My friend Suzy Vitello (whose new book The Moment Before is AWESOME) is in, what I think may be in the dream writing group for many of us. There, she works with Chuck Palahniuk, Cheryl Strayed, and several other incredible writers. I think it’s okay to be jealous.
Most of us as writers crave community – even as we cultivate isolation. We need the solitude to get the words down, but then we really long for the chance to have someone we trust read our works and affirm us or critique us or simply walk beside us and say, “I get it.” or “I see what you were doing in this paragraph.”
Perhaps the question I am asked most about writing is “How do I find a workshop group?” and I wish I had the perfect answer. The truth is that it’s hard – at least hard to find a group that you mesh with well, where everyone trusts each other, where people feel supported but also feel comfortable to critique the work honestly.
I’d like to find such a workshop myself.
For some of us, these groups come through our education. My first readers, for the most part, are people I know from school – from Messiah and Antioch. Somehow, we have managed to not only stay in touch over the decades but also to cultivate relationships that allow us to read each other’s work critically and with compassion.
I have other first readers who I’ve met online – people whose work and regular interaction with me tell me I can trust them with these precious, frail things . . . and with the way my ego is attached to them.
Still, I’d love to have a weekly workshop group, like Suzy’s. And this summer, I’m going to try to build on here in the farmhouse at the edge of the Blue Ridge. (Local writers, let me know if you’re interested.)
For those of you looking for groups, I have a few suggestions:
1. Check out your local library. Often, libraries have regular writing groups that gather to swap work, and because these groups operate out of the library, they are often open to taking new members.
2. Watch the bulletin boards. When you stop by your local coffee house to get your vanilla steamer, peruse the bulletin board while your milk froths. Often, writers will put up workshop notices in those places.
3. Take a weekend workshop with a writer you admire. Try out workshop with the writers you know and then see if you might connect with some of the people there for a longer-term event. (Laraine Herring‘s workshop changed my life.)
4. Look online. Many folks are part of online writer’s groups. While they are not for everyone because they don’t include the face-to-face interaction, they do work for many. (In fact, I run an online writer’s group, if you’re interested. )
5. Start one yourself. Invite local writers to join you at your house or a coffee shop. Come prepared with a process that you’d like to suggest for exchanging work and critiquing it. (Stay tuned here next week for some tips on running a writing workshop). And then, get going.
If there is one thing that has kept me writing it’s other writers. They encourage me and hold me true to myself and my intention. They commiserate and let me vent. Without them, I’m sure I would have quit this work long, long ago.
So find your group, somewhere. And love ’em hard.
Where have you found writing workshops or writing discussion groups? What advice do you have for others looking for a group?
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