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This article was prepared for the March 10, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Between the Lines

Of the more than 20 alternatives listed in the thesaurus for the word “community,” ranging from citizens and camaraderie to fraternity and village, all evoke the warm and fuzzy emotion of togetherness. And as we were editing the cover story by Flora Davis, we realized how difficult it can be to find a “community” in the sense of a group of individuals who share common interests.

In her first person story, Davis reports that the 10-year-old organization of which she is now a part aims to create a nurturing “community without walls” that can address the fear of old age: “CWW is an organization for seniors who are determined to age in place — preferably in their own homes but definitely within their community — and are prepared to help one another do just that.”

Religious organizations often promote a sense of community, and, on a different level, so do trade organizations. The U.S. 1 Business Directory lists 330 trade groups, and our events calender for March shows 100 business meetings scheduled just for this month. Accountants meet monthly to discuss the latest tax code changes and chemists meet to talk about their research, but the subtext is that everyone speaks the same professional language. They form a professional community.

Rare are the professional communities for fiction and poetry writers, yet writing is the loneliest of occupations. And the premiere opportunity for writers to meet in central New Jersey will come to an end this year. This is the 23rd and final year for The College of New Jersey Writers Conference, says conference director Jean Hollander. In the past the conference was funded by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the College of New Jersey, but those two sources of funding have disappeared.

This year’s conference keynoters will be novelist John Irving and poet Sharon Olds, and previous conferences have featured such novelists as Ray Bradbury, E.L. Doctorow, Ken Kesey, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, Salman Rushdie, William Styron, and Kurt Vonnegut.

What’s left? The Professional Writers Alliance can be a haven, and writers can also gather at meetings in bookstores and libraries, or take courses.

Writers can also create their own community circles. That’s what Flora Davis did. Talented in several genres — she is known for “Moving the Mountain,” a history of the women’s movement. She also writes mysteries and belongs to a writer’s group that has met biweekly for 25 years. She attends the tristate Sisters in Crime meetings in Manhattan and is a member of two online authors’ forums.

With our annual Summer Fiction issue, U.S. 1 does what it can to encourage writers. By June 1 we will start taking submissions of both fiction and poetry. In August we always hold a party, partly to recognize those whose contributions we used, but also to celebrate everyone who plies the lonely craft of writing. We will publicize the date well in advance.

In the meantime the annual TCNJ Writers Conference will be missed. It has been an oasis for lovers of language for 23 years.

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