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TrainofThought
03-14-2007, 01:01 AM
There was a thread that Kate Thornton posted http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=56061 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=56061) that made me think about getting involved (not intimately) with writers, so I did a search for writing groups in Chicago. I was amazed at the different groups wondering which one would be good for me. I知 horrible at meeting people and not sure I壇 be able to give my writing to strangers to critique. Maybe I知 not right for a group but thought I would ask you. Here are a few sites I found: Chicago Writers Association, www.chicagowrites.org (http://www.chicagowrites.org/); The Chicago Writers Meetup Group, writers.meetup.com/113; Mystery Writers of America-Midwest Chapter, www.mwamidwest.org (http://www.mwamidwest.org/), Neighborhood Writing Alliance, www.jot.org (http://www.jot.org/); and Windy City Romance Writers of America, www.windycityrwa.com (http://www.windycityrwa.com/). If anyone joined one of these, I壇 appreciate your input.

Does anyone know what precautions you should take before joining a writing group, such as securing your work? Are there groups or online groups that practice writing and discussions more so then critiquing works? Would it be worthwhile to join a writing group in a different genre than what you write? Do you think writing groups are beneficial, networking and getting the word out, or a waste of time?
Any input is appreciated. Thanks.

Calla Lily
03-14-2007, 01:16 AM
I'd heard scary stories about groups whose members lived to shred everyone's work, or existed only to socialize/drink/eat/share photos of their grandchildren. So I started my own.

At the time, I was aiming at the Christian market, thus I posted tiny flyers in churches & christian bookstores. One church offered me space, I got guidelines from a writer's organization, and with much trepidation, called the first meeting.

We've had pretty much a great time with it all. We seem to attract the very timid, so we've become an encourage-the-scared group. One newbie admitted she's only shown her work to her very best, most trusted friend. Yike. We're EXTREMELY gentle with her.

If I want stronger crits, I get them from my 2 online groups.

We hover around 6 members per 2-hour meeting, once a month. Everyone's schedule varies. This gives us time to be detailed with everyone's work, and still get in a little relaxation. We have poetry, YA, fiction, travelogues, essays, scripts. I like this, because it lets me see how other genres work, and gives me an audience not necessarily used to fiction (my work).

My take: nothing beats face-to-face crits. When someone else reads my work out loud, I get a whole new perspective sometimes.

See if the groups have a lurk clause, lioke mine does: Newbies are allowed to sit in at one meeting without sharing, to see if we're a good fit. We've lost 3 people over the past 2 years after 1 meeting, and have had to dis-invite 2 more, who spent 2 meetings tearing everyone down but insisting that their work was perfect in every way, all the while rolling their eyes at others' work (really!) and sneering (yes).

A group needs both a strong leader (to keep it on track) and a couple strong core members. I'm fortuante to be a stubborn, opinionated broad, er, leader. And to have 2 terrific core members.

PM me if you want details on how to start your own group.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
03-14-2007, 01:18 AM
I was a member of the Oklahoma City Writers and Oklahoma Writers Federation about ten-fifteen years ago. I tried to hang in there... but the politics and pettiness finally got to me and I disappeared after a couple of years.

I'm sure each group is different. Some have more, some have less to offer. I bet you could go to meetings as a visitor and try them out before you join.

TrainofThought
03-14-2007, 01:26 AM
Thank you both. This information is good. I like the visitor/lurker clause to see if I fit in. Callalily61, I might PM you in the future about starting a group this could be the way to go.

On a side note, Calla Lily is my favorite flower not that you care. :D

Maryn
03-14-2007, 01:31 AM
I co-founded a group in 1992, when we were all wanna-be mystery/thriller/suspense writers who'd just completed a class in short stories in the genre.

The group has had ups ("They bought it!") and downs ("Fran died yesterday.") and split in half with substantial rancor a few years ago, but the core members are still going strong, and still benefiting from the insight offered by the others.

The group's small now, but far more dedicated than it ever was when it was bigger. We're all published. This month, we're meeting weekly, fine-tuning a novel 75 pp. at a time. I suspect when the rewrite reflecting out input is complete, the author will be able to get an agent or sell it herself.

