How I Started a Writing Group

Hey, everyone!

I’ve been asked a common question several times over the course of my group-hopping through NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy, and a medley of writing local writer gatherings over the years, and I thought I should address it now.

How Do You Start a Writing Group?

Six years ago, my best friend and fellow writer Jessi and I began Inkwell Imaginings, a structured, workshop-based writing group in Southbridge, Massachusetts. I’m sure there are a dozen or so ways to get a writing group started, and there are as many ways to structure or focus your group to create exactly what you’re looking for from it.

Begin

Jessi and I settled down on my bed with notebooks and a vast array of multi-colored highlighters and pens, and started to map out what we wanted from the group.

  • We wanted to invite writers of all skill levels. We’re both huge on encouraging other people to pursue their creative dreams, and we needed this to come through for Inkwell. It had to be clear that everyone was welcome, and diversity of level and genre would be embraced.
  • We wanted to offer a variety of writing workshops to give our members the opportunity to grow. There are plenty of writing groups that don’t offer workshops, and they are typically something to build up to. Jessi has her bachelors in English and I’m pursuing mine in creative writing, so we thought we might give people the opportunity to benefit from what we were learning!
  • We wanted to include critique days. This is what a lot of people are looking for when it comes to a writing group. Unfortunately, when it comes to budding novelists, they need help, as we all do, creating a polished piece of fiction. To allow everyone to have a turn, we had to limit our members to three pages per session. It helps to let them know that they’re free to talk outside of the group and exchange fiction via email or even in person. Networking is important!
  • It’s okay to be social. Inkwell is no longer the workshop machine it used to be. Now, writers just get together in person, or online, and chat about their work, ask advice, and kvetch about their lives. It’s just as beneficial to have a tribe of writers to be social with as it is to treat your group as a class.
  • Name your group! It can be hard, I know. It doesn’t have to be, though. You could just name it after your region or city. Give yourself a cool team name, like in sports or events. No holds barred! Just be sure it’s safe for public listing if you plan to advertise!
  • What’s your focus? Is it genre specific? Social? Structured, like Inkwell? Lay down exactly what you want for your group. If you know what you want, you’ll be less likely to be wishy-washy when you start gathering members!

Bring it to life

  • You need a venue. It can be as simple as a cafe or Panera Bread meeting room. We chose to approach the director of the local library, which happened to be two buildings away from my apartment. It’s not as hard as it sounds, though! Most library personnel are happy to talk with you about reading or writing, as long as you’re respectful.

    We wrote a simple, but professional email and received a response the same day. She was very eager to have us come in for a chat about our writing group. We gathered all of our notes and submitted our proposal. It was approved by the next day, and we were on our way to Inkwell!

  • Create a schedule. Once you have a venue, make sure you create a schedule. Every Friday from 6pm to 8pm, or every Saturday morning from 10am to 1pm, etc. Whatever you feel works for you. People will come, but be firm. Don’t switch it around to fit everyone. If they want to come, if they can come, they will. If not, maybe offer an occasional once-a-month meeting at a different time, but don’t deviate too hard! Consistency is key!
  • Create flyers. Be simple about it. Make sure the name of the group is visible and legible, and you give the name of the venue, as well as an address. I recommend leaving your personal phone number and address off of the flyer! You never know who might be seeing this information! If you want to be contacted by potential members, which is always a good option, set up a free email address for the group with Google or Outlook, and add it to the flyer. These flyers can be left on bulletin boards at Starbucks and most local coffeehouses, Panera’s community board, and on many library boards as long as you obtain approval.
  • Show up for your first meeting! Don’t expect a huge turn out at first. Members will come. Word of mouth will spread. Just be there, be consistent, even if you’re by yourself once in awhile. Use it to get your writing done. Maybe print out a little sign and put it on your table! It helps people to identify you and even encourages people to ask questions.

Running Inkwell was one of the highlights of my writing life, and I would reinstate it again in a heartbeat. Maybe I will when we settle in to somewhere more permanent!

Feel free to contact me with questions about Inkwell or starting your own group. We’d love to have more members online, but I encourage you to find or start your own group in your area!

Battle on!
Kit


starbornHey, guys! I’m looking for feedback on Amity Dawn! If you’re interested in reading and leaving your thoughts, the first five chapters are currently posted on Wattpad.

Have a great day, and happy writing!

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Goals! A New Year Approaches

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This is not a New Years resolutions post. I don’t generally do the resolutions thing, but I think it’s important to have goals all year round. I’ve been fiddling with blog post prompts lately, and one of the prompts that crops up the most often is a “goals” post. All in all, the post is meant to outline your goals and any steps you’ve put into place to complete them.

I feel like you all know me well enough to know that I’m an organizational nightmare. My goal-setting skills are trash.

