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WARNING: This is My Story.


I threw that warning in the title because I realize we live in a time where we are compelled by instinct to seek support. To find someone in our corner who we believe are behind us. And as such, my story was not written with the purpose of influencing another story.

Now I forget where I'm supposed to put this notice: "Looking Back Looking Forward," but will drop it here to let readers know this post was inspired by another post I happened to catch on SHE WRITES. The post asked that bloggers write their own 'looking back, looking forward' post, which I did a week or so ago, but got caught up and didn't have a chance to post until today.

On my look back I recall the time when I thought about joining a writer's critique group. My purpose was to connect with others who enjoyed writing like I do. But I never joined the critique group, and later lost interest in ever joining a writer-critique group.

Initially my loss in interest was because the membership fees were steeper than I wanted to afford, alongside not being remotely interested in driving 20 additional miles (to and fro) another location. Traffic was horrendous enough just getting back and forth to work. My thoughts wouldn't be worth the gravel I rode over by the time I got there.

Years later I was glad I didn't join. And so now here's why I really added the warning.

I respect writers and authors, and support them like almost no other. I, however, find writing, and especially writing novels as was my goal to do, a very interpersonal, solitaire, individual experience. Back then, when I first thought about joining a group, after souring on the extra driving, I did ask myself, "why in the world would you want to sit in a group and have people throwing sticks and stones at you telling you how, and what you should and shouldn't do to *create* your body of work?"

This thought had nothing to do with thin or thick skin, which my skin happens to be pretty thick. Ask around. That's the one thing I'm sure I have an ample supply. I've received more advice and critiques than shoes, purses, cash... why even more than a simple 'hello.' I'm positive I wouldn't have buckled even back then, whether I was given critical tips and hints, or flat out told maybe I should look into becoming an auto mechanic. You know, to do something else more useful with my hands. Even if everyone in the group loved my writing, which I big-headedly back then believed everyone would, I still saw a vice in getting that influence. That's what I thought then.

I've changed my tune since then. Oh yes, I've done changed that number. Now I'm standing pigeon-toed bow-legged wide adding more mustard to the sauce. I'm glad I didn't allow anyone to persuade or influence my writing at such an impressionable time. Those obstacles were in my path for a reason.

I firmly believe that authentic unique voices come from, not only strange deep dark isolated places, but from a creativity that is raw, untamed, and without outside influences that make it look like all the rest. This is not to dissuade us writers and authors from socializing and networking, but rather quite to the contrary.

Let's have a cup of tea, or coffee, or whatever is your beverage of choice... I love Wild Irish, and White Russians, and Black Velvet... so I'm sure I won't be picky about your choice of drink. We can chat about our children, or pets, or laugh ourselves silly slipping off barstools. I'll even attend your conferences and speaker events, and buy and read your books, and tell you *then* what I *really* think. Maybe you won't even mind me showing up at one of your parties to share some of my good old-fashioned type of fun too. But I will not, and shall not, tell you how to write.

Comments

  1. My goal is to keep up to date with my fellow followers. That is done by leaving comments.
    I am so happy to write about things that makes me happy. There is a story in all of us!

    http://urbanbooksbymelissalove.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would love you to join my group book club &book review where we support other authors by having their book tour on your page. I would love to have your book Pleasure added to our list.
    email me if interested.
    lovemelissa29@yahoo.com

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  3. I was in a couple of different critique groups. The first one was all African American. The second was me being the ONLY African American. Now, the first was a fairly large group. It felt more like a support group. We read our own work to the group and it seemed the more familiar and friendlier they were amongst each other, there was more support. Me, being one of the newest members, I made those observations early on and didn't offer much in the way of critiquing. Of course, after awhile, it wasn't enough to simply offer support, so I started to question while also being supportive. I wanted by writing to be stronger than what it was and certainly, it wasn't "all that" as far as I was concerned because I was still very newly into the writing stages of my work. I had one member to take my work for an individual critique and all she did was make grammatical and spelling corrections. Needles to say, I got very little from the group but I continued to go because they we shared a cultural background that all of is well understood. I must also say that after I began to inquire more about what they read, I was critiqued in a way that made me appear to have little or no potential until, however, I had tenure in the group.

