Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Importance of a Writing Community


To say that writing is a solitary endeavor is an understatement; when I am at home writing, I don’t have to talk to anyone unless I choose to. I can screen my phone calls, take a break from the internet, and just write. When I am fully submerged in a writing project, this solitude can go on and on. This is definitely when I get my best work done—when the house is quiet and I am completely alone and “unplugged.” However, even those of us who prefer quiet need interaction at some point, and this is where a support system made up of other writers is helpful.
 
Since joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in 2004, I have made many wonderful writing friends. I met the women in my online critique group through participation in NE/NC Texas SCBWI events. Linda, Diane, Leigh and I formed our group, the Serendipity Sisters, in 2005, and the intervening years have seen us through first drafts, multiple edits, final copies, submissions, acceptances, and rejections (and all of the emotional ups and downs that come with them). We have also supported each other through personal milestones like moves, job changes, babies, deaths, illnesses—basically, LIFE. Our group “meets” online, exchanging manuscripts and critiques via email, and when I lived in Texas I would see them occasionally at SCBWI events.    
Diane, me, and Linda a few weeks ago in Dallas.
 
 
Our fourth member, Leigh, who was sick that day.
We missed you, Leigh! 
My talented and prolific critique partner, Laurie, is another priceless writing friend that I have found along the way. Laurie and I met as members of the Greater Fort Worth Mothers of Twins and Triplets club when our children were toddlers. We both have twin boys (hers are now in 5th grade, mine are in 4th), so we had that in common from the beginning. When each of us discovered that the other was a writer, we began meeting at a local coffee shop in the tiny Texas town where I lived. We shared ideas, edited and critiqued each others’ work, set deadlines and goals together (and held each other accountable for them), and grew to be close friends. Between Laurie and the Serendipity Sisters, I had a strong support group of writers who were also friends!
 
Laurie (on right) and me in Dallas.
 
When I moved away from north Texas in 2007, it was hard to leave this wonderful writing “family” that I had found. But my online group is still going strong, and we are now in our eighth year together. Laurie and I continue to meet, as well—this time over the phone. I still miss them all, but several weeks ago I flew from Charlotte to Texas for a visit, and we enjoyed catching up in person. I am so thankful for each of these ladies, and look forward to many more years of writing adventures together!
 
A year or so after moving to South Carolina I started looking for a writers' group to partipicate in here, as well. I joined the Carolinas chapter of the SCBWI, and was thrilled to discover that another member who lived nearby was interested in starting a monthly critique group. Our group, the Savvy Wordsmiths, had our first meeting in April of 2010, and we will soon celebrate three years together. The Savvy Wordsmiths are a diverse group of authors who write everything from board books to young adult, and we even have an illustrator in our ranks. We provide feedback on each others’ writing and enjoy a mini-lesson each month presented by a different group member, sharing knowledge and helping each other along the way. It is a warm, wonderful group, and I look forward to seeing the SWs every month! Our monthly meetings are also a great motivator for staying on task—I give myself a goal each month so I will have something new to share each time we meet.
 
I am thankful for each and every one of my writing friends. Although I am definitely an introvert and love my quiet writing time, having friends who understand the writing life and all of its ups and downs is truly a blessing. The path to publication is not always easy, but with good writing friends it’s a lot more enjoyable!
If you are interested in joining a critique group, check out your local SCWBI chapter or inquire on online writers’ boards to start your own (http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php is my favorite). Online writers' communities can provide a wealth of support, information, and camaraderie as well…but that is a different post! = )


12 comments:

  1. How lovely that you feature your critique group partners. My online group has a website featuring us, gratis of one of the founding members who is no longer part of it... http://pensandbrushes.wordpress.com/our-members/

    Like you, I too am a solitary writer. I always wonder about those who write in cafes!

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    1. What a wonderful site, Mirka! Thank you so much for sharing it. You have an amazingly talented critique group! I have NEVER been able to write at a coffee shop either. I have tried (because it just sounds so "writerly"), but I get distracted every time! Happy (quiet) writing! = )

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  2. I can honestly say I would have given up years ago if not for the support of my writer friends! Becky, it truly was serendipity that I sat down next to you all those years ago at my first writing conference. You guys are the best!!

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    1. I feel the same way, Diane! We are so lucky to have found each other!

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  3. It has been an amazing journey together. I too would not have stuck with writing, with all its ups and downs, if it were not for the support system of our critique group. It is an incredible feeling to share any successes with those who truly understand how challenging writing for children can be. Thanks Becky for sharing what a treasure we have found in each other! –Linda 

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    1. Thank you, Linda! It's like a roller coaster sometimes, isn't it? = )

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  4. I can't imagine getting very far without a writing community. Writing can be such a lonely endeavor! It's amazing to be able to commiserate with other people who really get it.

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    1. I completely agree, Anna. It definitely helps to have friends who understand!

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  5. While I certainly appreciate the peace I get (well, usually :)) from writing in one of my creative spaces, it's definitely an energizing and uplifting experience to then get together with others to share what we've each created!

    For me, having a writing community provides the needed balance between the solitude where I tend to tap into silly/crazy/fun ideas and the warmth of being around others, especially those who understand the "writing experience". And Becky is one of the best at providing detailed, meaningful feedback in a positive way that keeps me going...

    ~Derick

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    1. Thank you so much, Derick! You are a great help to me, as well! : ) I am so thankful for our group.

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  6. Dear Becky,
    Savvy Wordsmiths are so glad to have you as a member. You are vivacious, creative, and caring! Thanks for sharing your great ideas in your blog.

    Celebrate you and your cheerfulness
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

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    1. Thank you so much, Joan! I love our group!

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