How to attend a writers’ group

I’m sitting in a writers’ group right now, and I’ll be honest, it makes me want to lash out at the very concept of being in a writers’ group. But I’m not going to do that! I won’t even ridicule the guy who just told us all how easy it is to write science fiction (“All I have to do is make stuff up”). Instead, I’m going to tell you about the first writers’ group I ever attended, a few years back.

It was November. Non-writers might not realize it, but there’s nothing quite like a gathering of writers in November. It’s a rare and special time to be a people-watcher, because you’ll meet people who are seldom seen during the other eleven months. It felt like being in a Daniel Pinkwater novel. Fortunately, I was there, like an urban David Attenborough, to bring this experience to you.

Here are the people that attended:

  • A British guy with a mullet, writing about a female vampire who falls in love with a female android;
  • An Asian girl writing about “a social experiment in which 15 men are placed in a room with one woman, to see how long it takes them to rape her” (she never smiled once);
  • A girl with a Hello Kitty doll the size of a German shepherd;
  • A film student from a nearby university;
  • A skinny blonde girl who sat beside me and spent 30 minutes looking at photos of snakes on her laptop;
  • A small contingent of Morbidly Obese Lesbian Twilight Anti-Fans (MOLTAFs), who talked about almost nothing but their hatred of Twilight;
  • And me. I’d like to call myself “the normal one,” but you don’t get to sit in a group like this and call yourself normal. They probably thought of me as “that smartass.”

I took notes on some of the conversations I was in that night.

Me: What are you writing?

FilmStudent: Well, it’s kind of strange.

Me: So’s mine. What kind of strange?

FS: It’s a ninjas and pirates romance.

Me: A comedy, then?

FS: No.

[A bit later …]

Me: What are you writing?

SnakeGirl: Shit.

Me: [puzzled] … and … how many units of shit have you produced so far?

SG: 16000.

Me: Are you so ashamed of your shit that you refuse to describe it?

SG: I guess so.

Me: [indicating FilmStudent] You should let that guy talk about his novel, then you’ll feel better.

FilmStudent: Hey!

[still later …]

HelloKittyGirl: What’s your wordcount?

MOLTAF: 189.

HKG: Only 189? But you’re a professional writer!

MOLTAF: No, I’m an editor.

HKG: Well that doesn’t mean you can’t write!

Me: Isn’t that exactly what they say it means? Those who can’t write, edit?

MOLTAF and HKG: [in unison] Ouch!

It might look like I was being mean, but if you’d been there, you’d know we were all having a lot of fun. I really liked all of these people (except maybe the “Rape Studies” girl), but I’ve lost track of most of them since then. So to them I say: if any of you should happen to read this, I wish you many happy and victorious Novembers!

5 thoughts on “How to attend a writers’ group

  1. I attended writers’ workshops before both as a member of the! organizing committee and as a writing fellow. I enjoyed the workshops because of the many different personalities who have the same passion for writing. I did not enjoy the part where aspiring writers were “taught” how to write, but I found the sharing of experiences and feedback on one’s work by other aspiring writers quite entertaining.

  2. Joynell, I don’t know where you are, but it’s hard to imagine there aren’t a few creative people within a practical distance. Create your own group if you have to! (Caveat: my next post will be about why I stopped attending critique groups.) Therese is right about the poor instruction giving to aspiring writers.

    Maybeshe … I have no doubt you’d have enjoyed it as much as I did!

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