Our super-clever writers group formula

There is going to be a big snow storm tonight, and so that means our writers group is meeting again. That’s just what happens. But who cares about the weather outside when inside a cozy, art-filled room there are writers inspiring each other? This is a writers group that grew from a David Festival writers workshop. My church, New Song, an artsy place of its own accord, offered to host and nuture the group.

The rest is writers group history.

Together, we brainstormed what our group might look like. We have created a rhythm to our gatherings that might be helpful to another fledgling group.

Here it is: First, we chose a book on writing, Bird by Bird by our beloved Anne Lamott, (well, beloved to most of us in the group, we’re not unanimous in our applause for this book, interestingly).

We read it between meetings and discuss two or three chapters each time we gather. That’s how we start off our meeting. What did we like about the chapter? What did we learn? What will we bring into our own writing?

Next, we have a time to learn from each other. Each meeting someone has volunteered ahead of time to come prepared to mentor the rest of us in a skill or trick of the trade. This democracy of learning is excellent in a group made up of published professionals along with writers taking their first steps forward.

We’ve been challenged in our adjectives (liven them up people!); the punishing length of our sentences; and received writing challenges like describing a young man walking his grandmother up a flight of stairs. I’m a veteran writer. But not of fiction. As I read my feeble little story out loud (note: even though I really, really didn’t want to and contemplated faking being sick so I could leave), I experienced that writers group vulnerability where you are waiting for people to double over laughing at you, but they give a polite little round of applause instead. That’s what writers groups are for!

Finally, we end our meeting reading bits of works in progress out loud. (To each other. In the room. Out loud.) Tough for everybody. Good for everybody.

If the reader wishes, we offer nurturing feedback. And that’s it. We’re in and out in two hours, sometimes less. We alternate nights, Tuesday one month, Wednesday the next, in order to catch as many people as we can. We’ve created a Facebook group page where we post interesting writing articles or blogs and such we wish to share. And that’s it. If you’re thinking about a writers group, you may plagiarize ours. Truly!

1 Comment

  1. Awesome article Karen (as always). Thanks to you especially and everyone else participating who have made the group such a wonderful place for people to learn and grow in their writing skills, no matter what age or stage of writing we’re at. I’ve felt so welcomed and encouraged participating in the group. I think the greatest part for me is the fact that it motivates and reminds me to write more, no matter how imperfect or unprofessional my writing might be.

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