Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: literary community

Even More Conversation about Writers’ Groups . . .


Writers' Groups This discussion began on November 14th, and continued on Nov. 16th, and 19th

We’ve covered quite a bit of ground in those past posts…

And, there’s quite a bit more to cover today.

Our first commenter is from the U.S.A. and is a former journalist and award-winning author who I’ve spent time with in a virtual world:

“I’ve belonged to many writer groups in the past and my experience has been varied. Some have turned out to be ego clubs existing only to tell each other how wonderful our work is. Those are my least favorite. Some have turned out to be ridiculously critical to the point where arguing about specific details kills the creative aspect and the group consensus is that everything is always terrible. I like those better, but not by much. I’ve gone to writer groups that get very complicated with emails going back and forth and critique schedules. Those are good for me but they take a commitment.

“Now I have an informal writers group. I join associations in my genre (my favorite to date is Horror Writers Association) and we organically team up to critique, review and support each other. Once a year we meet up face to face at Stokercon where old friendships are renewed, new friendships forged, and a whole lot of honing our craft happens. My writers group has taken the monchu path, as in they are people I choose because we inspire and edify each other.”

This first comment reminds me of two links from past posts in this series, about elements of a successful writers’ group and hidden dangers of writers’ groups…

Two things that stand out for me in this comment are the “organic” nature of her current writers’ group, which I take as meaning they naturally and easily formed the group; and, the fact that they inspire and edify each other…

The next comment is from a regular contributor, an accomplished author from Australia, and is directed at the last commenter they were both in the virtual world I mentioned… ) :-)

“I have often tried to get my writers’ group to meet in a virtual world, mainly when a member may have been too ill to travel… But, it has never come about. The folks in my group often travelled very long distances to keep up and attend the group. I have always thought that a virtual meeting may be the solution.”

Would that our Australian friend could accomplish that goal; but, I’ve talked to her about this and some of her fellow group members seem quite resistant to stepping into a new environment; yet, being in a virtual world certainly opens up the geographical distance that a writers’ group can span…

Our final commenter is from Denmark and is an author, poet, editor, photographer, and blogger who happens to be one of the admins in an online group that I recently joined. Her first sentence refers to a statement from a past post: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’“:

“Your point about intentions is so true. My group asks for your goals with the piece and for the type of feedback you’re looking for at the time. While sometimes we might stray from that in what we give, it does help us focus our feedback and moderate it.

“When looking for peer review, it helps to have multiple members at a similar skill and goal level to yours, however, we’re not always good at assessing that ourselves. Some people underestimate their skills and others are blind to their own flaws.

“I’ve been in several groups in the past and my initial critique experience comes from college. I made my first professional sale yesterday and I owe it to my online writing family. They’ve glued me back together when I’ve gone to pieces and pushed me to improve my writing and editing skills constantly. They challenge what I think I know about writing and bring out the best in my work.

“I think writing group choice is often very personal and depends on your needs and expectations. An always-someone-there online group works well for me. I can stick my nose in when I need a break, a kick in the rear, a hug, or a brainstorm buddy. Helping others brainstorm can help me get excited about a story of my own or kick off a new idea for a story or exercise.”

Congratulations to her for that first sale; and, appreciation for such an instructive comment to wrap-up this portion of our discussion… However, I must do a pull-quote about what a writers’ group can do:

“They’ve glued me back together when I’ve gone to pieces and pushed me to improve my writing and editing skills constantly. They challenge what I think I know about writing and bring out the best in my work.”

So

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 :-)
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If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
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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
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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

So

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?

And

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

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

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

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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.”

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

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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 :-)

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

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So

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

#MainStreetWriters ~ Moving Forward


I started promoting Main Street Writers Movement on the 12th of February with a re-blog by Roz Morris, where she said the Movement is, “…a campaign that aims to represent the work of literary writers, small presses, independent bookshops and anyone who struggles to be heard or find their audiences.” Main Street Writers Movement

The next day, I did a full-on post about Main Street Writers Movement and I urge all the following folks to go to that last link and find out what’s going on:

“Writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, editors, publicists, agents, and anyone who wants to participate in the literary conversation.”

