Creating and attending events with others can create bonds that can either grow into something palpable and meaningful over time or they can wither and die.
And when you are an event host, whether you’re asking people to travel around the States or the world with you, one of the most important components I’ve learned (the hard way) that you must have in place IF a strong community is one of your goals is a way for those people to connect beforehand and to stay connected afterward.
After hosting seven writers conferences and four writers retreats, it became more obvious with each event how critical it was for attendees to have an established virtual community in place. It can make it easier for participants to remain in contact, maintain ongoing lines of communication, and nurture the writing fellowship that blossomed at these events to help further support their progress and growth as writers—something reminiscent of the amazing community I created 22 years ago.
What I built in 1997 and launched in 1998 was an anomaly, the first of its kind. Dabbling in web design at the beginning of the internet for the rest of us, I created a website for Black writers that garnered attention from around the world, ultimately leading to my launching the first 501c3 literary arts association to form online for writers of color.
Black Writers Alliance (“BWA”) was the first 501(c)(3) literary arts association to organize online for Black Writers. Initially formed at the African American Online Writers Guild, it offered Black writers worldwide a source for camaraderie and fellowship, instruction, growth, nurturing, feedback, development, and resources long before there was Facebook and some years before Myspace.
Founded in 1998, BWA grew from its three founding members to over 7,000 by the end of 1999. Even early on, BWA was recognized by Writers Digest, twice being named among its selection of the top sites for writers, as well as by BET.com, BookZone, Publishers Weekly, and countless others. By 2000, the group wanted to meet in person, and the first conference ensued which quickly earned a place among other elite writers’ conferences at the top of the list. Black Writers Reunion & Conference was featured on TV, radio, and in print among the pages of The New York Times, Writer’s Digest Magazine, Black Issues Book Review and Poets & Writers. BWA was also the first to sponsor a national literary awards program for Black writers with the Gold Pen Awards, which set the standard and the trend for all that have followed.
In 2003 Tia stepped down for family and personal reasons after the birth of her second son, but demand for her conferences to live on compelled her back. After hosting conferences in 2000 and 2001, Tia revived BWRC in 2006 and organized five more before hosting the first retreat.
In 2012 Tia introduced the first Black Writers Write Time Retreats, placing her conferences on hold as she increasingly consulted on conference launches, site selection, and group travel for clients through her meeting planning company, Boss Events and Travel. After the 2016 retreat, Tia partnered with Rekesha Pittman to expand their events under the flagship of Writeful Places LLC to continue offering quality programs that are more inclusive of all races of writers. The 2018 retreat was held in Palm Beach, Aruba;
2020 2021 will be in Playa del Carmen, June 5-8.
Return to Community
During the 2018 retreat, I began developing plans and dual websites for a new online community that would be a worthy successor to the legacy of Black Writers Alliance. Studies toward my third degree and running simultaneous businesses created unavoidable delays. But in January 2020, finally, I launched the Black Writers Collective, offering a slew of programs designed to help aspiring authors finish works-in-progress, published writers to create author platforms and build fan bases from scratch, readers to connect directly with writers during all phases of book development, and a wealth of other offerings.
Blackwriters.org, Blackwriters.net, et al
The “Black Writers Project,” as I call it, holds space across multiple domains, starting with Blackwriters.org. The membership network is hosted via a SAAS platform at Blackwriters.net. For Black editors or those in search of us, there’s BlackEditorsProofreaders.com, with an online community for editors hosted at Black-Editors-Proofreaders.mn.co. I invite you to navigate to any of these sites using the links below.