Friday, October 9, 2009

Community...



First, the stomach always gives me gives me grief, usually the night before. Knotted and twisted resulting in my body turning and flipping, the sheets knotting around my legs. Sleep deprived, the morning brings on the ‘what-ifs’. Questions begin to nag at me until I become so engrossed in the pros and cons I burn my toast, the smell settling into my clothes and the shrill of the alarm breaking through my negative thoughts. No time for breakfast, it would only sit as a globby mass at the bottom of my queasy stomach. The sweaty palms do nothing to aid my driving ability, but I arrive at my destination despite the car horns and visual cursing of the other drivers. Now I’m shaking – God, please spare me from having to hold a pen. Is that sweat dampening my armpits? Do I smell?
"Hi, is this where the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada are meeting?"

I attended my first meeting of the above-mentioned group of writers on this past Sunday. Was I nervous? You bet, but everyone was so nice and so welcoming that my anxiety soon dissipated. A short meeting was followed by a craft session given by one of the members, Kelly Boyce. We worked on description and Kelly interspersed information on becoming a better descriptive writer with writing exercises. One exercise was to write a passage based on an emotion (love, anger, sadness, etc) without ever using the word. At the end of each exercise she called for volunteers to read and with this one we all tried to guess the emotion.

Now anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am not a very shy person. I hold back somewhat when I first meet a person or land in a group of total strangers, but that usually lasts a full minute or so. By the time this exercise came along, I stuck my hand up and read my passage. Everyone was very supportive and enthusiastic and I knew I had found a new community to encourage and assist me in my goal to be published. And they served cake! How can you not fall in love with a group of writers who laugh, bolster, and offer chocolate cake?

The cake was in celebration of Lilly Cain, one of the members who just recently signed not one, but two contracts. Congratulations once again Lilly.

And a special ‘hello’ to Honorary Chick, Donna Alward. A familiar face in the crowd, it was wonderful to get reacquainted and catch up on all her news.

So, community. Writing is a solitary profession, a task we work at on our own at a desk or table somewhere in the house. Some of us lucky enough to have a dedicated writing area, some squishing into a corner of a bedroom or lugging a basket filled with papers, pens, sticky notes and a laptop computer to whatever room is quiet at that moment. We live with our characters and strive to create a story that others will want to read. We research story ideas, then agents and editors, send out query letters, face rejection far more times that a normal human being should have to, question our sanity and masochistic tendencies. And most of us left to our devices will face such self-doubt that our vision for writing changes. Our lofty goals fade. And we take our writing back to hobby status, writing for our own pleasure instead of pursuing the dream of sharing our stories with others.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Find a community and discover the wealth of support available to writers. I read on a blog recently about a writer who didn’t live near any writing groups, she had no one to share the dream with or buy her cake (either in times of celebration or rejection – nothing wrong with some chocolate to soothe the despair). I am telling everyone right now that community can be found anywhere.

Online community is available for every genre written, I believe. I belong to the RWA Online Chapter 136 and although I don’t check in as often as I should, I know they’re available with encouragement and professional development. I’ve met a group of women there who I cherish (one who comes to Nova Scotia for holidays and whom I can’t wait to meet over coffee and a Timbit). I know groups of writers who have bonded through blogs (not their own) and have gone on to set up new blogs and critique groups. Our own Anita Mae is one and a few of us other Chicks have joined up with some of our blog regulars to create a private critique group. And just because you write romance, doesn’t mean you can’t join other writing groups. Their journey is very similar to your journey – and sometimes you’d be surprised what you can learn from other genre writers.

And don’t be afraid. Writers are amazing people – think of all the happiness they’d bring if they ruled the world? Trouble is, we’d never stage a coupe d’etat because all the voices in our heads wouldn’t shut up long enough to make a plan.

So, People of Blogland, what community do you belong to (time to do some serious promotion for your group)? Do you think community is important to writers? Were you anxious at your first meeting? What has community done for you as a writer? And, what’s your number one anxiety symptom?

Janet (proud member of SRW, RWA, RWA Online Ch. 136, Prairie Chicks Write Romance, Betabloggers, and soon to be proud member of RWAC)

16 comments:

Gabby said...

I've been one of those people who always kept my fiction writing private. However, I was estatic when I came across this blog and the opportunity to join the SRW.