I know, a handful of AWers will arrive to say they don't need other people to help them make their work good. Yippie for you, huh? For many writers, though, a good critique group, genre-focused, with members whose strengths as critics vary widely, can help you improve your best writing traits and shore up your weaknesses.

An all-genres group may help with overall writing and do a lot for your enthusiasm to dive into the work again, but IMO its input may not help writers whose basic skills are adequate-to-good to produce a more marketable work.

Maryn, putting her dukes up

rugcat
03-14-2007, 02:27 AM
I know, a handful of AWers will arrive to say they don't need other people to help them make their work good. Yippie for you, huh? I agree there are some writers who project that air of "superiority," even if it's subtlety put out there. But I think most of us who don't use critique groups avoid them simply because we don't benefit from them.

Not because we're better writers, but because the creative process is different for everyone. Some writers are helped considerably from the back and forth exchange of groups. Others, like myself, find it actually impedes their writing. I don't use writing groups, not because I think I'm special and don't need them, but because they have a negative impact creatively on me.

I know other published writers who feel the same way. I also know published writers, more successful than I, who swear by them.

PeeDee
03-14-2007, 02:53 AM
I'm one of those "don't use a critique groups," people, but I never said they aren't useful or cool. I think they're probably fun. It's just that they don't fit into my routine or my rhythm comfortably, so I don't use 'em. That's all.

I think that finding a good critique group, or writing group of any sort, whether it's in real life or on the internet can be a lot of fun, and I'm always in favor of fun things. :)

Maryn
03-14-2007, 04:28 PM
rugcat and PeeDee, neither of you is in the very small group I have in mind who make it their business to announce their magnificent awesomeness for not needing a critique group. I'm glad to say that's not your style, either one of you.

Of course some writers don't find them useful, just like some writers don't get any benefit from how-to-write books, background music, or writing longhand.

What I find grating is the sneering superiority of just a few people who post their non-need for critique groups, as if those who do benefit from them are lesser beings for it. To them, I make the mental version of a gesture that would get me jumped and beaten in certain neighborhoods in New York City.

Maryn, glad what works for you works for you

spike
03-14-2007, 05:50 PM
I belong to a writers' group that I adore! www.glvwg.org (http://www.glvwg.org) Check the web site. You'll see that the group offers more than just critiques. Every meeting has a speaker on some writing topic and a workshop. We also have a casual "writers' cafe" at a local bookstore. There is an opportunity to read your work for critique, or just for applause (if that's all you want).

As far as critiques go, I find that I get more from critiquing someone else's work than I get from hearing mine done. In going over another writer's mss and suggesting changes, I've learned more about writing than from anywhere else.

Face to face is definitely better. People are less likely to be rude when staring someone in the face.

I have to add that the energy of the group inspires me. Everytime I leave a meeting, I think, "Yes! I can write!"

Calla Lily
03-14-2007, 06:05 PM
Face to face is definitely better. People are less likely to be rude when staring someone in the face.


Um...let me introduce you to the mother-daughter team I just "disinvited" to my group. the daughter actually sneered and rolled her eyes at one member's poem. In person, sitting right next to the poet.

On second thought, no, I won't. I wouldn't wish them on anyone...not even my former Novice Mistress.:D

janetbellinger
03-14-2007, 06:13 PM
My advice is to try to find a group with varying levels of writing experience. Some should have more experience than you so you can learn from them. Others should have less so you won't feel intimidated. Try to find a group that is not afraid to give honest criticism. Some people limit themselves to praising other people's work. It isn't helpful to be told somebody loves your work when there are parts of it that suck. It's probably better to be with people you don't know well, then you won't be afraid to give honest critiques to each other.

spike
03-14-2007, 06:20 PM
Um...let me introduce you to the mother-daughter team I just "disinvited" to my group. the daughter actually sneered and rolled her eyes at one member's poem. In person, sitting right next to the poet.

On second thought, no, I won't. I wouldn't wish them on anyone...not even my former Novice Mistress.:D

I know the type and I've seen them in online groups. Usually they are like seagulls. Swoop in making a lot of noise, sh*t on everyone, then fly away.

