Adventures in Creating a Writers' Group, part 1

Saturday, April 09, 2011
Last fall, I volunteered to represent member writers in my three-county region for a statewide organization. Having spent several years staring at and typing into my computer, I've been wanting to re-energize myself by re-connecting. (I love how interconnected we can all be virtually, but I also know that I appreciate seeing and meeting folks. Don't you?)
Whenever I can, I like to attend Tweetups or support local writers at their readings. While I can't always afford the time or money to attend writing conferences, I knew that I had something to offer if I could reach out to my local writing community.
I was getting excited about the prospect of meeting more folks and getting reconnected with area writers.
Then I hit a bump in the smooth road to creating the writers group. One of the difficulties I didn't think I would face in my area was finding a meeting space for our group. I don't know why I thought it would be easy.
Due to budget constraints, libraries in our area now charge to borrow a room. Some local businesses didn't have the space; church spaces were fully booked or required a fee.
Finally, I sent a direct tweet to a small, independent bookstore that had been shuttered for a little while because of structural problems in its old location. But in a world of Internet bookstores, the store not only managed to re-open in a new space, but the outpouring of community support provided dozens of book-carrying community members who helped to cart books to the new location.
I'm not sure why I tweeted the bookstore, but I still grin thinking about the owner's enthusiastic response. There were many exclamation points. Then she responded that she thought the area could use more writers' groups.
Indeed. I think we've found a home for our group.
So, we're off on the adventure of a new community of writers...meeting in person. We're not quite sure of the structure yet.
Now that we've tackled the meeting place question, any ideas that have worked for you in creating a writers' group? Anything to look out for? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Figure out what your group's goals are. If you just want to write and feel good about it, then if it becomes a "mutual admiration society" it won't bother you.

But if you want to do the real hard work of writing---you want to polish your pieces, you're eager to get constructive criticism, you have a thick skin--choose your members wisely. They will need to be able to read like a writer, and will have to have a critical eye.

I would suggest meeting at least twice a month---for example on the first and third Thursday every month. Monthly meetings are not frequent enough to get into a true writing groove. And set your expectations. Should everyone have something to share every time the gathering takes place? Certainly, there will be occasions where a writer has nothing to share, but that won't be the norm,and perhaps they could share some ideas/obstacles instead of a draft.

Set a length of the piece that will be read aloud to the group. If it's a longer piece, perhaps the writer could email the piece to the other members a few days in advance, so they could print it up and make notes/suggestions for the writer to take home with them.

And make sure the rejection slips, as well as the acceptances, are celebrated. If you're getting rejected, at least that means you're submitting and putting yourself out there!

Linda Hoye said...

Congratulations on starting your group!

I facilitate a writing group that meets once a month for two hours. At each meeting I hand out a writing prompt and we share our work when we come together the next time. I tried to have timed writing time but the size of the group at the beginning was such that we needed all the time to give everyone an opportunity to share.

Some members write for the pleasure of the craft, others are writing for publication. I am writing a memoir and two other members are also working on theirs so we meet once a month separate from the group to critique one another's work on a level that is deeper than we get into in the group.

Good luck with the group. I hope you find it as rewarding as I do!

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