I haven't had the chance to meet the group in person - yet - but I sure look forward to it.

I think having a community around you can only help. I'll have to let you know how nervous I was beforehand when it happens :)

Linda A. said...

Hello Janet,

I enjoyed metting you on Sunday! Yes, RWAC is a wonderful group, and just what I need for support and encouragement on my writing journey. The occasional cake certainly doesn't hurt, either.

I also belong to an online romance critique group on Writing.com. I joined them shortly after completing the first draft of my first novel, and their help was invaluable in the editing process.

A support system is essential for writers. Who else can we talk to about the voices in our heads without fear of ending up in a padded cell? Who else REALLY understands what drives us? I'm thankful every day for my in-person and on-line writing friends.

Jennie Marsland

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Gabby, it takes me about 4.5 hrs to get to the SRW mtgs but they are well worth it. Looking forward to meeting you at the Nov one.

Excellent post, Janet. Glad you got to see Donna again. I know you're going to have a wealth of information from the RWAC. I believe another Harlequin author, Barb Phinney belongs as well. Say hi to both her and Donna for me next time, okay?

And thank you for mentioning me and giving me the go-ahead to promote the Inkies, so here goes.

This past summer, I was invited to join another group blog of prepubbed writers. (A new Inkie is actually pubbed and another one has a release in Jan 10.) Gina, the creative genius behind this venture said in her invitation to me that she was looking for writers at the same stage as her who were on the verge of publication. Well, with flattery like that, how could I resist.

Gina is a marvel. She coords the Golden Pen contest, judges and enters contests and is a mother to 5 kids as well as being a pastor's wife.

Her vision for the group blog involves theme weeks where we cover a variety of writerly as well as non-writerly topics. This idea intrigued me because I get to write about life. So far, I've posted a historical poem about the Oregon Trail, a non-fictional book review, and my next post will be a travel piece followed by a post on my alter ego, Annie Oakley. We get to be as inspirational as we want and Gina gives us free reign on content under that topic either agreeing or disagreeing as we see fit.

One more bit of promo here: this week is recipe week at The Inkwell and today is the last day to leave a comment to win an Inky cookbook at http://inkwellinspirations.blogspot.com
Your comment will also get your name in for the Grand Opening prize to be given away at the end of Oct which includes free books, critiques and other goodies.

Thanks again, Janet. Send lots of RWAC members our way, kay? :)

Karyn Good said...

I'm so glad I got up the nerve to join SRW! If I hadn't I honestly don't know if I'd have even finished one first draft of anything! It's a fabulous group and even though I don't get to meetings as much as I'd like, I wouldn't want to be without their support. Hi out to Gabby who I haven't met yet but am looking forward to meeting! :)

Also shout out to my follow Beta Bloggers and my online writing community. Their help and suggestions are invaluable. I look forward to Sunday Snippets all week.

And I can't even put into words how much I've learned about the craft of writing by being a part of this blog.

You know I'm anxious or nervous about something when I'm silent, otherwise I'm talk, talk, talking, even if it's to myself!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I'm glad you found another community of writers out there in Nova Scotia. Just don't forget about us back here!

I love belonging to SRW, my Lover's Knot group in Winnipeg and of course the Chicks. I'm also part of three communities of writers from my three epublishers. These people are always available for support and to ask questions on everything from promotion to craft questions. All interesting and supportive people and I'm glad to know them, at least online.

All the best Janet. Say hello to Donna Alward for me next time you see her.

Jana

Lu said...

Hi Janet! Great post.

I'm so thankful I found my local chapter (MERWA, in Maine) a little over two years ago. Without them I'd have no clue how the publishing world works. Synopsis and query weren't in my vocabulary, let alone the rules for format, etc. And I'm sure my first rejection would have sent me in a tailspin.

All my online writing buddies, you included, have become a valuable source of encouragement, inspiration and friendship. I still think you have a natural talent for "violet" prose, hehe!

I'm glad you had fun at the RWAC meeting. Maybe one of these days my trip home will coincide with a meeting - that would be a blast!

Have a great weekend everyone!!!!

Helena said...

