The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, August 17, 2015

We All Need a Life Raft

My writing life changed when I became a WWWP--when I became one of the five Wild Women Wielding Pens. The WWWPs is what my writing critique group calls itself. (We had to come up with a name for something that was this good.)
I think I'm in the best group ever. Without a doubt. We laugh, we support, we critique, we prod... and unfortunately, too often, we eat. (Lynn's cake pops and Tammy's BLT bites and Beth's pizza and Linda's birthday cake... well, they all head straight to my gut.) 
Please read Susan G. Weidener's guest post on how a writing group can impact the work you do. And if you don't belong to a group, consider forming one--it can change your writing life. Forever. 
The Importance of Finding a Writing Group
By Susan G. Weidener

You really can’t work in isolation all the time. It’s important to seek out people who love writing like you do. And when you gather together over an aromatic candle and the written word, there’s this sense of possibility that your story matters . . . may actually and truly reach an audience and transcend the voice of one and become that of many.



A writing group is more than an essential element in a writer’s toolbox; it is often a life raft.

Whether we are the creator, or the recipient, we find in a community of writers the support so necessary to take a leap of faith onto the blank page. We sustain and affirm each other. If we’re lucky, we banish our demons of self-doubt through the acceptance and support of our peers.

What makes for a good writing group? Here’s my list:
  • No apologies allowed.
  • A place to work on the craft of writing.
  • A safe setting to explore and practice our craft.
  • Diversity – writers from varying backgrounds and experience levels.
  • Acceptance.
  • A chance to network.
  • A place for renewal and contemplation.
  • A forum to be immersed in the creative process without distraction.
  • A space to carve out time away from the demands of everyday life.
  • A place to take a deep breath and celebrate yourself as a writer.
  • Inspiration derived by sharing with other writers.

After attending a women’s writing retreat and hearing others read their stories, it so inspired me that I decided to start my own writing group, the Women’s Writing Circle. That was back in 2009. Six years later our group is still going strong . . . it remains diverse, ever-changing . . . always interesting, instructional and relevant. Our writers come and go . . . some have stayed all six years, others dip a toe in the Circle and return, or not. We discuss craft to changing dynamics of the publishing landscape.

The goal of a group like the Women’s Writing Circle is to “test drive your voice” in front of a community of writers. At read around, some want critique, some a “listening ear”. Those considering publishing often come to our critiques. We read the pieces in advance, bring notated copies of the work, and then provide criticism and commentary. When we workshop, we read the pieces that morning and then come back in group to discuss. We follow guidelines. For example, we never refer to the person as “you,” but as “author” or “writer”. 

As we explore the rich life that writing awakens, each of us is the Women's Writing Circle. Without the other, our community wouldn't exist.


About the Author:

Susan G. Weidener is a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has interviewed a host of interesting people from all walks of life, including Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Mary Pipher. She left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based. Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester Springs, PA.  Her website is: www.susanweidener.com




About A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story
Newly-divorced and on her own, 40-something Ava Stuart forges a new life. One day, at a signing in the local library for her novel, a tall, dark-haired man walks in and stands in the back of the room. Jay Scioli is a wanderer – a man who has said good-bye to innocence, the U. S. Army, and corporate America. His outlook on life having changed, his health shattered by illness, he writes a memoir. In his isolation, he searches for an editor to help him pick up the loose ends. Time may be running out. He is drawn to the striking and successful Ava. Facing one setback after another, their love embraces friendship, crisis, dignity, disillusionment. Their love story reflects a reason for living in the face of life’s unexpected events. 

Based on a true story, A Portrait of Love and Honor takes the reader from the halls of the United States Military Academy at West Point during the Vietnam War to a moving love story between two people destined to meet.

Twitter: @Sweideheart 
  


23 comments:

  1. I love the line about transcending the voice of one and becoming that of many. This is a beautifully written guest post with great advice. Thank you!

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    1. Tammy--I agree. That line was lovely, and the whole post was full of much-needed advice.

