I’ve moved around a lot in the past decade, and I’ve had to cull my writing friends from a number of different sources. The first time I joined an actual writing group was when I moved to the outskirts of Philadelphia and found one through Meetup that was only a few minutes from my children’s school. In many ways, Just Write changed my life. I had started a draft of The Dream Peddler before I joined them, but I am dead certain that our weekly meetings, all the support and fellowship I got from that group, and the feedback I was able to get when I submitted chapters to them for critique, propelled me to actually finish it. I’ve said this on the blog before, but it bears repeating—the only heartbreak I’ve had over this debut was the fact that I moved back to Michigan and said goodbye to that group years before I was able to publish my book—many months, in fact, before I even found my agent. It made me a little sad that I couldn’t celebrate with them in person when the book came out. The indie bookstore where we used to meet could have been the perfect place for a book launch with all my writer buddies, and a chance to thank them for all they had done for me. But it was not to be. I thanked them in my acknowledgements and then, when the book came out, the most wonderful thing happened. Patty Kline-Capaldo, the group’s founder, made a video of everyone at writing group and they all wished me a happy birthday and congratulated me and she shared the video to my facebook timeline. When I saw it, I cried. And that’s what a writing group means to me—those folks who get it, who know what you went through to write a book in the first place, whether or not it was ever published. Years had passed, and they still remembered. They still shared it with me and celebrated with me, even though I couldn’t be there in person.
When I wasn’t able to find a local group close enough for me to attend in Michigan, I used Meetup again to start my own. I was truly surprised at how quickly people joined—although, in common Meetup fashion, only a fraction of those interested actually followed through and attended meetings. I booked a conference room at the local library where we could meet once a week, and made a few more writer friends. I also found a separate critique group to join, with a few crossover writers that were in both groups with me. These were the people who made up my writing tribe when I signed with an agent, and my agent eventually sold my book. I’m so grateful that I had some writer friends here with whom I could share that news. Other friends and family are great for that, of course, but once again, only other people who write can truly understand how amazing it is. Because they know what you went through to get there.
The only trouble with my little local group was that it was so small, it practically disappeared if even one or two people couldn’t attend any given week. Sometimes I’d be the only one to show up, and I’ll be honest—I do enjoy sitting in a coffee shop just watching the people and doing some writing, but if I know no one is going to meet me there, I’d much rather stay home and just write on my living room couch. I branched out, looking for more critique partners online, and for a while I was in a lovely group on the Inked Voices website. This is an online hive of various kinds of writing groups, and it’s very user-friendly, simple to navigate and use. I still have a membership there, although once again I had trouble with a small group losing so many members that we eventually had to disband. Currently, I use it for other things, like listening to the guest interviews with other writers and agents. And I once took part in an Inked Voices online reading where some of us shared our work (I read a sample from the early chapters of The Dream Peddler).
The long and short of it is, I haven’t been able to recreate the same energy of the group I had in Pennsylvania, either in person or online, but I’m extremely grateful for every writer friend I’ve made along the journey.