Community says it all ... I'm sure writing would still be a wanna do some day thing for me, if it weren't for the groups I belong to:

SK Writers' Guild is for everyone who writes or wants to write, all genres, all levels. I'm still amazed when an author of several published books turns to me and says, "What do you write?" (The subtext here being, "... because you must be a writer." And then I know I am.)

SRW ... what can I say? Just the greatest group of people ever. For anyone interested in writing romance, but supportive of anyone writing in any genre. I joined when all I had was a brief synopsis and one chapter drafted for a romance. Still working on it, but have added so much more to my plate. Poetry, creative non-fiction (joined another group for that), Prairie Chicks blog ... all take up some part of my writing life.

Local writers' group. What would I do without my twice-monthly get-together with several writer friends to critique each other's work? We encourage our members to submit to contests and publications, have been asked to read our work at the local public library, and this is great motivation that I can't see happening if I was always alone in front of my computer.

It took me a while to get up the nerve to join each new group as each opportunity came along, but I have never been sorry I did. I've gained so many new friends, and learned so much.

Thanks for reminding us of the value of community for writers, Janet. Perfect timing, too. Happy [Canadian] Thanksgiving everybody!

Janet C. said...

Hey, Gabby, glad to see you here today. Maybe one day when I'm home visiting, I'll coordinate my time with a scheduled meeting and we can meet up. Then there's always the opportunity to meet at a conference.

You're going to love the SRW - a fabulous group of women who truly support one another in our quest to be published writers. Your nervousness will be short lived.

Janet C. said...

Hello, Linda. Thanks for stopping by The Prairies today :) And thanks for promoting Writing.com for all those reading this post and wondering what other communities are out there. I've come across them a couple of times and know they have some invaluable craft articles - didn't know they offered critique groups.

Looking forward to getting to know you - and all those voices in your head. That's what I love about writers - two can get together and because of the voices there's a perfect crowd for a party :)

Janet C. said...

Don't think I met Barb on Sunday, Anita. I would be hard pressed to remember everyone's name, so I could be mistaken.

Sounds like you're enjoying your new blog group - and they have a lot of members from what I've read. Nice to spread out the work load :) And a nice incentive with the weekly and grand prizes.

I'll pass along your greetings to Donna when I see her next.

Janet C. said...

And we're so glad you got up the nerve to join SRW too, Karyn. The Prairie Chicks wouldn't be what it is today without you :)

I must concur - the betabloggers are fabulous and I've gotten caught up in the Sunday Snippets, too. What a great way to motivate you through the week knowing that you're accoutable (without pressure) to post those 500 words every Sunday.

A quick mention of MSN - which I consider to be a must have tool in the writer's toolkit. Our little chat this week just opened up my block with Gillian and Mac and I'm excited again to be telling their story. Without that, I would have been sitting there forever looking at the mess I called a manuscript trying to figure out what exactly I was trying to say. Thanks, again, Karyn ;)

Janet C. said...

I won't forget you guys, Jana. In fact, I'll be pouting royally on the weekend of the spring retreat knowing you're all there at the Abby having a great time.

You touched on an important note, there. Writers are a diverse, interesting, unique group of people. My communities have allowed me to meet people from all walks of life, all with stories of their own that are fascinating and exciting. Without my communities, I would never know an artist/writer from New York, an English major (with her masters) originally from B.C., an award winning fire photographer from Oklahoma, a revenue agent from (well, I have to keep that a secret to protect her identity)...you get the picture.

I'll pass along your greetings to Donna, Jana. Have a great weekend.

Janet C. said...

That would be a blast, Lu. I'll keep you up to date with the meeting dates closer to the time you'll be visiting. Looking forward to coffee and a timbit (do they kick you out for stretching a coffee and a timbit over several hours? I have a feeling we'll be chatting for a long time :)

Janet C. said...

Helena - you're one busy woman. But I know how much each of those groups mean to you and the enjoyment you get from participating. And interesting how each one is different - none overlap in their services to you. I think that's what I see with those that I belong to, each will offer me something (craft practice, critiquing, accountability, etc) to enhance my writing career.

Thanks for reminding me - Happy Turkey Day to you and all our Canadian readers :)

Karyn Good said...

I'm glad our talk helped. It helped me too because I was on fire Thursday! My post part of that on Sunday!

Janet C. said...

Excellent - I can't wait to read it on Sunday.