BTW what is a Novice Mistress?

Calla Lily
03-14-2007, 06:42 PM
I know the type and I've seen them in online groups. Usually they are like seagulls. Swoop in making a lot of noise, sh*t on everyone, then fly away.

BTW what is a Novice Mistress?

LOL! Hopefully my disinvite will be the equivalent of a small boy with a BB gun. I'm planning to lurk on the church porch tomorow, in case they pretend hey didn't get my email and show anyway. considering having the lady in the wheelchair with me so I can threaten to rool over teir toes if they don't leave. (I am so going to hell.)

A Novice Mistress trains young nuns (novices). Mine had...issues. Loved power and loved to make us cringe under her thumb. I was clueless enough to take it back when I was 19. She'd been a nun since she was 12, though, and didn't really know any other kind of life. Poor woman. Now I just feel sorry for her.

Troo
03-14-2007, 06:50 PM
I went to a writing group at the college that I did a creative writing class at, but the group was... well...

Don't get me wrong, they're all lovely people. They just all knew each other so well that getting involved was a pain in the arse, and it was like being back at school all over again. You know, you turn up monday morning and find all your friends went out together over the weekend and didn't bother inviting you. It was a bit like that.

I suppose I would've liked to keep attending, but the group's about half an hour's drive away from where I live, and I already get home late enough from work to miss the first hour. It's just not worth the drive.

If I could find a group that was actually in my home town, I think I'd give it a try. In fact, I'm off to Google right now!

Calla Lily
03-14-2007, 06:59 PM
If I could find a group that was actually in my home town, I think I'd give it a try. In fact, I'm off to Google right now!

And if you don't find one, start your own! It worked for me. (Gads, I sound like an infomercial or an Amway rep--run away! run away!:ROFL: )

PM me if you want the steps I took to start my own.

Troo
03-14-2007, 07:13 PM
Good heavens. The closest is a good half hour's drive away, but at least they start late enough in the evening. Alas none of them seem to be into spec-fi in any way.

Starting my own. Hmm. *shudder*.

spike
03-14-2007, 09:10 PM
I went to a writing group at the college that I did a creative writing class at, but the group was... well...

Don't get me wrong, they're all lovely people. They just all knew each other so well that getting involved was a pain in the arse, and it was like being back at school all over again. You know, you turn up monday morning and find all your friends went out together over the weekend and didn't bother inviting you. It was a bit like that.

I suppose I would've liked to keep attending, but the group's about half an hour's drive away from where I live, and I already get home late enough from work to miss the first hour. It's just not worth the drive.

If I could find a group that was actually in my home town, I think I'd give it a try. In fact, I'm off to Google right now!

Yeah, I hear you. That's why I like the business format of our meetings, Roberts Rules and all. Keeps it form becoming a social club.

TrainofThought
03-15-2007, 01:15 AM
Thank you all for the feedback. I guess it depends on what kind of group you join and the attendees. Sounds more like a hit or miss situation, but if I want to get involved with writers face-to-face I'll have to put myself out there. I値l look into it.

Troo
03-15-2007, 03:42 PM
Exactly! :)

Also, see if there are any clubs / societies that are all about loving your genre. A lot of writers hang out in those :D

K1P1
03-15-2007, 03:59 PM
I know, a handful of AWers will arrive to say they don't need other people to help them make their work good. Yippie for you, huh? For many writers, though, a good critique group, genre-focused, with members whose strengths as critics vary widely, can help you improve your best writing traits and shore up your weaknesses.

I haven't announced that I "don't need other people," but I can't imagine joining a writing group either. I think they could be helpful for fiction, essays and memoirs, but I can't imagine reading out loud my instructions on how to do and when to use the Channel Islands cast on to a bunch of non-knitters and getting any useful feedback. Reading out loud to knitters probably wouldn't work either. :)

Shadow_Ferret
03-15-2007, 04:05 PM
I'm not a groupie, so to speak. I joined one back in the 80s because a friend of mine convinced me to. He was a member and he got in because his father was a (relatively) well-known short story writer. I joined, but I never attended any meetings and I think the group has since disbanded.

