Thoughts On Forming A Writer’s Group

Linking up with fabulous writing community: Yeah Write Me.

Yesterday I jumped into the car after writer’s group and looked in the rearview mirror. My cheeks were flushed. My eyes had a slightly maniacal gleam. I was under the influence of a creative high.

My friend and fellow poet Shawna had written a gorgeous poem that I couldn’t get out of my head. It was so elegant, evocative, fully realized. It seemed as though the moment her fingers struck the keys magic happened.

Sometimes writing happens in a green flash. But more often than not, writing needs the eyes of other writers, it takes revision, tweaking, voodoo, rain dances, sweat and tears to produce something really great.

I run a poetry reading series at a wonderful independent bookstore in Portland called Annie Bloom’s Books. Many of the people who attend the readings are writers and I’ve heard several ask the readers: How do you get into a writer’s group?

When I first moved to Portland I was on the hunt for a writer’s group, and after a while I realized that sometimes you just need to start one for yourself. I started taking local workshops at places like The Attic Institute, Crow Arts Manor, Mountain Writers Series and The Writer’s Dojo.

I started looking for literary happenings around Portland. Keep an eye out for excellent local writing resources such as Write in Portland (created by accomplished writer and teacher Liz Prato). Literary calendars are a great place to scope out readings, workshops and writer’s events.

Workshops are the perfect place to meet other writers and make lasting connections. During one particular workshop led by gifted writer Dave JareckiI noticed that there were three other writers in the group who had very insightful comments.These writers challenged my work in an intelligent, supportive way. My gut told me that we would work well as a group. I swallowed my fear and sent out an email. A writer’s group was born.

If you don’t take workshops, another place to network with writers is at readings. If you go to a few readings of work in your genre you are bound to start seeing familiar faces. You can also go the route of posting an interest sheet at your local library or bookstore, or an ad on Craigslist or your local university. Be sure to screen people with care.

It’s important to keep in mind the purpose of your writing group. Do you want it to be a time to write together? Do you want writers to bring work to the group to discuss together? How will it be organized? Will you lead the group or will writers take turns leading? What are the expectations of the group’s participants?

If you want some tips on Non-Crappy Writing groups and writing a novel, I urge you to visit Yuvi Zalkow’s blog. He’s a great writer, hilarious & in the final (agonal?) stages of having his first book published.

Writers, how did your writing partnerships form? Please share your experiences and ideas.