Let’s Talk – Writing Groups


Let’s Talk Writing Groups

Over at the MHC LinkedIn Alumnae group, Mount Holyoke Wordwrights, an alumna moving to Boston posted for help in finding a writing group. Suggestions flowed in. Try Boston MeetUp. Visit a library. Try the Grub Street workshops. Check SheWrites.com. A journal was recommended, Creative Nonfiction, that apparently also offers online classes and activities. One writer weighed in that she believes there’s no substitution for an in-person group with some suggestions on starting your own group.

Which, brings me to Let’s Talk about writing groups. Steve Almond had an essay appear recently in The New York Times Magazine, “Why Talk Therapy is on the Wane and Writing Workshops are on the Rise.” Almond is mostly addressing what can happen in MFA workshops, but in the hands of unskilled facilitators, writing groups can also easily devolve into pseudo-therapy groups.

I’ve written before about my affiliation with RedBird-RedOak Writing in Milwaukee, where I pay to attend facilitated writing groups. The experience has always proven valuable for me. That’s not to say I’ve never tried unpaid, less formal writing groups. But, they’ve never lasted. I know they can, and do, but I haven’t yet had one that lasted much longer than a year. Someone always had to drop out, usually for family commitments, followed by someone else and the group fell away.

At the LinkedIn conversation mentioned earlier, Carolyn Pouncy recommended a book she found useful on setting up your own critique group, Becky Levine‘s The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide. Pouncy adds, “Levine discusses both how to critique various genres, which is useful even if you aren’t in a group, and how to find compatible writers and troubleshoot problems.”

If you’ve been successful (or even not) with setting up a writing group where you are, contact me if you’d like to do a guest post about your experience. Some dos and don’ts for fellow alumnae perhaps?

What’s the “true ground of all fiction” for you?


“…The advice is a call to empathy, the ultimate act of the imagination, and the true ground of all fiction. All characters are born of this effort to be another person. And its success is routed in the grounded self.”

~Siri Hustvedt in A Plea for Eros: essays


I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately because of my second novel draft. That novel (unlike novel #1 which is undergoing its seventh revision), has only been drafted once. In rereading it and considering where the draft needed to move, I realized that the story was begging for something I had been afraid to write…. a female character needed to live through an experience with her child which seemed unlike anything I could relate to. But, notice the word “seemed”.

As writers, we are blessed with vivid imaginations and I was stopping myself from diving in, from stepping into that woman’s shoes, from becoming my character as much as I could. I’m going to be keeping a journal as her for a while until I’m ready to return to that novel. Until I can feel what she might be feeling. For, as Robert Frost says:

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”

Where is the “true ground of all fiction” for you? Is it somewhere other than empathy?

Happy #writing.

Mount Holyoke Wordwrights


Joining Mount Holyoke Wordwrights

If you can answer yes to these three questions:

1. Are you a Mount Holyoke Alumna?

2. Are you a writer, editor, publisher, agent or somehow connected with those fields?

3. Are you a member of Linked In?

If you answered yes, then be sure to join the Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College group on Linked in and then, the subgroup Mount Holyoke Wordwrights. If you can answer yes to one and two above, then go ahead and join Linked In. It’s another place to share your questions, your ideas, your blog posts.