“When we give folks the tools to express themselves and to make the connections across all those experience levels, it's how community happens,” Holt said. “It is poignant to see a full adult sharing their knowledge with a teenager or someone even younger, but everybody of every age range has something they can tell somebody else that's new to that other person.”
Attendees will also hear a speech by guest speaker Erim Akpan, who will be discussing how to get published in magazines. Akpan has been attending TCCN hangouts for two or three years and wanted to share her experiences with the group so that they too can have their work published.
“I really like helping people get their stories out into the world,” Akpan said. “There are a lot of things I wish I had known when I started out doing that would have gotten me much farther, much faster. Sharing those things with other people and making their journey easier makes me happy.”
TCCN has only recently started inviting guest speakers to the events, but Holt said the restructuring has also made social interaction at the hangouts better.
“What we have found going through our new model is that, along with that sort of delivery of information, the crowd also is just more comfortable,” Holt said. “They know have some sort of shared understanding of ideas and a place to start from when talking with each other about their own work and own interests. It decreases the potential social pressure to be sparkling.”
Akpan said she is drawn to the sense of community that these events build.
“It's important for any artist to have a community of people who understand them — people who understand your struggle, who you can bounce ideas off of, who might help you overcome challenges you're facing, or just offer moral support when you're going through a rough patch,” Akpan said.
Stoffel stressed just how important that sense of community is for artists.
“Community, as an artist, is everything,” Stoffel said. “Nobody can do it by themselves.”