    Now. With the second group, there were 5 of us. I'm not saying this made any difference between either group because in both, they were all educated. However, in the second group, with the exception of myself and another member, they were PhDs and not in writing. One did have a PhD in Linguistics however and he was also from London. I make the degree distinction because I was quite intimidated. I had a Masters but not nearly the exposure and experiences of the second group. We met twice a month at a coffee shop. Though prior to meeting, we emailed our work to each other and used Word to make notations for critiquing. When we met, another member read our work so that we wouldn't inject our voice to the writing but rather, we could hear it as someone might read it to themselves. Then, we each had a turn at giving our take on the writing according to our notes and what we heard. It also helped me to develop my skills in critiquing and what to look for in my own writing to improve upon. Of course, I liked the second group so much better because while it was also supportive, they actually dissected the work and helped me tremendously. I do miss that because as you know, writing is such a solo process.

    Overall, I know what to look for should I ever join another. Sorry, didn't mean to take up so much of your virtual space over here but I wanted to share that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Miss M.

    Thanks for leaving a comment, and I sure will email you and forward something on Pleasure.

    I've been a little caught up with quite a bit lit activities that I don't get to comment on other blogs the way I want... which reminds me... I have your book on my wish list to buy and read;-)... as soon as I get a free hand;-)

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  5. Tots... I be right back with you. WoW! I have to print this one out;-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Alrighty...back...

    Tosh, I read your comment and really appreciate it. After reading it I had to laugh to myself... tell me why I got the feeling of a professor knocking me upside my hard (---) head trying to tell me something.

    Seriously, I'm right with you. That's the beauty of being a reader. I have read some work...and I don't know what you're favorite dish is...but whatever it is, that's the flavor some authors have left me with in terms of *how* they lay words on paper. There is an unbelievable stated art to writing that's more than throwing stories on paper, or now in the virtual kingdom.

    Just know your advice has been taken to heart, and trust me when I say... it's coming;-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh no, I was not trying to throw out advice but I thought I'd share it because sometimes a writer can belong to a group and it doesn't really benefit them or improve their writing in any way. I NEEDED guidance and I suppose, some kind of validation from someone who would be totally impartial. I'm just very hard on myself and I'm sure you are on yourself as well. Also, I wanted to point out how assimilating with other unpublished writers, as the first group I was in, may not be the best fit. The second group I joined was a professional organization and they different groups, according to genre, met in different parts of the city. I went to their larger meetings a couple of times and it's very professional. I lack that sometimes and it pushed me to try to be better in ways I didn't think of myself. Trust me, at the critiques, sometimes I did get pissed off but I think I did okay with accepting the criticism in a professional way. Sometimes the feedback would have me writing after the meeting, so I was charged up pretty good, if you know what I mean. Also, my reason for joining such a group was because I questioned, and still do at times, how receptive I am to being told something not so positive about my work. So, it was a way for my to develop, not only as a writer, but as a person who's far from perfect in a lot of areas. My skin was not always thick, even though I pretended fairly well. :-)

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  8. So many typos. See how bad I am at proofing? :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't know what happened to that darn trash can... I caught some mistakes myself! And now here the trash can shows up! I guess better here than in my book... I'll leave that alone too.

    But I got you. I got thick skin, which in my case is probably just another term for stubborn or hard head...but I certainly see the value in critiques, which was actually what I really liked about your comment.

    ReplyDelete
  10. If you ever join one, ensure that they are in a professionally run organization. Usually, they are well-connected in the industry. Before I ever joined any group, I thought it was better to join one with primarily African Americans because they would get where I was coming from and they did on some level but I wasn't challenged to be better or to see other perspectives, even though my topic was centered around the culture.

    ReplyDelete

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