LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: Michael, you teach numerous workshops for the Writers' League of Texas. How would you describe the organization?
MICHAEL NOLL: The Writers’ League offers the community, inspiration, and guidance that writers so often find themselves needing. They’re stuck in a manuscript and need a strategy or two to get them past it, and so they can take one of our classes. When they have finished a book and want to learn how to get it published and meet agents, they come to our Agents & Editors Conference. When they need to feel not so alone, they listen to our podcast or come to our Third Thursday event at BookPeople. And when they need community, they reach out to any of the wonderful 1,400 members they’ve met at various events.
Can you tell us a little bit of WLT’s history? Who founded it? When did it start? How has it changed over the years?
It started in an Austin backyard. I’m a little fuzzy on the exact origin, but I’m pretty sure the backyard belonged to Sarah Bird. Since then, the Writers’ League has grown from focusing on Austin to serving the entire state, with free programs at rural libraries, panel discussions in Houston and Dallas, and a traveling roadshow featuring myself and executive director Becka Oliver talking about craft and the agent search.
How many people are currently members of WLT?
We have around 1,400 members.
What would you say are the benefits of WLT to aspiring authors?
The Writers’ League offers a lot of the same benefits as an MFA program — help with craft, an introduction to the business of publishing, and a community of writers — but in a way that’s easier for people juggling jobs, family, and everything else that demands our time and attention.
If I’m a bookworm rather than an aspiring author, are there events that WLT hosts that would be of interest to me?
Our monthly Third Thursday panels at BookPeople (also available as the Writers’ League of Texas podcast) and our Texas Writers events (held in rural libraries) put published authors in discussion with each other and the audience. There’s talk about craft, of course, but the events are also a chance to discover great local authors and hear them talk about their work. And, these events are small and intimate. You can get books signed and actually meet the people whose characters and plots have been rattling around in your head.
Are all of WLT’s events in Austin, or what are the ways you try to reach out to the whole state?
Texas Writers sends two authors into rural libraries. Becka and I have been to Corpus Christi, Nacogdoches, Spicewood, Alpine, and El Paso in the past year; Becka presented in Beaumont; and I’ll be in Marble Falls in March. Plus, our week-long Summer Writing Workshop takes place somewhere beautiful. For years, it was in Alpine. Last year it was in Nacogdoches. Who knows where it will be this summer? (Actually, we know! We just haven’t told anyone yet.)
Plus, in 2019 we plan to hold nearly thirty online classes, which are identical to our in-person classes except that you can take them from your favorite chair while sitting in your underwear (assuming whoever lives with you is okay with it).
What does it cost to join WLT?
An individual membership is $50, with discounts for seniors, veterans, and students.
Are there benefits to being in WLT, even if I’m a published author?
We announce member news in our newsletter (circulation 5000+). We also put money in authors’ pockets by paying them to teach classes and present in Texas Writes and Project WISE (our writers-in-the-schools program).
What big plans does WLT have for 2019?
We’re gearing up for the Agents & Editors Conference. We’ll bring twenty to twenty-five agents and editors to Austin, and it’s going to be an impressive group this year. We’re also in the early stages of launching a couple of free events featuring some big-name authors.
Is there any additional news that WLT would like to share with our readers?
I would encourage people to check out our Texas Writes and The Craft and Business of Writing with WLT events (the Michael and Becka presentations). They’re free and statewide. And, if you’d like us to come to your town, don’t hesitate to let us know. People can reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.