbird Rising and the play Matter of Intent, winner of a 2006 Edgar Award. www.angelfire.com/journal/garyearlross
Melody Von Smith is a keyboard-wielding sociopath believed by some to be a werewolf. www.melodyvonsmith.com