Are you a member of a writers’ group? What is your group like? Does it help you hone your skills? Is it a critique group? What do you get out of it? What are the pros and cons?
When I read On Writing by Stephen King, I was left with the distinct impression that Stephen King did not hold much stock in writers’ groups. He said, “It is the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.”
I belong to a writers’ group and have belonged to others in the past. I have found them useful for honing my skills and for finding out information about the world of publishing. The main group I am currently in consists of 6-7 women who gather once or twice a month and do writing exercises to improve our technique and to light up our imaginations. I have been with the group for nearly 15 years.
There are 5 benefits of my belonging to this group:
1.) Accountability – At the beginning of each meeting, we go around the table and tell what we have been doing lately. We talk about our current writing projects, published works and the goals we are working on.
2.) Practical skills – We do writing exercises to hone our skills. We spend 10-15 minutes writing from a prompt that someone has developed for the meeting. We take turns coming up with the writing exercises. If we are at a loss for prompts (or are just plain lazy), we use the Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves.
3.) Support – We encourage each other to write. We share leads regarding possible publications for our work, possible agents, possible content. We provide positive reinforcement, focusing on member strengths.
4.) Group activities – We read at events such as John C Fremont Days in the Chautauqua tent and other local community events.
5.) Environments – Typically our monthly meetings are held at a home or at a local coffee house, but once a year, we plan a retreat for our group. We choose a weekend that is available to all of the members, then we select a site. For many years, we met at a monastery “out in the middle of nowhere.” It was a wonderful place to write without distraction (and the monks fed us well.) That venue is no longer a “best kept secret” and it is difficult to book a weekend, so we are more creative in our locations.
We have gone to a church camp during the winter, to the beautiful Lied Center in Nebraska City, and to the Cather home in Red Cloud, Nebraska. As we travel throughout the state, we discover the writing of our native authors such as Bess Streeter Aldrich, Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz and Emma Pound.
We had the privilege of writing at Bess Streeter Aldrich’s actual kitchen table in her home in Elmwood, Nebraska. And, after drawing names for the bedrooms, I slept in Willa Cather’s bedroom at our last retreat in Red Cloud, Nebraska.
I feel my writers’ group is invaluable. They have been my inspiration and support and I hope to continue growing with them.
Next time I will discuss groups that I have not found so helpful.