Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Still More Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .

This discussion began on November 14th, and continued on Nov. 16th… Writers Groups

The last post had three different reader comments that all shared the important idea that a well-functioning writers’ group needed the potential for friendship among the participants…

Today’s first commenter, a regular here and from Australia, is an accomplished author and creator of virtual worlds:

“Over the years I have been in a number of writers’ groups. The first one was led by a published author, whose writing class we had attended. In this group we read our work out loud. However we did not provide a written copy of the work to help others follow the reading and now, in hindsight, I feel that was probably needed, if we wanted any kind of serious critique. Now I’m in a fantastic group of writers who have all been published, some extensively. We all take turns to send an emailed copy of the work we want to get feedback on (half the group one month and half the next). We read and edit the works with written comments on the emailed manuscripts, which we then bring to the meeting to discuss. Our meeting is usually held in a cafe. After lunch, where we socialise and catch up with our news, we get to work and discuss each submitted work in turn. We always try to honour the creativity of the writer and the value of their written work. At the same time we discuss the works in detail and make suggestions for improvements.

“The value of this approach is that it helps the writer, who may be too close to the work at that point, to get the perspective of other more detached opinions. It has been said that, after an initial draft, a writer should put a work away for a period of time so that when they return to it, some time later, they can see the work more clearly, warts and all. Having a ‘panel’ of experienced writers/readers to shorten that maturation time for the writer, with their considered opinions, is invaluable. But you do need to pick your ‘panel’. You need honest but non-destructive critics who take writing seriously :-)”

Interesting comparison of two different types of group…

And, the current group has three critical activities:

  • socialize and catch up on news
  • honor each other’s creativity
  • discuss in detail and make suggestions


Whether a group you might be in has all of those specific qualities or not, some form of “warming up”, “respecting”, and “close inspection and edification” are, I feel, important to consider as valuable group activities.

One other thing to consider from our Australian writer’s experience is the Preparation necessary for carrying out those particular group activities…

Our second commenter, a novelist and short story author, is a native of the Northern Plains of the USA and maintains his web site right here :-)

“I once co-founded and ran a community writers’ group in college. The experience was overall positive. I’d generally lead the discussions, critiquing a work by a member we were all to have read at some point that week. Once a month we’d do a writing exercise and then share the fruits of our rushed labor. Everyone enjoyed these writing sessions.

“I think the hardest part was simply not liking some of the writing. Sometimes one could see potential. Other times a piece was pretty good. Once in a while it was hard to give feedback for improvement because the group member’s story just didn’t feel at all inspired with even a grain of potential. Not only was it the hardest, but also the most dangerous part: trying to be truthful without being offensive. The best remedy I found was to ask lots of questions rather than jump right in with advice. If there was advice to be given, I had to get at the writer’s mindset first.”

Our new commenter has stated something that seems to me to be essential for writers’ group participants: using questions to hone in on the writer’s intentions before critiquing the writing, whether or not the work is “good” or “bad”…

What do you think about that last statement of mine?

For that matter, what stands out for you in either of our commenters’ experiences?


To prompt you to share a comment:

Are you in a writers’ group…?

What do you most enjoy about your group…?

Or, do you think you need to join a writers’ group…?

Or, are you sure a writers’ group would never fit your needs…?

Have you formed or are you about to form a group…?

What do you think is most important for a successful writers’ group…?

All it takes is one reader comment to continue this conversation :-)
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

Music Begins to Inspire Our Art.

Yep, today’s re-blog is about kids painting after hearing music…

But, it could be accepted by adults as an example of how music can affect all art—even, writing. :-)

A Teacher's Reflections

“The music goes into your ears and into your brain.  Then, as you listen to the notes and sounds, it goes into your heart and shoots out of your fingers.  Like a million stars.  It’s magic.”

Those are the words I passionately said to fifteen spellbound children, sitting around my record player and watching me carefully take an album out of the jacket.  I put it onto the turn table and lowered the arm.  I knew that this was true, and that the children would become masters at their work when listening to music.  Their fingers could paint what was in their heart.

Then I began to play the music, Beethoven Symphony No. 9.  This music starts low and builds to a crescendo.  The louder the music, the bigger and wider children’s eyes became.  We listened.  We heard the sounds of violins.  At the same time I showed children works…

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leaf and twig

with a flower
highlight of the hour

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More Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .

This blog conversation began on November 14th… Writers' Groups

I shared quite a bit about my experience with and understanding of writers’ groups; plus, revealed a few famous writers who favored the group experience; and, pointed to a site that discussed different types of writers’ groups and the elements of successful groups…

So, before we get to the reader comments that are the reason for these discussions, I’ll share this link about four hidden dangers of writing groups from Jane Friedman. Perhaps reading it will prompt you to make a comment that I could feature in the next installment :-)

But, let’s get back to this installment and the comments that will power this discussion forward.

