Sunday, February 8, 2009
Writing Group Redux
Which means that I’ve joined a writing group. It’s been about ten years since I’ve been part of a group that met consistently. In the mid ‘90s I joined my first one. We started out at the Barnes & Noble in Burlington (the old location). We met every two or three weeks. Eventually they kicked us out because one of our members started answering their phone when the employees weren’t quick enough (hey, it was annoying!). We continued on, meeting at a member’s house in Belmont. We would all bring in something to hand out each meeting, if we had something ready. A short story or a chapter—nothing very long. Also, one person’s work was read aloud by another member of the group. I really liked this as it was insightful to hear somebody read your words, your dialogue, infusing your sentences with their own cadence. Writing mistakes and awkward phrasings are easier to pick up when interpreted aloud.
That group lasted for a few years and at the time I was very prolific, writing almost one new story for each meeting. Not all gems, but it was a great exercise. One of the stories was published in a small literary journal out of Los Angeles, Lynx Eye Quarterly and recently republished in the Grub Street 10th anniversary anthology Hacks.
A few years after the demise of that group, I started a group with some fellow writers I met at my first Grub Street class, Ten Stories in Ten Weeks with instructor Rusty Barnes. We got along well and felt we were at the same writing level. (This is clutch to forming a strong group—you don’t want to constantly hold a newbie’s hand; conversely you don’t want to be constantly left behind, feeling out of the loop. You need to find a comfortable middle ground.) Hours before our first scheduled meeting, two of the five members bailed. The three remaining writers met. It was a relaxing, productive few hours, but we were never able to decide on a good time to meet again and it fizzled out before it really got going.
My new group contains a revolving 12 members, all current or former acolytes of Ms. X. She remains with us in spirit, tenor, and good humor. One or two people will hand out at a time, for a total of a hundred pages every two weeks. This is fine as it gives me time to come up with something to bring in. We plan to not just read and critique work, but also hold informative discussions about real-world publishing topics such as how to market yourself, how to target the right agent/publisher, and write a memorable synopsis. Some of us may go in on a collective blog together as well.
My goals for the group are to add to my ever-growing database of publishing information and writing and revising knowledge. For my critiques I will bring a revised chapter, a finished short story, or possibly the beginning of a new novel if I have anything decent by then. I have a couple months to pull something together.