I am a teacher by day, as many of you already know. This summer I was able to join a writing program at a local university for teachers, the Northern Virginia Writing Program. This is a national program with many branches and groups spread out through the USA. The program aims at giving teachers the tools and the motivation to make writing something our students will enjoy and do for the rest of their lives.
On Thursday we had our first writing group session and let me tell you, it was the most rewarding moment of the week for me. I didn’t have much non-fiction to bring so I brought a flash fiction piece that I am hoping to turn into a novel in the future. It’s one of my favorites and I was really curious (and nervous) to find out how people who do not know me would react to it.
I am pretty sure that these moments are what most of us writers live for. Yes, we want to make money with our books, but it’s the knowledge that you have managed to entertain or take someone else away from reality even for a fraction of a moment that really drives us. Imagine my delight as I am reading this piece to hear their reactions to what I was reading. A little gasp of surprise here, another of distress there…and then the kind, wonderful words of praise and support afterwards. I knew I had a winner with that piece, but to see other people react to it the way I reacted as I wrote it, it’s a total different feeling. It validates your writing, your decision to put those words down on paper.
This is not my first writing group. I have mentioned my local writing group a few times. The famous (maybe not yet, but we will be) Sippy Cups and Semantics started as a small neighborhood group of women with one thing in common; our love for the written word. We were, at first, a strictly online group. Our fearless leader religiously posted three prompts every Monday (and still does) and we ran with it.
I had been on a dry spell for many years. The lack of success during my first attempts at publishing (ages ago) and life in general had steered me off writing. I still wrote, but not necessarily creatively anymore. When I accidentally stumbled into this group something woke up in me and I have been writing furiously ever since. Thanks to them I can now claim to be a published writer.
Now we meet physically for writing and critiquing and it’s always my favorite time of the week even though we may sit for two hours without hardly a word being exchanged. We write and that is amazingly rewarding and fun.
Writers are more often than not riddled with doubt about what they write and how they write it. Writing groups are the most valuable asset a writer can have. If you are fortunate enough to find at least one group of people who will be honest (without being mean) about your writing, you have struck gold. Just knowing you have someone you can call for a quick read or when you’re stuck about something, or maybe just to brainstorm an idea…it’s priceless.
I think I will start some writing groups with my students this year. If they know they have a fair and supportive audience in their teachers and peers they will blossom as writers, fearless and brilliant. Writing is magic and I am certain that even the most reluctant of students won’t be able to resist the pull of the beauty of a writing group.