LOOKING FOR A writing group is much like Goldilocks in the house of the three bears trying out their chairs — it takes a while to find a fit that’s just right. Finding that right fit is made even harder when you move to a small town.
I used to live in a moderately sized city with about dozen different writing groups to choose from. And while it took me some time, I found one that suited me. We discussed the writing industry, publishing options (traditional vs. independents), shared marketing tips, contest information, and upcoming events (such as conventions and conferences). And, oh yeah, we even critiqued each other’s works, but that was usually done via email, so rarely became the focus of the twice-a-month meetings.
I have now moved to a much smaller town, and was lucky to find two writing groups listed at the local library. I went to the meeting of Group A, but they were too hard. If you hadn’t read the classics, studied creative writing or English Lit, and had (at a minimum) a bachelor’s degree in same, you were made to feel very small and unwelcome. Since I studied journalism and left school three credits short of a degree, I felt their condescension. And although I let them know that I had seven published books, they remained disdainful.
Despite that experience, I decided to try Group B. But they turned out to be too soft. The moment I walked in, I knew it wasn’t a fit. Everyone there was at least 20 to 25 years older than me. (While it made me feel young, I am considered by society to be a senior citizen.) And lest you think I’m judging them on age, my heart didn’t sink until I tried speaking with several of them about something I had read in a blog. Blank stares and confusion were my response. They were unfamiliar with blogs, could barely navigate a word processing program or their email, and had no concept what I was referring to.
They had started the group because they had finally realized their own mortality and thought that their life should have meaning. Therefore, although they had never written anything beyond a grocery list, they wanted to write and publish their memoirs in the hopes that someone would remember each of them. And while, I have no issue with that, it wasn’t the type of group I was looking for. They were there to critique each other’s works and that was all.
For three hours they chided individuals on their use of commas and clauses. They also banned the use of the word ‘that.’ (I have no idea why they disliked the poor word so, but every occurrence was stricken from the hard copies they all referred to — no computers here — with a notation that it should henceforth never show its face again.)
Discouraged, but not quite ready to give up, I checked around the other small towns in my area. However, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I wanted something similar to what I had left behind — the camaraderie and intellectual exchanges regarding writing, blogging, and publishing. I wanted the support and understanding that only other authors trying to sell their books can give, primarily because they appreciate the perils, horrors, and pitfalls of marketing when you’re an introvert.
But it seems that when you move to a small town, you have to make sacrifices. For me, that sacrifice is my writing group. Therefore, I sought out the type of writing group and interactions that I craved via the Internet. Luckily, I managed to find like-minded writers, willing to share tips, ideas, and critiques. They also give me the support and understanding that I need to continue my writing career. For me, my Internet writing group is just right.