“WRITERS HELPING WRITERS”

Whenever and wherever writers gather, ideas, energy and support flow. We tend to stimulate each other on to deeper, new or revised work. In my experience, we can talk for hours on the simplest aspects of craft, to agent or not to agent, publish on our own or go for the New York house. In any case, we look for experience, expertise and contagion. On this past Saturday, I witnessed this happen once again, participating as a Redwood Writers’ panelist on The Writing Process, at the Sonoma library.  Brilliant sunny weather, tourists filling the town and still 23 of us gathered.

Redwood Writers (www.redwoodwriters.org)  is a branch of the 100 year old California Writers Club begun in the Bay Area by Jack London, Ina Coolbrith, Joaquin Miller and others. They were looking for a means to educate themselves and the public on the craft of writing and the means to publish.  Open to all, the organization has grown exponentially, with 18 chapters of which Redwood Writers is the largest. The chapter motto is “writers helping writers.”

 So, why do I bring this up? Because I am a member who is finding that the more I lend myself to the organization through attendance at our multiple events and through volunteerism, the more I learn, share and benefit.  It is clearly a win-win situation as can be said, I know, of how one belongs to a group and contributes to it.

 For many years, I thought I had to wait until that first novel was finished, or I had a record of publication behind me before I should, could or deserved to join a “real” writers group. Around 1998, I met JoAnn Levy (They Saw the Elephant). a specialist on women of the Gold Rush who told me about  Women Writing the West (www.womenwritingthewest.org) and encouraged me to join.  I delayed, thinking I really should finish the manuscript in order to measure up. I finally joined WWW, started going to annual conferences and participating on its’ wonderful list-serve where writers raise questions of all sorts and find answers, comments and support. I have found ways to volunteer in this long-distance club by helping coordinate aspects of the Willa Awards contest, traveling the west for conferences and, my favorite, instituting gatherings of members in my home area, Santa Barbara County and Salt Lake City as my husband and I traveled.

 Around the same time I met JoAnn, a writer friend pushed me to apply to Squaw Valley Community of Writers (www.squawvalleywriters.org)  for their week long fiction workshop.  I applied, was accepted and awarded an Amy Tan scholarship. What an incredible experience that was and continues to be when I can go back for the open sessions in August.

 Finally, I came upon the Historical Novel Society (www.historicalnovelsociety.org)  which started out in England but came to Salt Lake  in 2005 for their first North American conference. In a cross-over, nearly a dozen members of WWW attended or were workshop leaders. In June, the group will meet in San Diego with Susan Vreeland (Clara and Mr. Tiffany) as a special guest.

 In all these organizations, I have found new, enduring and devoted friendships. Writing is what drives us, friendship is what sustains us and camaraderie is what challenges and inspires us.

I urge you to take the steps to connect with fellow writers. No matter your level of expertise, publication history, location, or genre, there is a group/s for you. Find it, contribute and grow.

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34 Comments

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34 responses to ““WRITERS HELPING WRITERS”

  1. Beautiful post, Arletta. You illustrate so perfectly the value of the connections we make as writers. These connections are far more important than the differences we have in genre, style and experience.

    • You are so very right, Sharon, as our own critique group illustrates: a romance/paranormal/erotica writer; a young adult-er; a humor historicalist; one memoirist; an adult thrilled and my Old West historicals. We have learned and shared so much that we see ourselves as our “second family.”

  2. This is wonderfu, Arletta. Unfortunately, there’s nothing like this in the area where I live. I often feel alone out there on the limb and yearn for a fellowship of likeminded people. The few writers I have come in contact with are more concerned with guarding their little fiefs. It has been my experience. It has been my experience that once they are published by a mainstream publisher, you don’t exist anymore for them. So I just labor on in the solitude of the world I create.

  3. Sorry about the typos. Should be wonderful. It has been my experience should appear only once. You can see I have drunk of bitter waters.

  4. Enjoyed the post, Arletta. For me Women Writing The West’s listserve is invaluable. Along with favorite blogs by writers, it is the fuel that keeps my writing energies burning.

  5. Good stuff, Arletta. As a member of both Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Redwood Writers groups I totally agree with you. Connecting, volunteering, etc. in whatever way possible makes the writing world a much more pleasant and fulfilling place to live.

    Brigitte, we’re a bit spoiled in this part of the country regarding writer connection opportunities. Sorry you don’t have anything in your area. It’s not quite the same but you could consider joining a writer’s group that sounds interesting to you, even if it’s not in your area. I’ve made some good online friendships with other writers.

    • I’m aware of Rocky Mountain Writers and you are welcome to add info about it here if you would like, Mark. Great suggestion for Brigitte.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      • For those of you who aren’t familiar with RMFW, here’s a bit of info: Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW) is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and educating writers seeking publication in commercial novel-length fiction. To that end, the organization strives to:
        • Provide an environment of support and encouragement among members
        • Stimulate interest in and appreciation for the art of writing
        • Act as a dissemination point for information concerning commercial fiction writing
        • Bring together authors, editors, agents, and other related professionals for the mutual benefit of all

        For more info, visit http://rmfw.org

  6. Dear Brigitte,
    I always treasure your views and presence. I am always making typos as my tri-focals fail me frequently! I wish I had words of encouraement about finding support among peers there in VERY cold New Jersey. I guess I am blessed out here in the west.

