Thursday, November 23, 2006

Finding my writers’ group was a trip

A line or two from Lynne

At seven, I wanted to take up sewing. I hopped on my bike with its front basket and pedaled three miles to the local library. I took out three books and taught myself embroidery. The first thing I did when I got engaged at twenty-eight, after accepting the proposal of course, was to take the T to a downtown bookstore and grab anything and everything they had on planning a wedding. So when I decided to write a novel, it’s no wonder I turned to books on writing fiction.

I’ve been a parenting expert, writing about families for over twenty years and I feel pretty good about my ability to judge the content and quality of my non-fiction writing. But two years ago, I turned my attention to writing fiction and I didn’t have the faintest idea how to gauge the effectiveness of my work. In Writing Alone or With Others by Pat Schneider and in Page by Page by Heather Sellers, both authors strongly urge new and even experienced writers to get feedback, good feedback. I needed a writers’ group.

Being a writer who follows directions, I started looking for a writers’ group. Following a lead from my local bookstore to a nearby library, I came across one listed on their website. The problem was it was closed to new members. Being a writer who doesn’t follow directions, I emailed the woman who facilitated the group and asked if I could join. She emailed me right back with an answer. I was surprised to find out that the group was no longer closed; it was no longer meeting.

This generous fellow writer kindly emailed the disbanded group members to see if any of them would be interested in reforming. She included me in the distribution list and the series of emails that followed were simultaneously clever and crazy, but all were extremely well-written. To my delight, the original group members agreed to a meeting to discuss whether or not to reconvene. I was invited to attend.

Clutching my Map Quest directions and ten pages of what would later become my first novel, I drove one town over to meet the women who would change my writing and change my life. Six women attended the “should we get back together” meeting but only four signed on. Lisa, Amy, Hannah and me. Fifteen months later, we’re working better than ever as a group. We’ve had such a positive experience, we’re eager to share with other writers how to form an effective group, one where members encourage and support each other while giving honest accurate feedback. Writing, querying and trying to navigate the complex world of publishing is a personal and challenging journey. We all need a little help from our friends.

Welcome to the Writers’ Group.

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