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Posts Tagged ‘writers groups’

I broke out of my comfort zone this evening and went to an established writer’s group. I’ve attended one other, but in the company of a friend, and a very long time ago. This time, I was going in solo, with no idea how the group was organized or who else would be there.

I am an INFJ, and come across as very reserved if I don’t know you. If I know you, or I feel comfortable, I can be easily mistaken for an extrovert. I suffer anxiety, just thinking about going into a strange situation. I sometimes cancel plans with besties because I suffer anxiety. But this is part of the Retirement Plan: “Finally Write Those Novels Stuck In My Head” Or in my Documents, or the manila paper folder marked “stories” in my filing cabinet.

Despite the cold air (wow – we got down to actual freezing here the past couple days, nothing like the sub-zero temps of my youth but certainly cold enough to keep my older self cocooned inside the house), I drove down to the library and found the meeting room. It was a scary crowd inside: two elderly women prone to talking too much and three elderly men who didn’t talk at all. By elderly, I mean a lot older than me. Okay, maybe the same age as me. Maybe even a decade younger, but no more than that.

The syllabus stated this was for writers of all levels. I wasn’t surprised to learn the facilitator is a published playwright or that she has a novel “out there” in search of an editor. One member has published, or is in the process of publishing, his memoirs. No one else claimed to be that accomplished (I have a couple published poems under my belt from my twenties). (I have scarcely written down poetry since then, although I thinkin poetry – hardly anything to be proud of.)

Cutting to the chase: I was the newbie. There were “scheduled” readings on the agenda. A very approachable facilitator. One member had Parkinson’s, so his wife reads his writings for him.  There were five readings tonight, and I remained in my reserved role, biting my tongue in order to see how others responded, and feeling out the group.

The first writer read a short story, which was more of an introspect and philosophical vignette than an actual story with a plot. Well written, nice use of imagery and words. Thoughtful, with a little humor tossed in.

Number two read from an historical novel he is writing that covers the history of his ancestors and the history of Old California while jumping back into the future to relate the story to his own ife’s path. That’s a great way to tell history. He researched dates & events, lined them up with oral history, added his own story-telling flair. He’s at 25,000 words, so this is truly a first draft. He gets to 80,000 words (his goal) and he will have a nice historical novel, small publishing, and a great genealogical book for his family.

Guy with Parkinson’s wrote a sweet vignette of someone he knew back when. It’s a nice, full-circle tale, lots of imagery and setting. A collection of his writings will be a great collectors item, small press, and very humorous.

I’m not making light of those – I have a number of such books in my own collection. Treasures. Small histories. The sort of literature that future histories will rely on to rebuild our history. These are needful writings, they just probably won’t make the authors a lot of money- but is money the goal? No.

A middle aged man (hey, he came in late, so couldn’t be counted in the “within a decade of me” third paragraph) was the next in line. He didn’t read from paper, but from a lap top (showing our generation gap). He had a problem reading out loud: enunciation. Remember that word from your youth or your brief acting career? “E-NUN- CI-ATE”

It means: speak slowly and clearly. Do not run your words together. Do not elide syllables. Give emotion to the reading.

He’s writing a YA novel, but doesn’t know it is YA (Young Adult). He’s hoping adults will read it as well. I could hear some of it and guess at the premise, and it has promise. He’s also on his first draft. I was reminded of several YA novels I have read (I love YA). The only problem I have with his work is his presentation. We can’t all be public speakers and I have no idea how someone will judge me.

The last writer was clearly an amateur. She read from prose she wrote in 2015, very unpolished. No desire to polish it up, but this is a group with no judgment. I can deal with that. Polished, she told a story of an encounter – a vignette of a moment in life with a stranger. I truly think the vignette should make a comeback in story-telling. It should be writing 101.

I offered nothing. I am working on my own YA novel, a sci-fi fantasy, another YA novel, and two children’s books. I have a lot more ideas in my manila file folder. I have tons of unwritten poetry that resembles the late Mary Oliver’s poetry. My only published poetry dates back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. All I want to do is hone my writing skills and maybe – just maybe – score a published novel out of it.

Would be nice to score Pulitzer or a movie contract or…

Yeah. A lot of that happens posthumously. I’d like it to happen in my lifetime.

I’ll be going back. I’ll take a sample of at least one idea I am honing. I will enunciate when I read, and inject the passion of the dialogue the way I did for my children when I read “Peter Pan” aloud for them (which is, honestly, the very best book to read aloud to children – especially the first chapter where Mr. Darling is calculating the cost of a child. Read it aloud, I beg of you.

Oh – what is in this for me? I don’t know. Connection? Community? Nothing? They meet every first and third Wednesday. I figure I need to give them at least three tries before I decide if this is for me or not. I didn’t have any instant bonding moments, but some things take time. I’ve waited this long – I can wait a little longer.

Your thoughts?

 

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