Black 540 Writers Community logo. Three black circles, each with a number 5, 4, 0
Black and white image except for a low battery symbol in red, picture of a girl sitting in front of laptop, hunched over with hand on forehead. Clock on the wall and coffee cup on the desk.

540 WRiters Community Helps Underserved Writers

“The 540 Vision and Mission statement mentions ‘underserved writers.’ Can you tell me what that means?”

I’m so glad my friend asked this question.

Who Are Underserved Writers?

Many conferences work hard to ensure every writer feels welcome and receives great education, but this wasn’t always true. The idea for 540 Writers Community began to form when I attended a large conference. The presentations were great and the food was fantastic, but “something’s weird” tapped the shoulder of my consciousness more than once.

I finally zeroed in on the issue. To me, a room filled with varied accents, skin tones, abilities, and opinions feels like home. This particular venue . . . didn’t. For the first time in years, I stood in a predominantly monochromatic crowd. For the rest of the conference, I searched out anyone different from the main demographic. I asked the gal in the wheelchair for insight. Talked with the infant’s mother. Listened to the group of women who’d always found a way. Heard the stories of the barely-made-it writers. Chatted with octagonal writers participating in a rectangular conference.

Underserved writers, in my definition, are individuals outside the target audience for the glitzy creative conference crowd.

In many cases, these writers are not intentionally snubbed, they’re just not actively invited. In the conference leaders’ opinion, this is no different from saying, “my book is intended for pre-teens. Grandmas can read it, but they aren’t the target audience.” And on some level, maybe it’s not so different.

However, at 540, we actively welcome every writer to access stellar education.

Imagine Yourself as an Underserved Writer

Imagine attending a conference in a wheelchair.

You’d need to map out the best routes, organize your schedule ahead of time, get to class early (which means missing the end of other sessions—or lunch) and leave sessions early or spend your whole afternoon stuck in a crowded hallway, looking at a sea of derrières. If you need assistance, you might have to pay for a second conference ticket.

Imagine you live with autism.

That buzzing LED light overhead? Other people don’t notice, but you feel it in your skin. Attending a conference is the equivalent of standing in the middle of hundreds of radios, each on a different station, all at full volume. And people you don’t know want to touch you, get in your space, and breathe on you. Making eye contact causes you physical pain, but you force yourself to do it anyway so people won’t think you’re antisocial. Because you aren’t. You’re friendly, you want to connect, and you’re a fantastic writer, but the conference is just. too. much.

Imagine receiving a conference advertisement in your mailbox. Fantastic class offerings. The dates work with your schedule. You flip it over and notice the lineup of ten faces. Not one speaker looks like you. You wonder if you’re really invited.

Conferences are expensive and can be stressful. Uncertainty adds anxiety. Why risk being unwanted, unwelcome, or simply ignored? Particularly for introverts, who wants to put that level of effort into connecting with people who might not be thrilled by your presence?

Let’s stop here for a second. If you read the heading paragraph and thought, “I wouldn’t even notice,” take a breath, because I’m about to stomp your toes.

Sometimes we need to see things from different perspectives. If you think you won’t notice, you’re probably white. Now, in fairness, plenty of white readers read the above paragraph and said, “yep, that’s an issue,” but if you read “probably white,” rolled your eyes and thought, “here we go,” just . . . be open.

If you’re a sweet white gal holding an event mailer with faces different from your own and a vibe, you might check to be sure it’s actually addressed to you. If you’d likely be the only white face in a sea of brown, would you go? Maybe. But when interested faces turn as you enter the room, would you be certain you are welcome? Knowing you belong is the point. Imagine not knowing.

Imagine being a caregiver for children, elderly parents, a disabled spouse, or anyone else who needs you 24/7.

You manage to attend a conference and spend the entire time worrying, giving instructions to your backup, and fielding calls about issues only you can handle. You manage to eat half your meals and you only attend the first session of a three-part class. Even though it’s the first time in years you’ve slept in a bed made by someone else, you can’t rest because when the phone isn’t ringing, you’re anticipating the next call, the next crisis. Or, as in the case of the gal I met at the conference, you manage to attend with your infant who wasn’t supposed to arrive until after the conference, because otherwise you’ll lose your registration fees. Imagine caring for a tiny newborn at a conference, who needs you constantly and won’t let you sleep. Good times.

Imagine being a young writer with big dreams and zero cash flow.

Or a writer who just lost a job.

Or a writer on a fixed income.

Conferences are expensive. Unless you apply for a scholarship (and yes, I’ll beat that drum again—APPLY!) there’s no chance of attending. And even if you get the scholarship, where will you find money for travel?

Imagine being a writer in Pakistan, or South Africa, or Australia, or Alaska, or a thousand other remote places.

The cost of travel alone, much less the conference, makes attending impossible.

Encouraging Underserved Writers

The 540 Writers Community grew from a desire to provide free, stellar, accessible education for EVERY writer.

We love all writers, but if you fit any of the categories above, you DEFINITELY belong with us.

Without our amazing volunteers and members, we couldn’t help writers thrive, learn, and grow. If you’ve volunteered or mentored a peer, THANK YOU.

Want more info about all the ways 540 can help your writing journey? Check out our FAQ section or our Welcome Home page.

So glad you’re here.


Becky Blue

PS – I mentioned a few barriers. Add others in comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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