Tuesday night, I spent a fair portion of the evening surrounded by new friends and collogues – mostly writers in training. This made the second local writers group meeting I attended and the first with this particular organization. Without question, I could see an immediate difference between the two groups, despite the fact that every member of the first also attended the second.
I thought it might be beneficial to express my impressions, since I had never attended any form of local writer’s association until late last month – and given that I’ve been on this quest to publish a novel for long enough – it’s high time I should extend my reach beyond my own keyboard.
The first group, Panama City Writers’ Association, is a loose critique organization dedicated to discussing and reviewing whatever topics come up during the meeting itself (unless something is planned ahead of time). For the last 10 or 11 years, this group of writers gathers to talk about whatever is on their mind at the moment. Since this was the very first one-on-group meeting I ever attended, I really had no idea what to expect. After a bit of introduction time with the new guy (me), we spent a portion of time talking about everything from character development to the best way to grow oranges. The topic varied widely from writing to non-writing in a loose and (dare I say it) unorganized fashion. I suppose I anticipated more structure than this particular group offered. Though, the people were certainly friendly enough and more than willing to listen to my rambles about the latest setbacks with my WIP.
The second group, Gulf Coast Writers, is a very different organization of people. Run by a college professor and membered by established writers (some novels, some short stories, some articles), the session on Tuesday was divided into distinct moments of agenda. First the standard meet-and-greet, followed by a fairly good discussion about “books on writing” in which many members around the table presented their latest and favorite tomes on creating prose.
The remainder of the hour and a half session focused on critique of one and two page works from various attendees ranging widely in style and goal, from the beginnings of a short Halloween story to the query letter for a finished thriller novel. It’s had to say if they were willing to simply put up with my critiques or actually had a vested interest in my comments, but the atmosphere induced me to speak my mind - which was quite a shock for me since I’m more noted as a wallflower.
Through these groups, I learned of a local writer’s conference later this month. Although I doubt I will be able to attend due to previous engagements, I might have been able to arrange going to the one day seminar had I known about it months ago – something I would have learned if I were braver and adventurous enough to join these groups before now.
All in all, I’d have to say it has been an interesting experience to see other aspiring authors face-to-face from the local community - to know that I’m not a complete island on this ocean of the authoring adventure. I will most likely return to both of these groups and continue to do so for a time. I have much to learn and perhaps this will offer another avenue to educate myself. Perhaps I’ll even brave bringing in some of my own work for critique – now that’s a scary thought!
Q4U: Have you looked for and/or joined any local writer groups in your area? You might be surprised what you find out, if you’re willing to take the plunge.