This week I invited my writing partner, Jan Day, to talk about her experiences with writing groups. She's been in a number of them, so I thought she was a good resource to begin a discussion about what writers can and can't get out of them.
Jan's writing credentials are impressive. She is the author of five children's picture books with Pelican Publishing Company and is a feature writer for Okeechobee, The Magazine. She has published poetry and was co-winnerof the Hawaii Film Festival of her original teleplay All's Fair. I met Jan when I moved to Okeechobee, Florida for the winter and was looking for a writing group, so we founded one together. Jan is currently at work on a mystery set on the Kissimmee River.
I've asked her to begin this discussion abut writing groups and hope all of you will chime in with your views.
Welcome to my blog, Jan.
I’ve moved around a fair amount and have had great experiences with writers’groups in Kauai, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Stuart, and Okeechobee, FL. They all were different but they all helped me improve my writing, stay motivated, and offered camaraderie of a shared passion.
The most unique group was in Kauai, where the majority of members were artists as well as writers. Our facilitator did not allow direct criticism. This would have been considered rude in that culture. But we still found ways to be instructive to each other. In Phoenix we had a group of ten writing everything from poetry to romance to literary fiction to memoir. Writing and critiquing in various genres can make you a stronger writer.
In my experience the group should be committed to their craft and of a similar level of skill or it will lose its focus. Setting your goals and standards in the beginning helps clarify your goals. A group becomes destructive when they tear down a work or try to rewrite the piece for the author. I think that sort of group rewrite happens most often when you bring writing that is in its beginning stages.
I’m a big fan of writers’ groups, not only for the help with writing but for the deadlines they provide, and the opportunity to network. If you don’t have a writers’ group near you, don’t be afraid to start one yourself. When Lesley came to Okeechobee, she found me through the library and then we put an announcement in the paper for an Open Reading. From there we eventually formed a group of six accomplished writers and have published an anthology. If we can do it in the wilds of central Florida, you can do it anywhere.
That's very upbeat, Jan. But I think she's right about being able to put together a writing group anywhere. I think the best source for beginning the process with your local library. That's where we began. The library has been generous enough to continue their support of our group by providing us meeting space and sponsoring writer's programs at the library.