I attended my first meeting of an honest-to-goodness, real, live writers group yesterday — the Writers Club of Pasadena (Texas). Oh, I’ve participated in online writing/critique groups for more than ten years; I’ve been a member of Writing Well, where I’m one of three moderators, for the past eight years. But — as you know, I’m sure — there’s not much safer than sitting in your pajamas and critiquing someone’s chapter, or participating in debates over this and that, or adding your special touch to a goofy Round Robin.
I’m a firm believer in the strength of writing groups. No doubt, they help you hone your craft, nurture belief in what you can truly accomplish and, paramount to those attributes, they help you grow a thicker skin.
Essentials for publishing success, every one.
But, recently, my publisher suggested I branch out, get up close and personal with other writers, network, venture away from my comfort zone — my “shy self.”
Oh, the hand-wringing did commence! This is not something I’m good at. In fact, in high school American history class I was voted “most introvert.”
Not exactly something to put on a resume.
As years went by, I came out of my shell. Sort of. It helped to marry a man who knows no strangers.
But, back to yesterday. . .
The meeting was held in the conference room of the Chamber of Commerce, and there were less than twenty members in attendance. Any more than that, and I probably would have fled.
Maybe they knew this?
Members ranged in ages from (I’m guessing) mid-forties to, oh my gosh, eighty-ish? One couple, both accomplished writers, had been married sixty-seven years. I was nervous, and felt pretty much like the new kid in school, who has to stand up in front of the class, say her name and tell the group a little about herself. Or, in this case, about my writing.
I stumbled through it, and managed to remember my name and the title of my novel.
The other writers were so welcoming. One by one, members took the floor and either read something they’d recently written or published, or read something they’d found amusing or stirring written by someone else. A few moments of discussion followed each and occasionally, applause. A bit of verbal sparring went on. But it was done with heart and humor. Cordial and healthy.
The meeting was nice; no, fabulous. The participants real. And I felt like I belonged.
There were handouts distributed on upcoming contests and choosing a good critique group, blueprinting a novel, dialogue regarding their October conference (which I hope to advertise on my website soon). Then, refreshments and discussion of an upcoming banquet.
The group had its inception forty years ago and commemorated the milestone in 2006 with the publication of a book of individual written works titled Writings: A Literature of Our Time. Forty years! They must be doing something right. LOL, or write. As the meeting wound down, they presented me a signed copy of their book. Which I read, in awe, last evening. It was an excellent way to get to know the writers I met yesterday.
BTW, I committed myself to returning by paying my annual dues.
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Take care of yourselves, keep reading and writing. If you haven’t already found your critique group, do some exploring. You might be pleasantly surprised, as I was.
Until next time. . .Sharon