The Special Page

On this month's Special Page:

E. A. Black (aka Trish Wilson) tells us all about joining a writer's group

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by E. A. Black

I'm reading Anne Lamott's "bird by bird" which is a book written for writers. She talks about everything in this book. Jealousy. The voices in your head that are always telling you your writing is shit. Perfectionism. The craft of writing. Writer's block.

She also talks about writer's groups, ranging from a few friends meeting occasionally to critique each other's work to expensive writer's conferences where you can count on other writers and editors, including those you have long admired, taking a blowtorch to your work.

I've been in two writer's groups in my lifetime. The first was decades ago. I was the lone horror writer in a sea of romance writers. I had a blast in that group. I learned to appreciate romance – until then I had no interest – and the others in the group enjoyed my scary tales. My current writer's group meets once per week on Wednesday mornings for two hours. It's a small group; usually about seven people are present. That's a good, intimate size for an effective writer's group. While I write erotica, erotic romance, and horror, the other members write poetry, memoirs, and essays. I like that it's an eclectic group. It's also a women-only group. The men's group meets immediately after ours. We drink coffee, eat croissants, socialize, and read each other's work. Then, everyone gives feedback. This group is pleasant but honest. You won't get keelhauled by critiques, leaving you feeling as if you would never pick up a pen again for the rest of your life. Then, after critiques, we do writing exercises. These weekly meetings energize me, and I get a lot out of them.

So now you're game to find a writer's group of your own. There are several avenues to take to track down a writer's group. Here are some suggestions:

Check local writer's centers and communities. That's how I found mine. My husband and I drove past the Gloucester Writer's Center in Massachusetts every day and didn't notice it for months. When it finally registered and he saw the place, we called and went to an open mic night. I met the woman who organized two writer's groups and immediately signed up. That was several years ago and I've been going weekly ever since.

Conferences and retreats – Give your contact info to attendees who host writer's groups. You may find one in your area, or at the very least get a referral for one.

Go to your nearest college's English and Literature Department's bulletin board and look for writer's groups. Ask the professor who teaches creative writing if one is nearby. The college may host one.

The library may have information on writer's groups. Sometimes the library hosts them.

Check with your local chapter of the Horror Writers Association. HWA may know of writer's groups in your area especially those that specialize in horror.

Try online critique groups, especially if you can't find a writer's group in your area. Check out. Online writer's groups are especially good for people who live in remote areas or are housebound for any reason. Look for the same qualities you'd look for in an in-person writing group.

You may also start your own writer's group. Keep your group small and manageable. When do you want to meet and for how long? Do you want to meet at someone's home, your own home, the library, a coffee shop, or a meeting room like in an apartment complex if you live in one? Put up a flyer at the library saying you are looking for people interested in joining your writer's group and have a means for them to get in contact with you.

If there is a writer's center in your area, post your notice there with permission of course. Let potential members know what you are looking for in a writer's group. What do you want in your writer's group? Critiques? Exercises? Events such a readings where the members may attend as a group? Help finding an agent? Help finding markets? Help with promotions and marketing? Do you want a group that focuses on one genre or multiple genres? You could also have guest speakers on occasion that may talk about any aspect of writing or publishing. The sky's the limit. What day and time would you like for your writer's group? What day and time work best for those who are interested?  Iron out all the particulars before you make your announcement. Be prepared for potential members to ask you for your experiences in writing and publishing. Since you're going to run the group, attendees will want to know more about you.

I've learned a great deal from my writer's group. It has enabled me to become much better at my craft. I've also been able to help others with their own projects. The feedback I get from several sets of eyes looking over my writing has been invaluable. I've learned how to be more concise in my writing. I've learned how to write a proper hook. I've made my dialogue sound more natural. The members, especially the woman who runs the group, point out plot holes, characterization problems, continuity problems, and other issues that I can't see because I am too close to the work.

At the moment, the women in my group aren't looking for agents. They are working on finishing their books and then finding markets that will publish them. One writes essays and she finds publications that accept her work. Some want to self-publish while others want to work with small publishers. I've also gained a great group of friends that support me when I'm feeling down over my writing career and they cheer me on when I announce an acceptance, especially if that acceptance is something I've read to them and they've provided feedback. They keep sane and they prevent me from looking too far into the abyss where I'd view my work as substandard and then want to give up permanently. We have holiday parties with good food and drink. We celebrate birthdays. This is a good group and I value the work relationships and friendships very much.

There is much value in writer's groups. Find the right one for you and cherish it. You'll not only gain valuable insight into your own writing, you'll make lasting friendships. Once you join a writer's group that suits your sensibilities, you're in for a ride that will elevate your writing career. And that matters most of all.

E. A Black (aka Trish Wilson) enjoyed telling scary stories to a captive audience since she was a child. She grew up in Baltimore, the home of Edgar Allan Poe who has inspired her to write. Due to her love for horror and dark fiction she joined Broad Universe, a networking group for women who write speculative fiction.

Her short stories have appeared in Zippered Flesh 2, Zippered Flesh 3, Teeming Terrors, Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2, Wicked Tales: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers Vol. 3, Heart of Farkness, and more. She won a Best Short Story mention on The Solstice List@ 2017: The Best Of Horror for Invisible, which appears in Zippered Flesh 3. In addition to horror, she writes erotica and romance as Elizabeth Black.

The beaches often call to her, but she has yet to run into Cthulhu.

Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she posts as Elizabeth Black. Check out her web site at eablack-writer.blogspot.com.

Sign up for her newsletter: http://eepurl.com/b76GWD She lives on the Massachusetts coast in Lovecraft country.