I do have goals, though!

Naturally, I want to publish my sci fi work. I’m getting there. School and work in the last few years have kept my creativity and writing time to a minimum, but I’m slowly breaking away from that. My degree program will resume next summer and I’m currently freelancing exclusively! More time!

I don’t want to focus on that, though.

My ultimate goal is to open a writing retreat for writers of all skill levels, and make available a set of writing workshops that will help attendees develop the skills they need to make their writing what they want it to be! Ideally, this will be a fantastic source of networking and support for budding and experienced writers—something that I experienced during my formative years as a writer. We’re always growing, and I want to build a place to reflect and encourage that.

A fellow writer, Brooke D. Wheeler, and I have this super-plan to buy a barn in the middle of nowhere and make it our art-life. We’ll write and craft and live happily. It’ll be remarkable.

From a business perspective, though, I’d love to put together a bed-and-breakfast-style retreat for writers—artists, too, if they’d like! I don’t have steps in place to bring this into reality at the moment, but, when Jared and I settle down in a place that we intend to be a bit more permanent, I’ll be getting to work on that business plan. Should be about a year from now, if everything goes according to plan.

The Draws of the Writer’s Retreat

Since 2010, I’ve made it my passion and my mission to help other writers with their creative goals. The rewards of seeing someone’s name in print when you were able to be there for them during the dark times of that work is so rewarding. It’s knowing that you could help in someone else’s happiness and success.

Art is hard. It doesn’t matter what type of art it is. Writing, drawing, composing—they all come with unique challenges, and sometimes it’s near impossible to overcome them alone. The art may be solitary, but the act of developing your art doesn’t have to be. Now and then, a little social nudge of love and encouragement can make all the difference.

It’s sitting in a room with a few other people also struggling with their passion, and knowing that you’re not alone. It’s knowing that the person next to you, who you respect or whose art you admire, also has moments when they hate their work. It’s knowing it happens to all of us. It’s easier to love the work and push through the negative feelings when you have a support system.

The Business of a Writer’s Retreat

This is probably where I’m going to get hung up.

I need to buckle down on the technical and business-centered aspects of the writer’s retreat, and I’m not sure how. For this reason, it’s probably good that Jared isn’t looking for us to settle into a new place until next August. I need time to research, plan, and put together a concrete set of ideas, funding, and location possibilities. It will probably wind up being somewhere around New Smyrna Beach area. It’s nice and we’ll be close by!
At least for starters. ❤

Oh, guys, just talking about it is exciting me! Maybe I’ll get going on that business plan sooner than I expected!

Battle on!
Kit

What are your goals as a writer or artist? How do you view the business aspects of who you are?

F is for Fellowship #AtoZChallenge

So it’s been a week of change for me and, as such, it’s been hard to keep to a schedule or even keep my head in one place. I haven’t even looked at my writing or editing projects since last weekend. I’m a huge slacker, but we’re settling back in!

I want to talk about fellowship. Not the programs creatives slit throats to get into or that churches sponsor or that are created around evil jewelry.

I’m talking about a bond.

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In all the years I’ve been writing and working and failing and picking myself back up, the one thing I can always count on is the fellowship of other writers and creatives. We’re an odd bunch. We stick together. When something falls through for one of us, you can bet the lot of us will commiserate, shout obscenities, and pour hot coffee down the throats of our fallen comrades.

“It was all out of love, I swear,” she said to the officer taking her statement, as her ‘fallen comrade’ pulled the shock blanket tighter around her shoulders.

It’s all out of love. Nothing creates empathy in other creatives like that very-shared feeling of inadequacy. There’s nothing inadequate about any of us, so long as we’re honing our craft, right? Point is, I would never have made it this far without the people I’ve met along the way. Writers and artists of all types—musicians and painters and poets and novelists—have fueled me just through the interaction I’ve had with them.

Never underestimate the power of a social writers group. Listen. Seriously. Critique groups are awesome, but if you’re not quite there yet, hunt for groups that are social and encouraging. Ones you can ask for help if you need it. Using these social groups to hone your craft—write, draw, paint more—and build your confidence in your chosen specialization(s) can impact you for the better. It can help you get ready for that critique group, to submit to that agent, to jam your resume into the faces of a hundred artsy positions at artsy or not-so-artsy companies!

If you can’t find one, start one! Even online, everyone likes to have someone to complain with, celebrate with, procrastinate create with. If you don’t know how to start one, Pinterest has some great ideas, Facebook groups are awesome, and there are always the NaNoWriMo forums (which is where I’ve enjoyed almost every online writing group I’ve been a part of).

You don’t have to create alone!

Have you ever been a part of a social group for writers or artists? What did you gain from it? What were the drawbacks for you?