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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Evolution of Writing Groups

Most people, I think, realize that writing is a lonely business if you don't have some kind of support group, a magical few people who either read your writing willingly or understand what you're going through because they're writers, too — or, in the best of all possible worlds, both. When the support group does both those things, they're called a writing or critique group.

When I first decided to take fiction writing seriously, back when I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts (sigh!) (I'm not quite back there, but I'm within commuting distance), the first thing I did was dig through my files to see what I had. The close second was to look at Meetup.com and find out whether there were any writers in the area willing to meet.

Of course, now there are plenty of groups to choose from all over New England, and they fill up and get waiting lists. Only five years ago, it was a different scene all together. I had to try running my own Meetup, and it was disastrous. The most I ever got was one other attendee. I didn't know exactly how it should work, so I have to give myself a break on that. How painful to wait in some café and feel like a sore thumb with a Meetup sign, only to be joined by someone who confrontationally wanted me to have a better handle on what the heck I was trying to do. (That was the worst time. The other times I tried were more low-key and vaguely disappointing.)

Then, the moving saga began. I married my husband in September, and in late December, we left Massachusetts during a snowstorm for the middle of nowhere northeastern Pennsylvania. It was so cold, overnight all the tires on our tow trailer deflated. And it got colder and more desolate from there.

I'm sure Pennsylvania is wonderful. Indeed, I love Philadelphia and the beauties of the mountains. But I was trapped in a mountain home, in utter isolation, with no possibility of even the half-hearted attempts at Meetups from before. I would write it off as eleven months of nothing, except that I was in PA when I began getting published in literary magazines and when I began this blog. Reaching out through cyberspace!

And then, Kismet. We moved, against our wishes, to Arizona, but I was determined to build or join a community. That place is chockablock with writers of every age and ilk! I started through Meetup again, and met the founder of Fireship Press, which led to my editing career. Then, another writers Meetup was such a behemoth that smaller groups began splintering off, and that's where I found the critique group I still Skype into today. You know it's working when people willingly add technology into the mix. The group has been a tremendous comfort to me through too many moves and oodles of rejections. What a relief!

Tune in on Wednesday, March 12, for the continuing saga of the writing group!