  7. Words of wisdom. You don’t have to do it alone. Thanks.

  8. Kent Sorensen

    Dear Arletta,

    As with all of your writing, your blog, “Writers Helping Writers,” was well crafted and perfectly targeted. You are such a valued member of our own re-writing group.

    Kent

  9. Aw, shucks, Kent. Them’s nice words and I thankee. And thanks for subscribing!

  10. I loved reading your oh-so-true comments. People think if they get involved, they will lose writing time, but my experience is the more you volunteer the more stimulated you are and interested in writing. Plus, you learn a ton! Great words!

  11. Dear Madame President (of Redwood Writers for those not in the know,)
    You are surely a good example of your own words with all that you do…novels, plays, directing, painting and shepherding the org. Thanks for stopping in.

  12. Jean Wong

    Enjoyed your thoughts–was a pleasure to be on panel with you–
    a fun day….Jean

  13. I really enjoy being around you and your wry sense of humor, great writing, Jean, so yes, it was fun to be with you on The Writing Process panel. Here’s to the next time!

  14. Arletta, this is splendid advice. I’m a founding member of a critique group that formed in 1993 and is still going strong. We started out with a limit of 10 but have since lowered that to 8, a much more manageable size. We meet every Wednesday. I don’t send anything out until I run it past them. I also agree on the value of Women Writing the West–what a treasure. I’ve learned so much for this group.

  15. Dear Mary,
    Eighteen years of weekly critiques is just plain awesome. My own group of six writers, from varied genres is hitting the three year mark and we marvel at our closeness, growth as individuals and as a group. It works as well as we work at it.

  16. Hi Arletta,
    Your blog entry was “right on.” I, too, am a member of California Writers Club and Women Writing the West, and have found both organizations warm and supportive. I also am fortunate to be part of a wonderful writing group led by my mentor, Charlotte Cook (editor and co-author of “Adapting Sideways.”)
    Keep writing!
    Laurel Anne Hill (http://www.laurelannehill.com)

  17. Belonging to a group is “finding your tribe,” in a sense. We wake every day knowing there are others like us within easy reach. And I love the way our writing groups inspire, educate and complete us. Writing listserves are lifelines–we put out a question (or voice a fear or hurt) and within minutes, people respond. In an uncertain world, knowing that we have “people” is a good thing. Good job reminding us, Arletta.

  18. Seniorsleuth@aol.com

    A lovely post, Arletta, and so true. My first writer’s group was in Sheridan, Wyoming, with Roberta Cheney, Emma Mygatt and a small group of dedicated writers who set me on the path to publication. I doubt that I would have published my first book without them.

    • Dear Jean(Henry Mead,)
      Thank you for visiting and leaving word of your beginnings. That had to have been a wonderful process. I know I never imagined how many good friends I’d make along this path. I always enjoy and learn from your interviews with western writers.

  19. Arletta, What great advice! Thanks for so warmly enumerating the various communities of writers you belong to. Your mention of the California Writers Club is intriguing, since my great-gran, Mira Maclay, was part of that circle and wrote for Sunset Magazine and for Bay Area papers, including the San Jose Mercury News. I wonder if she was a member–someday I’ll look! (My other great-gran, a California impressionist painter, was Jack London’s neighbor in Carmel for a while.)

  20. Susan,
    What incredible writing roots you have…no pun intented for the nature writer you are! I love the idea of your great grans having such amazing credentials and histories. There’s a story, and more, here! Thanks for stopping by.
    Arletta

  21. All you say is so true. I live in a small town in Kansas, too small for a writing group (there are 3 of us-all 3 writing in a different genre) but WWW helps a bunch. I did accept the job/pleasure of first judging for one catagory of the Willa Awards and attend conferences when I can. We should try to remember the old adage, “bloom where you are.” I know I don’t do enough. There’s a WWW woman who lives 50 miles from me, I’ve e-mailed but haven’t met yet. Now, just writing this has made me decide to contact her this spring, maybe we’ll do lunch. Thanks for your good blog. Eunie

  22. Oh, Eunie,
    How great if I’ve moved you toward that WWW member 50 miles away! I get together with a returning member, Rusty (Lenore) Brashear and Persia Wooley for coffee from time to time. Our common history/connection serves us well as we explore our writing paths. Hope you have a cuppa on me!

  23. Excellent blog, Arletta! Thanks!
    Maybe we’ll have to draft you to write more in the Redwood Writers newsletter!

  24. Dear Arletta, I loved reading your “writers helping writers” blog. The amazing thing is that every time I connect with other writers, something special happens. Either I learn something new, or I have a resource to offer them, or we come up with new ideas together. Thank you for expressing the value of writers connections so profoundly. I echo your encouragement to get involved, without waiting to “deserve it”. Thank you.
    Venus

  25. Dear Venus,
    I know exactly what you mean about something special happening when you connect with other writers…over coffee, at a critique, a meeting, a conference or by happenstance. Whenever two or more writers come together, magic happens as we ignite each other’s energy, muse, insight, creativity. Thanks for stopping by.
    Arletta

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