It is helpful to meet regularly with a group of writers to discuss your work. The imposed deadline, input, support and sharing of ideas is invaluable. You become a better reader and writer while forming a local community.
Here are some things to consider when forming your own group:
Do you want to limit the work discussed to one genre?
Will you also read and discuss published work?
Will there be a limit to the number of participants?
Where and how often will you meet?
Most workshop groups email the work to be discussed (1-2 poems or 1 short story) a day or two before meeting. Everyone prints out the work, reads it carefully and writes notes on the piece to help facilitate the conversation. The author collects the notes after the discussion.
The discussion usually starts with someone reading the work aloud. If the author reads the work aloud, she learns something by hearing how it sounds in her natural voice. If she hears someone else read it, she’ll notice if the reader stumbles anywhere or if something seems unclear. Hearing the work is especially helpful when editing line breaks and pauses in a piece.
Many groups prefer that the author remain silent during the conversation. This ensures that the readers aren’t distracted by what the author *meant* to write and can focus on the words on the page.
Like a book club, most writing groups gather around food. My current group meets in a member’s home and everyone brings something for dinner. It is lovely to spend some time catching up before delving into the work.
There is nothing like a group of writers who you trust to read your work. I love to see how writers experiment, edit and change their voice over the years. It is also nice to have new writers join the group and have new perspectives.
Tonight is the last time I’ll be joining my Ann Arbor group before we move. I’m sad that one member won’t be able to attend, but I know that we’ll all continue to share work via email and keep in touch. It has meant so much to me to have this group during my time here.
I’m moving to Washington, D.C., next month and will be looking to join or create a new group. If local writers are interested in joining, do let me know below or send me an email!