Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Writing Group

                                                                    Milton C. Toby photograph
By Milton C. Toby

The jury is still out on the value of writing  groups: do they help an author turn out polished work ready for submission to a publisher, or do they hinder the process? The answer is not as simple as you might think. For insight about potential pitfalls associated with writing groups, check out Jane Friedman's blog on the topic.

Working with a group of like-minded writers who can evaluate a manuscript with fresh eyes is an opportunity for constructive criticism, inspiration, and support for both novice and veteran authors. Writing is a solitary pursuit after all, and for many of us the camaraderie of a critique group may be the most important aspect of getting together with others to share what we're writing.

For other writers, myself included, a traditional writing group is just not a good fit. Writing, for me, is a generally lonely process that involves varying degrees of the following, none of which are conducive to group activity:
  • substantial research and a lot concurrent thinking,
  • wandering around the house or neighborhood looking lost,
  • jotting down random thoughts on scraps of paper and Post-It notes,
  • making notes on white boards, large sheets of newsprint, and the bathroom mirror,
  • discussing things with my wife, an equine veterinarian who happens to be an excellent editor,
  • and chatting with my own very special writing group, pictured below.

Milt's writing group

Plumpkin taking a break from
work in his reading room

Sherlock (also known as "New Cat") and
Burdock deliberating about the story arc in
a book proposal
Echo handles security,
 toy maintenance,
and idea development

One reason for my lack of interest in traditional writing groups might be the proximity of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. Located in Lexington, Kentucky, a few miles from my home, the Carnegie Center offers a rich menu of classes and support for writers of fiction and non-fiction, at every age and skill level. The Carnegie Center also has a stable of mentors who are available to work with authors on a one-to-one basis. The classes and mentoring sessions are offered for modest fees.

The Carnegie Center also sponsors the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, hosts a "Books in Progress" conference each spring, recently launched a nine-month "Writers Academy," and offers a number of reading and signing opportunities for local authors.

I'm a long-time supporter of the Carnegie Center, both as a student and as an instructor. I teach there on a regular basis on subjects related to business and legal issues associated with writing. My next class, on "Book Contracts," is scheduled for March 5. For more information about the Carnegie Center, click here.

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