Almost every writer I know has been part of a writer’s group at one time, and I have yet to find a writer who didn’t benefit from this experience in some way. I know that I have. I’ve belonged to several, some were great fun and some were really tough, but all of them had a part in building my skills and confidence as a writer.
My favorite local group is “officially” preparing to break up. The group is comprised of members of a genealogical society, which is closing its doors after forty plus years. Formed many years ago, each of the members in this group were interested in writing about their family history. The basic format was the same as every other writers group – write, read your work, and receive feedback from others. The ultimate goal is to improve as writers so we can leave behind a well-written, interesting family history.
There are seven of us in the group, but it’s a rare event if we all make the meetings. Marge is the captain of our tiny ship. She didn’t really want the job, but someone had to try to herd all the cats into one room for three hours each month. Funny, warm, and observant, Marge is a graduate of Stanford University and her time there has had a direct impact on how she works with us. As a well-trained student, she always listens with rapt attention and asks great questions. As a well-educated graduate, she brings all of her education, humor, and talent to beautifully crafted stories of growing up, her college years, and life as a wife and mother.
Ginny writes beautifully. She has the skill to write her family stories in such a lovely tone that even the hard times sound good. Her pieces are always an interesting mix of family history, memories, and information on the locale. I have yet to come away from one of her stories without looking forward to the next one.
Don and Ardith are our only couple. Don has a dry sense of humor that comes out in his writing and often leaves us helpless with laughter when he reads something. That’s not always what he was going for, but his frank telling of an event, combined with his wickedly funny asides as he reads his piece, does it every time. Ardith is a wonderful writer, who is able to take us on her and Don’s travels through life. She has terrific skill in describing events and the times in which they occurred. She is also still amused with Don after sixty plus years of marriage, laughing just as warmly at his stories as we do.
Barbara is probably the most productive of us in actually compiling her family history. She’s been working hard on getting everything she’s already written into book form. The pieces she brings to read usually have the pictures inserted already, so we have a great visual to go along with the story. Seeing an example of how a family history can be accomplished has inspired all of us to work harder to complete out own.
Margaret is a talented writer. Her well-crafted vignettes of her travels around the world often leave us feeling as though we’d been along for the ride. She has the rare talent of being able to clearly describe the sights, sounds, and smells of her exotic locations. The only problem I have with Margaret is that I often forget to read along. She has a beautiful speaking voice and I love to hear her read aloud. I’m absolutely convinced that my own pieces would be better if only they were being read to us by Margaret.
Over the years, we have been inspired to accomplish more than we might have simply by being with each other. Groups work best when everyone participates and all of us have felt responsible to have something prepared to read at group. We have all been through more than one painful critique when our work didn’t measure up, and we’ve all been through more than one wonderful critique when we managed to get it right. There isn’t any one of us who didn’t have areas that we needed to work on, but with the help of our friends, we have all improved tremendously. So even though we may be breaking up, none of us will be without the others. What we have shared and learned will continue to appear in elements of our writing. The words, “Tell me more. Tell me how you felt. Tell me what you saw. Take me with you,” will continue to be a mantra in my head. I know that we come away stronger for having had our time together.
We met yesterday (all seven of us) and decided that while we are “officially” finished with the Society, we are going to go on. Just seven friends still helping each other.