|The First Thanksgiving|
What a group picture this is. Two cultures coming together to share a meal and give thanks for surviving that first horrific winter. Which brings me to one thing I'm thankful for in my writing life. Groups!
I've been in four critique groups through the past twenty years. Two were in-person and two online. I gained something from all of them but the online groups have given me bountiful benefits.
When I first started writing, I attended a one day seminar. As it was breaking up for the day, a man approached me and invited me to come to his writer's group. Gave me time, place and directions. Hungry to learn more about writing, I found my way one night through a dark residential area. When I arrived, I found myself with three men. Tom apologized that there were not more members in attendance, and I wondered what in the world had I gotten myself into. Shouldn't have worried as I had such a good time listening to these three male writers that I was hooked and belonged to the group (which did have several women in it) until we moved away. The people in this group encouraged me, gave me some confidence in my writing, and became friends.
I started a group for people who wanted to write for children. As the moderator, I made sure I had something to read for the group at each monthly meeting. When we started, others also brought stories to read. We discussed the positives and negatives, encouraged one another to submit to a magazine. But little by little, the others petered out. They stopped bringing stories to read. Instead, they just wanted to talk about the writing world. They drifted farther and farther from that writing world because they talked but did not write. I finally disbanded the group after offering for someone else to take over. No takers. No group.
My first online group was a joy from day one. An editor and a poet started the group, and I accidentally ran across it online aand was one of the first members to join. No application process necessary. The editor who moderated the group was brilliant, tough, sarcastic, a fabulous teacher and a caring individual. New members trickled in until we had a thriving critique group and our own journal published online. Even though I'd never met any of these people in person, they became good friends. I loved the group, so I was devastated when the moderator became seriously ill and had to disband. I felt so bad for her but also for all the members left adrift.
One of those members happened to be the moderator of a different group. She wrote to a handful from the original group and invited us to join hers. Feeling like I was at sea all alone, I accepted gratefully, and I've been a member of writersandcritters ever since. We've lost members, we've gained members, but the core group has stayed strong thanks to good leadership and a marvelous blend of international women writers. We're honest but fair in our critiques, sometimes painfully honest. We all know that whatever criticisms are given are meant to help us, not hurt. We give praise but never to make someone feel good, only if it is rightly earned. We support one another in our writing but also in our personal world because we are friends. In this group, I've had the good fortune to meet many of the members at our conferences in the Washington, DC area. We've supported members through family losses, having babies, job losses and even the serious illness and death of one of our members.
Today, my thankfulness is for the quartet of critique groups I have been in. They have all helped me grow as a writer and they have expanded my knowledge of the writing world. I encourage anyone interested in writing to join a group. You, too, will end up giving thanks.