My Writer’s Group

Every author I know belongs to some kind of writer’s group. I love mine.

It took me three tries to find the group that was right for me. The first group I joined was mixed – some people writing for adults and a few writing for kids. That didn’t work for me. The second group was all people writing for kids, but there was some personality conflicts so I quit that one, too. The third time was the charm.

The group I joined had been in existence for a few years before I came along. We all write for kids and teenagers. Over the years some members have moved away and new members have been invited to join. The current size – 10 members – seems to be perfect.

Image hosted by TinyPic.com Here are some of us. Here is the link to their websites.

We meet once a month at the public library. Because life sometimes gets in the way, we usually have 8 or so present. Our meetings run from 9:30-12:30, usually. Then those of us who can hang around go out to lunch together. We rotate the position of “group leader”. (Nobody like doing it much.) The group leader checks in with the others ahead of time to get a head count, and arrives at the library first. She passes an agenda sheet. On the sheet we each write down if we’ve brought something to read, and/or if we’d like to talk to the group about a writing or publishing issue.

We do not pass out manuscripts ahead of time. You bring enough copies of whatever you want to share so that each person gets a copy to mark up. (The page limit is 10 pages. Picture book writers bring an entire manuscript, poets bring a handful of poems, novelists will bring a chapter.) Once the copies have been distributed, the author reads her work out loud. If there is a specific type of commentary she’s looking for, she’ll mention that. (For example, the author might just be testing a new voice, or she’s struggling with some dialog, or she’s ready to submit the mss. and wants us to go over it with a fine tooth comb.) When she’s done reading, we take a few quiet minutes to write notes, then we go around the table and say what we think.

Our comments tend to fall in one of two categories: positive feedback, and places in the manuscript where we were confused, or where the quality of the writing doesn’t seem as high. Sometimes we can get lively debates going, when two readers have vastly different opinions of something. The author might ask questions of the critiquers, but we try not to “defend” our work. If you are busy defending what you’ve written, you can’t hear what people are saying. The group leader keeps an eye on the clock so everyone’s manuscript gets the same amount of time and attention.

I’ve been attending this group for almost ten years. I’ve never heard any unkind or unprofessional comments. We have an incredible atmosphere of trust and respect. If you don’t have that in your writer’s group, I can’t imagine why you’d bother attending. In addition to critiquing manuscripts, we’ve attended conferences together, sometimes spoken on panels together, and we often share books. Sometimes two or three of us will get together outside of group to catch up or read a longer piece. Those of us who write novels never bring the whole thing to group, but usually one or two people will volunteer to read it before it is submitted.

Equally important, or perhaps more important, are the friendships that our group has formed. We’ve been through marriages, divorces, moves, births of children, graduations, deaths, good reviews, bad reviews, no reviews, medical problems, medical triumphs, and yes, the publication of quite a few books. We celebrate together and we cry together. These women are my friends and I’m not sure how I would have gotten through the last decade without them.

One more note. Many members of our group belong to other writer’s groups. Some belong to a total of three, and attend three meetings a month. I don’t do that, but I know it works well for the women who do.

I think that about covers it. Any questions?

42 Replies to “My Writer’s Group”

    1. I’m intrigued – are all the members published? The websites you listed would seem to indicate so. Is this a prerequisite of joining the group, or have you seen each other through the joys of first published book?

      1. Most of us had not been published when we joined. Some of the newer members are already published. For the most part our careers were fledgling when we joined, and so we’ve all stumbled down the paths of publication together.

        1. That’d a lovely way for it to unfold. I have been meeting with the same person for fifteen years now. We started out in a bigger group, but it dwindled and we were lazy about seeking others. I published my first book in 1994, and I am so happy because my friend’s finally cracked it. Her first YA fantasy has been accepted, the contract is signed, and the book will be out next year.

  1. I’m intrigued – are all the members published? The websites you listed would seem to indicate so. Is this a prerequisite of joining the group, or have you seen each other through the joys of first published book?

  2. I’m intrigued – are all the members published? The websites you listed would seem to indicate so. Is this a prerequisite of joining the group, or have you seen each other through the joys of first published book?

  3. Hi Laurie,

    Your group sounds great and includes one of my all-time favorite people–Sally–and her daughter is a peach, too! If you see Sally soon, give her hugs from me!

