Do Writers Need a Writer’s Group?
An emphatic Yes! is my answer and I’ll tell you why.
We writers fall in love with our words, they’re our darlings, our children. And like our children we often can’t see their faults. We need others to point out their missteps and blunders. A writers’ group can pick up on where we may have gone astray with our darlings, and if we have put down on the page all the reader needs to know.
I realized I had a problem with clarity when my group discussed my short story, “The Professor.”
“Why?” they wanted to know, did a character sound more like an English professor than the construction worker he was.
“Because he was an English professor and lost his job,” I explained.
I may have known that and then some, but because I hadn’t included the information in the narrative or in my character’s internal thoughts, my group was stumped, taken away from the story line, rather than being drawn into it.
Writers of fiction and non-fiction, authors of essays, poetry and plays, we meet every week in a local eatery to have a bite and discuss our work.
Out of a core group of six we rotate leaders, each member heading up the meeting for two months. “Any news?” the leader will ask getting things started, meaning has anyone been published or rejected (alas, there are always more of the latter than the former), heard about an article or a request for submissions that might be of interest to the others?
“Who’s reading?” is the next matter of business. Not every writer reads every week but those who do bring double spaced copies of their work for each attendee. As we follow along the text, we jot down comments on dialogue, character, plot, and then have an open discussion. Remarks run the gamut, and though we give our general impressions, we focus on specifics. If we like a bit of dialogue, we say why. If we think it’s unnatural for a character to speak as he or she does, as in the case of the Keats’ quoting construction man, we weigh in on that. The plot is sagging? We suggest ways of shoring it up.
Has anyone ever left in a huff because they didn’t like their critique? Once in a while. Have folks come once or twice and not again? All the time. Writers try us out—we post notices in our local newspapers—and decide we’re not for them. But we also have writers who with us for months, years even, sharpening their skills, sharing the pain and pleasure of the writing life.
Our members’ original plays have been performed at libraries and community centers, their short verse has appeared in The New York Times, and it’s not uncommon for a short story to find its way to a literary journal—does The Alaska Quarterly Review ring a bell? A novel has been published, and as recently as May, 2013 the short story collection Alterations was put into print by Penumbra Publishing. So if you happen to be in Bayside, New York on a Tuesday night at 6:30, stop in to The Terrace Diner. You’ll find us in the back, at our usual table, having a little dinner, and reading our work.
Links for Lily Steps Out
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About The Author
Rita Plush lives and writes in Queens, New York. Rita is an interior designer, writer, lecturer and teacher of the decorative arts. She has spoken at libraries throughout Long Island, at Hofstra University and CW Post-Hutton House. She is the Coordinator of the Interior Design/Certificate Program in Continuing Education at Queensborough Community College. Her articles on interior design have appeared in Times Ledger Newspapers, distributed throughout Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens. Her writing practice includes fiction and non-fiction, and her stories and essays have been published in many literary journals including The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Iconoclast, The MacGuffin and Passager. She is the author of Lily Steps Out (Penumbra Publishing May 2012), and most recently, the short story collection, Alterations (Penumbra Publishing 2013).
To learn more about Rita visit her website. http://www.ritaplush.com
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