I tried a face-to-face writing group once. It consisted of a couple of very talented poets, an aspiring journalist, and a nice lady who was working on a family cookbook. All lovely people, but none of them seeking publication for their book. No one who could give me really helpful feedback on my YA novel. So I quit that group and stuck with my online critique circle. And for awhile that was enough.
But since my return to writing, I found myself wanting more. Maybe I needed a little extra encouragement, since my skills had deteriorated over the break. Maybe I just wanted some adult conversation. Regardless, I decided to find an SCBWI group that met in my area and I went to a meeting.
Oh. My. Gosh.
Kidlit authors. Seeking publication. Reading their stuff and giving feedback. Sharing snacks. I was ET and the mother ship had landed. That first night, I didn’t share any of my work, but I listened to chapters from MG and YA books in various stages of completion—paranormal, historical fiction, humorous contemporary, sci-fi. A couple of really awesome and publishable picture books. I listened to feedback and shared some of my own. The moderator read a snippet from a book on writing and organization, and we talked about scheduling our writing time—how we struggle, what works, what doesn’t. After two hours, I left feeling completely rejuvenated. My writing cup overfloweth. I can’t believe I have to wait a month to go back.
Why so rabid, you wonder? It’s because this is what happens when you write alone:
No, seriously, here’s the deal. I’m a shy person. I don’t like meeting new people. I’m usually in my pajamas by 7:30 and would much prefer an evening in to socializing after the kids go to bed. But I already know that stepping outside of my comfort zone one night a month with this group is going to make me a better writer. They’re people I can talk to about all things kidlit, people I can get together with because they don’t live a gajillion miles away (Ange, you know you’re the Rocky to my Road. You’ll always be top shelf in my freezer no matter how far away you are). And let’s be honest: they’re contacts. I’m networking here and I didn’t have to shell out a registration fee or drive five hours to do it.
Clearly, writing groups aren’t for everyone. No time, no sitter, no group in your area—those are real reasons, and I feel your pain. But…if you haven’t attended a face-to-face group because you think it isn’t worth the time or energy, or you just don’t know where to look, here’s my challenge for you. Go to the SCBWI website (click on Regions, then Regional Chapters. Choose your region and click on the official website on the right-hand side to find groups in your area). See if any groups meet near you and go to one meeting. It may not work for some of you, but I’m betting that for most, it will rock your world. Then email me and tell me about your experience. Good or bad, I really, really, REALLY want to hear from you.
Anyone out there already in a group that you can’t live without? What do you do at your meetings and what’s so great about your group?