    I’m in a few groups, none of which meet regularly–one that has been together for several years and we celebrate all kinds of milestones as you said, a new one (that includes Marnie), and an occasional in-person group that does not involve critiquing, just talking about writing-related issues. Thanks for sharing your process.

  4. Hi Laurie,

    Your group sounds great and includes one of my all-time favorite people–Sally–and her daughter is a peach, too! If you see Sally soon, give her hugs from me!

    I’m in a few groups, none of which meet regularly–one that has been together for several years and we celebrate all kinds of milestones as you said, a new one (that includes Marnie), and an occasional in-person group that does not involve critiquing, just talking about writing-related issues. Thanks for sharing your process.

  5. Hi Laurie,

    Your group sounds great and includes one of my all-time favorite people–Sally–and her daughter is a peach, too! If you see Sally soon, give her hugs from me!

    I’m in a few groups, none of which meet regularly–one that has been together for several years and we celebrate all kinds of milestones as you said, a new one (that includes Marnie), and an occasional in-person group that does not involve critiquing, just talking about writing-related issues. Thanks for sharing your process.

  6. Writer’s Group

    Hi Laurie,
    When you were at the river’s end bookstore promoting Prom, your talk intrigued me so much. I stood there amongst many other fans and listened to you talk about the hidden meanings within the book. Your fans all looked like they knew what you were talking about, but I didn’t. So when I read Prom, I had insight into another layer of the book! Your hidden meanings made me realize that there was a whole other facet to reading books, let alone writing. So, I will be joining the Writer’s Group at the river’s end to learn more about this literary use (I think that is the correct term!)I figure the more I know about the writing process, the more meaning reading will have for me. This brings me to my questions: 1-When you started with your PA group, were each of you established as writers? and 2-In your professional:) opinion, would it hinder the group or help the group if one person is not a writer, but a reader? On a personal note, how’s your parents? Are they here in CNY yet? As always, my best, Lori 🙂

  7. Writer’s Group

    Hi Laurie,
    When you were at the river’s end bookstore promoting Prom, your talk intrigued me so much. I stood there amongst many other fans and listened to you talk about the hidden meanings within the book. Your fans all looked like they knew what you were talking about, but I didn’t. So when I read Prom, I had insight into another layer of the book! Your hidden meanings made me realize that there was a whole other facet to reading books, let alone writing. So, I will be joining the Writer’s Group at the river’s end to learn more about this literary use (I think that is the correct term!)I figure the more I know about the writing process, the more meaning reading will have for me. This brings me to my questions: 1-When you started with your PA group, were each of you established as writers? and 2-In your professional:) opinion, would it hinder the group or help the group if one person is not a writer, but a reader? On a personal note, how’s your parents? Are they here in CNY yet? As always, my best, Lori 🙂

    1. Re: Writer’s Group

      Hey there!

      I think your idea of joining the group as a reader is fascinating. I can’t wait to hear what you learn from it. For the purposes of the group I’m in, I think if a “reader” joined, we would want someone who was deeply aware of what was being published in teen or children’s literature, such as a teacher. (See the response above for the details of my group’s publishing history.)

      Mom and Dad are hanging in there – thanks for asking. They’ve both had a good week. We’re still sorting through questions about insurance and housing for them, also some minor legal issues. We don’t yet have a firm move-in date for them, but I hope we’ll have it within a few weeks.

  8. Writer’s Group

    Hi Laurie,
    When you were at the river’s end bookstore promoting Prom, your talk intrigued me so much. I stood there amongst many other fans and listened to you talk about the hidden meanings within the book. Your fans all looked like they knew what you were talking about, but I didn’t. So when I read Prom, I had insight into another layer of the book! Your hidden meanings made me realize that there was a whole other facet to reading books, let alone writing. So, I will be joining the Writer’s Group at the river’s end to learn more about this literary use (I think that is the correct term!)I figure the more I know about the writing process, the more meaning reading will have for me. This brings me to my questions: 1-When you started with your PA group, were each of you established as writers? and 2-In your professional:) opinion, would it hinder the group or help the group if one person is not a writer, but a reader? On a personal note, how’s your parents? Are they here in CNY yet? As always, my best, Lori 🙂

  9. it’s your number one fan from carlsle, pennsylvania!:-)

    Hey Laurie! It’s your number one fan from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Ashley!:-) I was looking at your site and found your journal and just wanted to leave you a comment and say hi!:-) I’m glad you have a live journal!:-) I have one too, if you ever want to check it out! My username is Futurewriter13, just like my e-mail address. If you ever have time, feel free to drop by and leave a comment!:-)
    Well, I’d better go! Write back whenever you have time! Love, Ashley 🙂

