Around fourteen years ago, not long after my first book (DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow) was published, I was hired by the Chamber of Commerce in Gravette, Arkansas, (pop: 1800) to teach a writing class. They were beginning a community school for adults, and I was to be part of that. When the class was completed, my little group of about ten students didn’t want to quit meeting. I suggested we form a writers’ club.
We all lived in the Spavinaw Creek area, so the group acquired the grand name, “Spavinaw Authors Guild.” (At that time none of us had heard of THE Authors Guild.) We began meeting one evening a month in the Gravette Public Library.
Over the years membership changed. Folks moved away or lost interest. Others came in. Today, the Spavinaw Authors Guild has eight active members, and a few more inactive who come when they can. Our meeting format consists of work-in-progress read-alouds while members follow the text on print copies of the manuscript provided by the author. All jot down notes while the author is reading aloud, then the problems/strengths are discussed by all the group. We now meet at the library every other week from six to eight in the evening. Our time is always full. We do not chat about families, politics, or anything but WRITING. Occasionally a member shares information about new publishing opportunities, conferences to attend, and so on.
One of our currently inactive members just had his first book, which was vetted through our group over ten years ago, published. Yes, submission persistance pays! We had a big party/book signing for him in the library last Thursday. (He is still one of us though he had to stop attending when he took a job teaching evening classes .) Others have been published in magazines or newspapers. All currently active members are working on novels, though, thus far, only two of us have published books. (I’m working on my seventh book, the sixth mystery novel in my “To Die For” series.)
This group has been wonderful for me and, indeed, one of my novels is dedicated to them. BOY can they find problems I missed, and it’s so much more than “take out or add a comma.” They make plot suggestions, tell me when a scene or idea doesn’t work, offer ideas for word or dialogue changes. The day after our meetings, I line up their print copies of my chapter-in-work they critiqued across my desk and go to work on changes. Do I make every suggested change? Of course not. But all of us are so much in tune now that we can critique each other without hurtful comments or any changes to a writer’s unique voice.
Spavinaw Authors Guild is a wonder and a marvel. Groups like this are jewels without price for any writer. Look for such a group if you aren’t in one. If none are in place, form one.
Other helpful groups may be found on line. As a mystery writer, I am an active member (submitting posts) to:
DorothyL@listserv.kent.edu (Named for Dorothy L. Sayers, premier British mystery author)
email@example.com (Mystery Writers of America, Southwest Chapter)
Now, go and join something! Radine