May 10, 2013

Belonging to a Writing Group by Sharon Espeseth



In one of her recent Fellowscript columns, Glynis Belec mentioned that we all have a need to know our work is read, received, and respected. Where could you better have this longing met than in a writing group?

I am a founding member of the Women Word Weavers in Barrhead that started about 25 and 30 years ago. In our case, we are now a group of 12 to 15 women, with average attendance of about 8 to 10. Some of us started getting together when our kids were small. Over the years, we have individually weathered many of life's high and lows: divorce, depression, death of a spouse, job changes, midlife crisis, grandparenting, achievements, rejection, publication . . . Well, you get the idea, and we have supported each other through all of this.

Not only writing colleagues, but friends, we look forward to getting together once a month. If we need help with our writing in between, we meet face to face, e-mail or phone one another. We try to keep our whole operation simple--no membership fees, no budget, and no slate of officers. Instead of having one chair person plan all the meetings, we take turns preparing and chairing the meetings, although we give newcomers a break at first. We also take turns bringing a basic snack, nothing fancy. A cup of tea or coffee and a cracker is nice, but secondary to our writing agenda.

A fancier lunch for an overnight retreat at Audrey's house
For several years we met at Carol Stewart's basement. And it was Carol who was our initial connection with InScribe or ICWF. When Carol was no longer able to host, we held the meetings in my basement. Last year when our son moved home, we took turns meeting in other member's homes for a while. Then Shirley Williams, another InScriber, asked permission for us to meet in the fireside room of the church she attends.

The chair person for each meeting prepares prompts for free writing, warm-up writing exercises, focussed writing, sharing any of the day's writing, sharing and critiquing writing from home, business ideas and brags. Yes, we encourage you to tell us of your stresses, but also of your successes. At our last meeting, we celebrated Susanne's acceptance for having a poetry chap book published by her publisher of choice. Yeah!

We invite each writer to bring a piece of writing to share. Critique can be a harsh word and may sound scary. Really, we tell the reader what we like about the piece, what we'd like to hear more of, or we may mention a suitable market. If the reader tells us this is a first draft, we listen and make general comments. If the person has done two or three drafts of her piece and is asking for more serious critique, we offer more precise observations. For detailed editorial comment, we suggest the reader bring enough copies so each listener can follow along.

For a year and a half, I've been Satellite Group Liaison for ICWF. InScribers refer to these groups as Satellite Groups, InSpiration Groups, or Critique Groups. Then each groups makes their own name for their group. Members ask me if I know of anyone writing in the area where they live. Non-members discover our groups at inscribe.org, and send queries. For me, it is rewarding to connect people who are looking for writing comrades. Through InScribe, however, they are pleased to find other writers who have the same faith. Whether one writes Christian or secular material, it is good to connect with others who have a similar world view.

Through our groups, we are encouraging, supporting, and honouring other writers who feel passionate about writing and who believe they need to use their talents to honour the One who gifted them in this way. I am pleased to say we are getting two Satellite Groups started in Edmonton, a second one started in Calgary (south), and more recently a new group in Whitecourt will be starting in June.

Congratulations, thanks, and blessings to the people taking the initiative to begin a group in their area.


6 comments:

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

Sharon,

What a wonderful insight on the way your long-time writer's group looks, feels and functions.

And, in my view, what a great prototype or model for setting up new groups.

No doubt the ideas you've shared with spark imaginations everywhere... not only for individuals longing to start new groups in their regions, but for current groups who may be looking for insights to enhance their own groups.

Sharon, you have been a real blessing to us in your role as InScribe's Satellite Group Liaison. Thank YOU for giving your time, energy and heart to this important aspect of InScribe's overall reason for being: to connect Christian writers to other writers and make the way easier for all.

For as Denise Rumble (The Word Guild) is known to say, 'We're all in this together.'



Precious moments said...

Thank you Sharon for sharing about your writers' group. I started one here three years back and the group consists mostly of wanna-be writers who don't write much to share at the meetings.
I'd like to share your posting at our next meeting with our gals so that they'll get an idea what happens at a well organized writer's group. Can I have your permission to do that?
Thanks

Tracy Krauss said...

These kind of groups are such a blessing! I don't get to the group near me often enough because it is two hours away. But I make it when I can and I'm always blessed.

T. L. Wiens said...

You are so right about the value of a good writers group. Even though my local group isn't a Christian group, I find their input so helpful. (it's nice having a non-Christian viewpoint.)His Imprint is my Christian group. Although the critique is not as in depth, it's nice to get together and be able to share my passion with other people.

Sharon Espeseth said...

Thank you for your comments, my writing friends. Yes, Brenda, we certainly are all in this together. Stirring the pot, as I call it, and getting writers together where I can is the rewarding part of my job as Liaison for our groups.

About half of our writers live in or close to Barrhead. Some of them drive about a half hour to 3/4 of an hour, so we are fortunate. One gal visits us occasionally from Edmonton. Good for you on your commitment to drive two hours to be with your group whenever you can.

Tammy, we find that if we bring a copy for each person to follow, we get a more in-depth critique. Our group is open to people whether they profess to be Christian or not, but it is a place where our views are respected and people are open to writing about faith.

One of the commentors asked permission to use our ideas on conducting meetings. Yes, most certainly.

Sharon Espeseth said...

Precious moments,
Your comment had disappeared, so I couldn't remember exactlywhat you had said. I also have available a Satellites Group Package, which we send out to InScribe members who would like to see this. If you are an InScriber, contact me through the Satellite Groups page on this website.

When some of our writers shared the piece they brought to yesterday's meeting, we were able to come up with suitable markets for their writings. Some who had previously not shown an interest in publishing are now seeing that they do have something to share with the public.