  10. it’s your number one fan from carlsle, pennsylvania!:-)

    Hey Laurie! It’s your number one fan from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Ashley!:-) I was looking at your site and found your journal and just wanted to leave you a comment and say hi!:-) I’m glad you have a live journal!:-) I have one too, if you ever want to check it out! My username is Futurewriter13, just like my e-mail address. If you ever have time, feel free to drop by and leave a comment!:-)
    Well, I’d better go! Write back whenever you have time! Love, Ashley 🙂

    1. Re: it’s your number one fan from carlsle, pennsylvania!:-)

      Hey, Ash! Welcome to LJ land. I’m almost through my “real mail” pile and should be sending you a note in the next couple of days.

  11. it’s your number one fan from carlsle, pennsylvania!:-)

    Hey Laurie! It’s your number one fan from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Ashley!:-) I was looking at your site and found your journal and just wanted to leave you a comment and say hi!:-) I’m glad you have a live journal!:-) I have one too, if you ever want to check it out! My username is Futurewriter13, just like my e-mail address. If you ever have time, feel free to drop by and leave a comment!:-)
    Well, I’d better go! Write back whenever you have time! Love, Ashley 🙂

  12. Most of us had not been published when we joined. Some of the newer members are already published. For the most part our careers were fledgling when we joined, and so we’ve all stumbled down the paths of publication together.

  13. Most of us had not been published when we joined. Some of the newer members are already published. For the most part our careers were fledgling when we joined, and so we’ve all stumbled down the paths of publication together.

  14. Re: Writer’s Group

    Hey there!

    I think your idea of joining the group as a reader is fascinating. I can’t wait to hear what you learn from it. For the purposes of the group I’m in, I think if a “reader” joined, we would want someone who was deeply aware of what was being published in teen or children’s literature, such as a teacher. (See the response above for the details of my group’s publishing history.)

    Mom and Dad are hanging in there – thanks for asking. They’ve both had a good week. We’re still sorting through questions about insurance and housing for them, also some minor legal issues. We don’t yet have a firm move-in date for them, but I hope we’ll have it within a few weeks.

  15. Re: Writer’s Group

    Hey there!

    I think your idea of joining the group as a reader is fascinating. I can’t wait to hear what you learn from it. For the purposes of the group I’m in, I think if a “reader” joined, we would want someone who was deeply aware of what was being published in teen or children’s literature, such as a teacher. (See the response above for the details of my group’s publishing history.)

    Mom and Dad are hanging in there – thanks for asking. They’ve both had a good week. We’re still sorting through questions about insurance and housing for them, also some minor legal issues. We don’t yet have a firm move-in date for them, but I hope we’ll have it within a few weeks.

  16. That’d a lovely way for it to unfold. I have been meeting with the same person for fifteen years now. We started out in a bigger group, but it dwindled and we were lazy about seeking others. I published my first book in 1994, and I am so happy because my friend’s finally cracked it. Her first YA fantasy has been accepted, the contract is signed, and the book will be out next year.

  17. That’d a lovely way for it to unfold. I have been meeting with the same person for fifteen years now. We started out in a bigger group, but it dwindled and we were lazy about seeking others. I published my first book in 1994, and I am so happy because my friend’s finally cracked it. Her first YA fantasy has been accepted, the contract is signed, and the book will be out next year.

  18. Re: it’s your number one fan from carlsle, pennsylvania!:-)

    Hey, Ash! Welcome to LJ land. I’m almost through my “real mail” pile and should be sending you a note in the next couple of days.

  19. Re: it’s your number one fan from carlsle, pennsylvania!:-)

    Hey, Ash! Welcome to LJ land. I’m almost through my “real mail” pile and should be sending you a note in the next couple of days.

  20. Thanks for posting that! I have made a few halfhearted attempts to connect with other writers that way but have never remotely succeeded, so it was very useful to read your description of a working model.

  21. Thanks for posting that! I have made a few halfhearted attempts to connect with other writers that way but have never remotely succeeded, so it was very useful to read your description of a working model.

  22. Thanks for posting that! I have made a few halfhearted attempts to connect with other writers that way but have never remotely succeeded, so it was very useful to read your description of a working model.

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