Writers groups and book clubs are too frequently short-lived. Writers and readers come together with common goals, and after a while, life can get in the way. I’m in a newish book club, so I’m in no position to talk about them. What I am in a position to talk about is writers groups.
I’m in three, all of which I joined in the past ten years. I moved to my current home ten years ago and immediately wanted to get engaged with our community. I saw an announcement in a newspaper about Lake Writers, with a phone number and a name. Jim Morrison. (Okay, he’s not that Jim Morrison. I knew that Jim Morrison; in fact one of my girlfriends dated him before they made it big.) This Jim Morrison invited me to a Lake Writers meeting.
I was hooked. This group had several published writers who still came and offered critiques for snippets of writing. I started learning the first day. Three writers offered to read a manuscript I was so proud of. They didn’t like it. More important, they told me what didn’t work and how to fix it. I limped home, whimpered and went back to work. Jim suggested I meet with a group up in Roanoke. Different writers, similar focus. I did.
What does this have to do with how long writers groups last? Well, I thought you’d never ask. Lake Writers started in 2000 as the literary arm of the Smith Mountain Arts Council. Many of the same writers are still sharing their expertise and giving support.
Valley Writers celebrated its 35th anniversary in May 2016. We planned a cake, readings and critiques, and general hilarity. I brought a cake (see above. If you can’t read it, it says, “Valley Writers: 35 Years of Typos.” The bookmark has our starting date on it.) Now, we normally meet in the fellowship hall of a church. Not for our 35th. The man with the magic key was unable to come, so we met in the parking lot. It was a lovely spring evening. If you look close, you’ll see the cake is sitting on the trunk of a car on an army blanket. We cut the cake, ate standing up, took a group photo, and actually did some critiquing before the evening chill set in.
Writers have to be resourceful. We couldn’t make margaritas, because we lacked limes, ice, salt, tequila, etc., we had cake, a cake cutter, forks/napkins/plates, and big smiles. Writers are rarely put off when things don’t work out. We weren’t, although we would have enjoyed sitting down. Why this church doesn’t have picnic tables, I don’t know. Maybe Valley Writers can do something about that.
I mentioned three clubs. The other is The Virginia Writers Club, the state-wide organization for all writers in Virginia. And how old is this puppy, you ask? In 2018 we turn 100 years. That’s 100 years on consistent service to the writing community throughout the state. You’ll get time of me yapping about this before the anniversary events begin rolling out. Why? Because I’m in charge of them. I step down as president at the end of four wonderful years serving this terrific community. The incoming president asked me to work on the plans and execution of them for the next two years. It will be my honor.
Have you ever been in a writers group? If so, how long has it been around? Is it still around?