I'm not good in groups, at least not face-to-face. I like groups like this where I don't actually have to meet and talk with anyone.

However, I can see where a group might be helpful if you aren't phobic about those kinds of things. They offer personal support and you can have coffee with them while they glance at your work and offer criticism and encouragement.

I sort of wish I had gone to a meeting or two now. I might be further along in my writing career than I currently am.

spike
03-15-2007, 04:34 PM
I get a certain jazz when I attend the meetings and workshops. I think it is the energy of all of those writers in one place; all of them focusing on writing. There is a palpable vibe there.

Or maybe I'm just insane and hallucinating. Who's to say?

Either way, when I leave one of our events, my creative energy is in overdrive and my ambitions are overwhelming. I MUST write.

Cav Guy
03-15-2007, 05:06 PM
I get a certain jazz when I attend the meetings and workshops. I think it is the energy of all of those writers in one place; all of them focusing on writing. There is a palpable vibe there.

Or maybe I'm just insane and hallucinating. Who's to say?

Either way, when I leave one of our events, my creative energy is in overdrive and my ambitions are overwhelming. I MUST write.

I get this feeling from a good gaming session, actually. Not sure what that means exactly....

I did try a writers' group or two when I was in college, but like Troo went south on the experience. Mine was more "You write..." (long pause, condescending looks) "Westerns? How...interesting." And that was pretty much it. If you weren't writing things full of angst and aiming for the New Yorker they didn't want to talk to you. I suspect it's easier if you're in a genre that's more common or better organized in terms of groups (mystery and SF/F, along with Romance jump out at me).

Calla Lily
03-15-2007, 05:19 PM
"You write..." (long pause, condescending looks) "Westerns? How...interesting." And that was pretty much it. If you weren't writing things full of angst and aiming for the New Yorker they didn't want to talk to you.

:ROFL: LOL! I *still* get the "pause...condescending look...amusedly tolerant remark." I write horror. "Good girls" don't do that, you know.

But...when you run the writing group, they have to be nice to you. ;) And if nothing else, I startle everyone. My group is generally composed of very nice people writing very nice kids' books or devotionals and such.

Shadow_Ferret
03-15-2007, 05:42 PM
Oddly enough, groups don't get me jazzed up. I never got pumped up from my fiction workshops. I felt inadequate. I read their stuff and thought, "wow, this is so much better than mine, they have such great imaginations, what the hell am I doing here?"

That's one of the reasons I don't critique as much as I should in SYW. It depresses me.

For me to be successful, I need to be in a vacuum. *shrugs*

I'm glad it works for others.

TrainofThought
03-15-2007, 09:55 PM
I'm not a groupie, so to speak.

I'm not good in groups, at least not face-to-face. I like groups like this where I don't actually have to meet and talk with anyone.

However, I can see where a group might be helpful if you aren't phobic about those kinds of things.

I sort of wish I had gone to a meeting or two now. I might be further along in my writing career than I currently am.I’m not good in groups, face-to-face or on-line, but I’m starting to think it is important to get involved with people who share the same interest. This is how I see it regarding my status in life.


I never got pumped up from my fiction workshops. I felt inadequate. I read their stuff and thought, "wow, this is so much better than mine, they have such great imaginations, what the hell am I doing here?"Majority of the time, I find my writing better than those I critique - it’s like a kick-start. I know... that is egotistical to say, but I learn from other's mistakes along with my own. There are times I read someone’s works and I’m blown away wishing I had that talent. I have to tell myself, there are many worse writers, and many better writers then me. If anything I’ve learned from AW it's that a good story trumps good writing. What’s going on in the world, what society reaches out to read makes a story successful.

I need to wake-up. If I want to publish my WIP, I need to start meeting people and getting the word out.

Siddow
03-15-2007, 10:12 PM
I read for the first time in my face-to-face group last night. I took the story that I have posted in SYW now, and I gotta tell ya, I got a huge charge from hearing the group laugh at the funny parts.

People online will tell you--this made me laugh--but hearing it? Wow. I highly recommend seeing the people who are reading (or listening to) your work.

Troo
03-16-2007, 12:55 AM
Fantastic!!