Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Writers' Groups I Have Known: Part III, The Everything Else

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To finish up my month here as Open Book's WIR, I'm giving thanks and paying tribute to the writers' groups I've been fortunate enough to be a part of.

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There are two more group who I owe a great credit to: one that helped me figure out that short fiction was definitely not for me, and one that has helped me to establish my voice as a writer for kids and teens.

That first distinction sounds like a negative, but it really wasn't. The Flaky Lushes were a group of mostly poets who gave me my first notes on what would become my first book, When We Were Good. We were known for being stragglers, and were all working on vastly different pieces, but the summer we spent meeting regularly was a really special one.

The Lushes also did writing exercises as a group (including some from Lynda Barry's excellent book What It Is), which I would absolutely recommend for new groups. The image that comes to me mostly strongly when I remember this group is of a faucet. We operated on the logic that to improve as a writer, you had to be willing to let bad work come out when you first started. Like waiting for the water run hot. This was particularly helpful.

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The second group I mentioned is both the longest running group and the one I'm currently in.

The group came together, for me, at least, by total chance, as the best things sometimes do. After chatting a bit with Vikki VanSickle on Twitter, I went to the launch of her latest book. And, pleasant surprise of all pleasant surprises, she asked if I was interested in starting a writers' group. Uh, yeah, I most definitely was.

This group has seen me through the first draft of my third book, which I struggled with for more than a year, and provided endless advice on the business of authoring, which is a slightly different creature than writing on its own. Every time we meet - once a month, when we can manage it - I leave feeling excited and inspired, and usually with a hefty reading list.

What else could you ask for?

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There is no one perfect group for any writer, but through experiencing the dynamics of different groups I've learned a lot. I've learned how to write better and more efficiently, and how to create more meaningful stories. I've learned how to engage in a literary community, how to talk to literary agents, and how to make peace with my own anxieties about the publication process.

So, my advice at the end of this month of yapping?

Start a writers' group.

Join a writers' group.

Then join another one.

And another.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.