New Eyes

IMG_0460I’ve joined a new writing group.

Or, rather, I was invited to join an established writing group, and I said yes.

I first met Kevin back east, at our Yale Conference.  In 2012.  If I’m not mistaken, we met at breakfast in the Calhoun dining hall and discovered, over scrambled eggs and bacon and cereal and fruit and bagels and sugar-filled-coffee and oatmeal (we writers can eat).  Kevin and I met again at this year’s conference, and he sent me an email when we got back asking if I’d like to join his (long established) writing group.

I have all  the women, bloggers many, I met on-line.  I have my Yale group, women I meet with periodically via Skype (as most are in NYC).  But I haven’t been part of an in-person writing group in too-many years.  There is something to be said for a group that meets every 2 weeks:  you have to show up with something, and you have to be ready to contribute.

Today I met with my new group.

And, because one member had an appointment to get to, I went first.  (yikes!)  I read 7 pages, out loud, and listened to their responses, took notes, talked about what I’m trying to do, asked for more input.

After 4 and 1/2 hours with these new people, I drove home in rush-hour traffic, stop and go, knowing I’d been at work all afternoon with smart, thoughtful people.  New eyes on my work.  My eyes on theirs.

Are you in a writing group?  Tell me about it.


14 thoughts on “New Eyes

  1. girl in the hat

    I just got home from my writing group. They’ve been writing together for years but I joined them a couple months ago. It is not a perfect match but it’s better than nothing. There’s this dance you do when you first join a group, trying to figure out how honest you can be, how blunt and what language they speak, what each individual wants and how to reconcile that with what they need. There’s one guy who doesn’t like memoir and who really doesn’t get what I’m trying to do (since they all write nonfiction, I decided to only submit my memoir stuff, none of my fiction) and I’m trying to learn how to ignore most of what he says and focus only on the parts that might be helpful. How to listen with an ear that is wide open but screened for protection? I dream of a writers group where there is sincere mutual respect, admiration, and feedback. I hope you get that.

    1. Teri

      I was worried, like we writers always are, about joining an existing group. They already have their dance and you just hope to show up wearing shoes you can dance in. I was pretty blunt with my feedback —- hope I didn’t step on any toes.

      Lordy. I’ll stop now with the dancing analogies.

      I woke up this morning with very clear ideas on how to rewrite a specific section, and also how to open a certain problem chapter, so it was well worth it.

    1. Teri

      You still have us! And I’m bound to show up in your kitchen at least once a year so we can fix all the world’s problems along with our manuscripts.

  2. jpon

    I’m pretty much in the same boat as Anna. In this rather non-literary area it’s extremely tough to find a group of writers who are interested in the same kinds of literature, let alone who are at the same level. My current group is a genre focused conclave (yeah that’s right, sf, horror, fantasy). I write literary. I’m the only MFA. They hate my stories. I fall asleep reading theirs. Yet we occasionally have great, in-depth conversations about craft, because at the heart of the writing genre is not that much different from literary. And they are really fun people, so at worst the meetings are a fun night out every two weeks. I do know it’s not helping my writing, though, and I’m always on the lookout for writers with a literary focus.

    Glad to hear you found such a group.

    1. Teri

      From the time we moved here, one of the great benefits has been exposure to writers —- the famous ones who stream through (weekly, it seems) to give readings and talks on craft, and lots of writers-trying-to-write like me. Yesterday was a fine first meeting, and like you say here, Joe, we had some in-depth conversation about craft.

      Sometimes I think the best thing about reading other people’s work and commenting is how it helps me see my own work more critically as well.

  3. Averil Dean

    I have never been in a writing group. I’m drawn to the idea, but I’m not sure I’d have the patience to deal with a bad one or the fortitude to handle a good one. The only group that tempts me is Suzy’s—because, OMG—but they’re both full-up and terrifyingly good. I think I’m better muddling along on my own.

    1. Teri

      It was interesting to have complete strangers read and comment on my work, particularly since it’s memoir. They don’t know me, or my family, or one little peep about my background. They only had me sitting there with a story in my hands, so it was very clear to them what was missing and where I wasn’t making connections. It was so, so helpful.

      I always try to imagine Suzy’s group back in the day, 2 decades ago, or even a decade ago, when they were all just writing their stories and trying to figure things out, and then how much fun it must have been when the literary sparks started to fly!!

  4. Josey

    i don’t know what’s better, the fact that you found one, or that you got INVITED to join it. both are pretty great. i would love a group, but feel it’s one of those things that will find me when i’m ready for it. i’ve had too many meh writing-group-experiences to go searching for one. it’s something i’m going to leave to the universe.

    besides, i already have us, so that will do for now.

    1. Teri

      I wasn’t looking for a writing group — as you say, I have you guys! — but there is something to be said for knowing I need to show up every 2 weeks. It adds urgency to the project, for now at least.

      And though there is another woman in the group, she was not there for my first day, and it was very interesting to get male feedback on my very female-based memoir. So helpful.

  5. sherrystanfastanley

    I have searched but have never found a local writing group that worked for me. Recently, I’ve had two writer friends whom I’ve met online or at conferences move here, only 20 minutes away. I haven’t approached them yet about forming a group, but I’m toying with the idea. This post may give me that nudge…

    So happy you’ve found another audience for your wonderful writing!

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