Since then, there’s been a post on their site from author Kate Ristau about Building Writer Relationships, which I’ll do a bit of excerpting from:

“Writing is lonely. For many of us introverts, spending the day by ourselves, sitting at a computer, maybe not even taking a shower, is . . . awesome! Am I right?”

“But occasionally, even I want to get out of my shell – to peek my head out and see what’s on the other side of my computer. And sometimes, I need more support than my dog.”

“…how do you build your own writing community? How do you find other writers and hang out with them in a not-weird way?”

She then goes on to list four ways to engage in Community…

And, if you go to their Pledge page, you’ll find this line of reasoning for forming Community:

“These are scary and uncertain times, but we must continue to use our voices and to listen to our neighbors’ words….The Main Street Writers Movement urges experienced writers to strengthen the national literary ecosystem through passionate engagement at the local level. Let’s honor and amplify our communities’ underrepresented voices. Let’s buy from local bookstores and small presses. Let’s leave our houses and dance in the streets to the sound of each other’s words.”

Plus, a few days ago, I received the first Main Street Writers Movement Newsletter, which had valuable information from a literary agent, a sharing from Laura Stanfill (Founder of the Movement), and this rousing statement:

“If you’ve been waiting for years for someone to give you permission to join the parade instead of waving your flag from the sidewalk, here’s your letter of recommendation, your megaphone, or (if you’re a pessimist) your umbrella. It’s time to get off the sidewalk. Let’s go. Let’s do this together.”

If I’ve piqued your interest in the Main Street Writers Movement, do check out my full post with all the details

I should also link to the hashtag you can follow on Twitter — #mainstreetwriters  and, if you’re in the USA, check out this site for getting in touch with folks in your neighborhood — NextDoor

Though, I truly hope folks from places other than the USA will leave a few comments on engaging in Literary Community in their own countries…

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Write A House ~ Quite A Deal


Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own.

Write A House

Image courtesy of Loretta Humble ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/lhumble

What if you could write the story, A Home of One’s Own?

What if, instead of writing it, you could live-out that story?

There is that possibility

Some writers and urban activists in the city of Detroit, Michigan (USA) founded an organization in 2012 with one goal: use vocational training to renovate vacant homes and then give these homes to writers.

They’re called Write A House (WAH).

And, they don’t intend that their program be only for USA residents

They say this about their mission:

“Our key tactic involves leveraging the easy availability of distressed housing in order to promote vocational education, home ownership, neighborhood stabilization, and creative arts.”

Their Goal:

“WAH seeks to (1) educate youth on carpentry and building skills (2) use those skills to renovate Detroit city homes and (3) award those homes to writers. Like any literary community, writers will be awarded based on their writing and their desire to be here. WAH seeks to support low-income writers by awarding at least three homes each year. We will also publish a journal of arts and creative non-fiction to document the process, work to determine a sustainable and green approach to home renovation, and connect writers to support a more vibrant literary community in Detroit. Our long, long term goal involves building a literary colony in Detroit, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

So, basically, if you’re accepted for the residency program, you live in the house for two years (it will be “80% habitable”), finish the remaining 20% habitability and pay the insurance and property tax; then, you get the deed.

There are a few other writerly stipulations and you can check out the Whole Deal and Apply Here.

And, even if you don’t want to be a writer in Detroit, you can still DONATE Here.

One last statement from the organization:

“Through vocational training, we are giving kids job skills that will provide them with a self-sustaining future. Through home renovation, we are creating more stable and positive neighborhoods. Through our support of writers, we are creating a more vibrant literary arts scene in Detroit. And we’re giving writers homes.”

VIDEO, PLEASE :-)


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