Years of toiling in the lonely corridors of the writing world have convinced me that joining a writing group is a good idea. It certainly was for me. I credit my group with priceless help in publishing my two books and many articles. Others in the group have also published books and articles and we have even given birth to one publisher.
We meet in a public library which lets us have the room free of charge as long as all interested writers are welcome. The people who show up Tuesdays at one o’clock are of both sexes and arguably, the most interesting people in town.
Once, we had no barriers to participation. Then we had a guy whose writing not only verged on porn, but was saturated with a disturbing fury toward women. While we were easing that bozo out, a sweet eleven year old boy showed up with his slightly older sister. Okay, so we didn’t like porn, but we also didn’t like censoring ourselves, for the sake of school age kids. A new rule specifies participants must be over 18. Otherwise our only stipulation is we consider fiction or non-fiction, no poetry or drama. We do our best to help any writer achieve publication. But if you just want praise for the deathless prose you’ve been hiding under your bed, don’t bother coming around. While we try not to take mean potshots, we also try for honesty.
At one o clock, our members file in and take a chair in the small conference room. When the chairs are filled, we are full We put our offerings in a pile and turn it over as we begin. Many workshops send around copies of the work in advance. We don’t. Each writer reads his or her work aloud. Listeners take notes for accurate feedback. We used to read ten double spaced pages or a chapter, whichever was less. We’ve gotten so popular that we’re now limited to thirteen hundred words in order to get home before dark.
As the Ancient Inhabitant of that workshop, I’ve seen writers come and writers go. Some are now living on another planet, some are discouraged and some some continue to write and publish. I’ve made friends in the workshop and maybe a few enemies. I always look forward to Tuesdays —- the people I’ll see and the stories I’ll hear. —Jean Shriver