Daily Archives: December 13, 2018

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A Writers Group? What’s in It for Me?

December 13, 2018 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , ,
Writers Group | Carol L Wright | A Slice of Orange

Carol L Wright

This month “From a Cabin in The Woods” author is Carol L. Wright.

Carol escaped a career in law and academia for one in writing. She is the author of the Gracie McIntyre Mystery series, the first of which, DEATH IN GLENVILLE FALLS, was a finalist for both the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and a Next Generation Indie Book Award in 2018.

In addition to her mysteries, she is the author of short stories in several genres that have been published in a variety of literary journals and anthologies, including the award-winning Bethlehem Writers Group’s “Sweet, Funny, and Strange” anthologies in an assortment of themes.

Carol is a founding member of the Bethlehem Writers Group, a life member of Sisters in Crime and the Jane Austen Society of North America, and a member of Pennwriters and SinC Guppies. She is married to her college sweetheart, and lives in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with their rescue dog, Mr. Darcy,and a clowder of cats. You can learn more on Carol’s website,or by following her Facebook page.

A Writers Group?

What’s in It for Me? 

Carol L. Wright

Are you a writer? If so, you already know that it can be a solitary life. Some of us need isolation and quiet to write, while others like the white noise and energy of a public place, such as a coffee shop, to hear their characters speak. Our friends and family members might think us eccentric—or worse—when we say we’re working but all they see is us staring off into nothingness.

So where does a writer find those rare understanding souls who can help them along their journey?

In a writers group, of course!

If you’ve never been part of a critique group, you might feel timid about sharing your work with a bunch of strangers, but it’s definitely worth the plunge. That’s what I did back in May of 2006 when I started what would become the Bethlehem Writers Group.

Over time, we developed an identity. While we had writers of all genres visit us, it soon became apparent that we had a critical mass of fiction and memoir writers—so that’s what we focus on.

We meet twice a month. At each meeting, members bring several hard copies of work to share, then listen as other members read the work aloud. After each reading is complete, we all share our thoughts. Sometimes, I’ll admit, we can be pretty blunt, but it’s meant kindly and constructively. I’ll never forget the first words of commentary on one of my pieces. “It’s DEATH, Carol! DEATH!” I realized then that I had more work to do.

One thing we are passionate about is helping each other become better writers. We remind each other of writing “rules” (e.g. use all five senses, start with a stronger hook, show don’t tell). But we also offer our personal perspectives on others’ work, letting them know where the reader runs into speed bumps slowing the flow of the story.

We’ve occasionally had writers join us who didn’t mesh well with our “sweet, funny, and strange” authors.

One left in a huff when we didn’t burst into applause at the first reading of their work. Another never returned after getting praise for their writing skill along with a suggestion that they not kill off the main character in chapter one. A third got up to leave saying the meeting was “out of control” when the discussion went off on a brief, humorous tangent. One came to her fourth or fifth meeting to yell at us, basically saying she would not join any writers group that would have her as a member. But those who have persevered, listening to our critiques, taking what was worthwhile and discarding what did not work for them, have grown as writers. From a group of mostly unpublished writers, we are now a group with every member published, some with several books to their credit.

So, what should you look for in a writers group?

I’d recommend looking for people:

  1. Who share your general writing interests. If you are interested in screen writing, it obviously won’t work well for you to join a poetry group. Some groups focus solely on one genre; others are open to several. Either is okay since many writing skills cross genres. As long as you understand your colleague’s perspective and they know what you’re trying to achieve, a fantasy writer can critique a YA romance and vice versa—and give writers ideas they never would have thought of without them.
  2. Who, while different from each other, are serious writers who respect each other enough to give their time and effort toward helping you become a better writer.
  3. Whom you respect enough to give your time and effort toward helping them become better writers and whose opinions you respect enough to listen to them.
  4. Who give everyone a chance to share their work.
  5. Who encourage you when things aren’t working out the way you’d like and celebrate your successes.

And what should you expect to offer a writers group?

  1. Contribute work for critiques. It helps your colleagues hone their own editorial skills to have good work to evaluate.
  2. Do your share. You’re not just there to get your work critiqued. You’re there to reciprocate.
  3. Treat others with the respect you’d like to receive.
  4. Be open to people of different ages, backgrounds, experience, and writing interests. You can learn a lot from people who do not share your perspective on the world, whether that be in writing or everyday life.

And what will you get out of it?

  1. You will become a better writer, and
  2. You will have some of the most interesting friends!

Part of the reason for the success of our writers group is that we have continually challenged each other. Our first project was to put out an anthology of Christmas stories in 2009. A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE HOLIDAY TALES. We were from Bethlehem, after all. It won two NEXT GENERATION INDIE BOOK AWARDS—Best Anthology and Best Short Fiction. Not abad start. Since then, we’ve published several more on different themes, and are planning our next one now—FUR, FEATHERS, AND SCALES: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE ANIMAL TALES.   

Along with our anthologies, since 2011 we have published an online literary journal: BETHLEHEM WRITERS ROUNDTABLE  And since 2017, we’re a paying market for short stories and poems.

Perhaps most exciting for non-BWG members is that we hold an annual SHORT STORY AWARD. Our theme this year is animal stories, broadly interpreted. Our winners receive cash prizes as well as publication, with the First Place winner considered for inclusion in our next print anthology. Each year we invite a guest judge to do the final selection of our winners, and we’re so pleased that this year we have John Grogan, the best-selling author of MARLEY & ME. Find out more at here.

Our 2019 contest opens on January 1, so get your animal stories polished and ready to submit—perhaps with help from your writers group.We’d love to publish your winning work.

Books by Carol L. Wright

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