The first reader to respond is a writer from Maine, in the USA, and someone I  follow on Wattpad (where you can read some of her work...):

“I’ve had various experiences but am happy to report that my current writers group is fantastic. We are a small, supportive, diverse group of writers. What we do is gather together and read from our current projects—not for critique but simply to share. We end up having discussions that come up from the readings, and if someone wants some particular feedback she can request it, but mostly it’s just encouragement and applause. We had a weekend ‘retreat’ this summer where we each brought a couple of exercises or prompts to share and that was fun. Otherwise, it’s more of a gathering of people who enjoy writing. Sometimes we go to public readings together. Unfortunately for me, I’ve moved all the way across the country. I’ve ‘joined’ the meeting via technology a couple of times, but it just isn’t as satisfying. I think the key is to find people you’d want to hang around regardless of the writing.”

The most interesting thing for me in this comment is that I do something quite similar with my Best Friend in a virtual world she’s built—sharing, hanging out, talking things over—though, some of our writerly activities spill over into email… ( We’ve never met in “real life” but certainly know each other quite well from the 8 years we’ve been getting together in virtual reality :-)

I do hope our commenter can find a group in her new location that’s just as valuable and fun; or, amp-up the technological meetings—perhaps by creating a virtual world to meet in


Does our first comment spark any responses you’d be willing to share at the end of this post?


The second reader who shared is a writer, poet and artist from Belgium who’s also an admin in a writing community I’ve just barely begun to hang out in:

“I’m in an online community. I joined an online group in September last year, shortly after finishing my first short story. That group evolved into another group, and then we evolved again, into the group we are now.

“In a short time, I’ve grown a lot. I’ve learned a lot. And I honestly don’t think I’d have accomplished that on my own. We push each other onwards and upwards. Share craft, reading tips, experiences, knowledge gained. We help each other brainstorm and revise. We cheer for every submission made and commiserate with every rejection.

“Spending time with other creative minds acts as a catalyst for my own creative mind, and I couldn’t imagine my life without the INKlings in it, to be honest.”


Have you been in an online writers’ group? Care to share about it at the end of the post?


Our third reader comment is from a self-publishing writer in the United Kingdom who’s been a rather regular commenter here:

“I think the writing group I joined since I started publishing has sort of evolved. The lead writer has written a number of books and publishes with Feedaread. That group meets in her house and we read whatever we are working on at the time and accept criticism. However we are also friends and meet outside the regular sessions and organise marketing opportunities like stalls at craft fairs and participate in book shows. We have also produced two anthologies.

“We also met for a workshop/group where one of our number gave us a writing exercise and homework but unfortunately this is no longer operating due to illness.

“The first group has had a number of successes but the greatest success is the social and supportive element. Once one leaves work it is not always easy to find like minded companions.”

I’ll guess that the “leaves work” part of that comment means a day job; but, her group is extremely well-rounded when it comes to a variety of writerly activities :-)


Have you been in such an active writers’ group? Want to share your experiences?



Three comments from writers who treasure the social and friendship qualities of their groups…

It appears they may have avoided the “hidden dangers” of writing groups…

And, if you’re thinking of forming a group, I’ll just list the bullet points from that article on potential challenges for writers’ groups:

1. No one tells the truth and no one really wants to hear it.

2. Struggling writers are not often the best judges of struggling writing.

3. Failure is not an option in a writer’s group, but failure is a part of the writing process.

Are you in a writers’ group…?

What do you most enjoy about your group…?

Or, do you think you need to join a writers’ group…?

Or, are you sure a writers’ group would never fit your needs…?

Have you formed or are you about to form a group…?

What do you think is most important for a successful writers’ group…?

All it takes is one reader comment to continue this conversation :-)
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
OR >>> Send me a free Voice Message

How Re-Establishing My Identity as a “Capital ‘R’” Reader Changed My Classroom by Malia Oshiro

Today’s re-blog is a fascinating story from a teacher; but, it shouldn’t be very hard to translate the wisdom she finds into vital awareness for writers :-)

Nerdy Book Club

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bookworm. I never left the house without a book. As a child, I distinctly remember throwing a temper tantrum of epic proportions—flailing on the ground, stomping my feet, crying hysterically to the point of hyperventilation. The cause? I didn’t think I had enough chapter books to entertain me during a family dinner at a local restaurant.

Over time, that identity shifted. I trudged through the mandatory reading lists in my Honors and Advanced Placement classes, rarely finding time between extracurricular activities to read for “me.” In the transition to college, I lacked that simple spark of joy when I held a book that I had selected for myself to immerse myself in. I entered college as a business and marketing major and left with a teaching degree and a job in a high school English classroom. I imagined that I…

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