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  2. Thank you, Sioux, for the opportunity to express the joy that comes with being part of a supportive and generous writing group of like-minded, kindred spirits. None of us can do this alone. With gratitude. Susan

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    1. Susan--You're welcome, and thanks for the guest post.

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  3. Also: I love the name of your writing group! Here's to more "wild women wielding pens".

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  4. Oh, I would love a support group. I would be willing to form one, but can't find people interested in what I want to do. Here most want religious poetry, werewolf, paranormal, vampire, or non-fiction articles. I long for support in lit fiction or free verse poetry. I wish I were closer, and I would beg to sit under the table of your group!

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    1. Hi Bookie, After we concentrate on our writing and then close the Circle, everyone leaves more inspired and encouraged to keep up with their writing. One of our endeavors was group publishing an anthology of stories and poems, which was great fun and very rewarding.We had a couple writers who worked on sci fi and religious pieces, but mostly we get fiction, memoir and poetry.Wish you could join us. Best of luck with your writing.

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    2. Claudia--If you came to a WWWP critique session, you certainly wouldn't have to sit UNDER the table. ;)

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  5. Great post with solid tips, Susan. I really need to find writing group. I had a critique partner once but had to give up once things got a little one-sided for my taste (she wanted me to read and critique her work but fell short on doing the same with mine). You are very lucky to have these ladies, Sioux!

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    1. Thanks, Renee, and Sioux.The synergy and electricity that come with empowering each other to take on the blank page with joy and a sense of exploration and adventure is truly a blessing. I don't know how writers manage without a writing group. Even Hemingway in Paris had Gertrude Stein's salon and poets like T.S. Eliot used to hang out at Virginia Woolf's cottage in Sussex!

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    2. Renee---I am indeed quite lucky. These ladies are definitely keepers.

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  6. Sioux, you're lucky to have such a fun AND committed writer's group! That's a combination that doesn't come along very often.

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  7. Ditto to what Cathy said. Since the Inklets ceased to be, I've found a couple of critique partners I trust, and we do spend time (albeit via email) supporting and encouraging each other. One thing I've found is that this vast tribe made up of writers is fantastically supportive. That you've managed to create the cohesive WWWP group is icing on the cake.

    Great post!

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  8. Thank you both, Sioux and Susan, for your encouragement and advice. No wonder I feel like I'm standing still! I have a little problem with trust, which is probably why I don't seek out others. I am inspired by this post to reach out...even if it is only to one person right now. Thank you for sharing your passion!

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    1. NoExcuses--I hope when you venture out, that you find a writer you CAN trust. It could make a big difference in your writing life.

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  9. I agree that writing groups and/or critique partners are very important. Writing is such a solitary endeavor, it really helps me gain perspective when I'm able to interact with other writers, sharing ideas and suggestions. Not to mention the gabfest on writing in general. Or even discussing a few unrelated topics from time to time. ;-)

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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    1. Pat--The gabfest is sometimes just as needed as the critique.

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  10. What if I joined a writers' group and nobody came? That's what happened when I dredged up the gumption to attend a meeting at the local library. Just me and the leader with his wife and son showed up. Supposedly they had 17 members. "Well, it IS getting to be summer," he said. At this, the May meeting.

    I'm sure it was a coincidence. Nothing more. I did not return, and the meetings have since been moved to another town.

    I get my support from Sioux and some of her Wild Women, over the internet. They're the greatest thing since sliced bread. In fact, I think they heartily enjoy sliced bread. I'm pretty sure Sioux would drape herself in sliced bread if it was socially acceptable.

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    1. Val--I would, especially if it was sliced King's Hawaiian bread.

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  11. Susan, your book sounds like something I would read, so I will check it out. I have been in four critique groups and must tell you, the WWWPs are unlike any other group. We are unified, devoted, wild and crazy, but know how to get down to business. We offer support, and we critique with honesty, as we intend to inspire one another towards publication.

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    1. Linda--Four? I didn't know that.

      And you hit the nail on the head. We DO know how to get down to business, and yet we still have loads of fun.

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Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by...