Readers of this blog know a lot about Maine because we share our secret places, favorite restaurants, scenic drives, etc. Later this week, you’ll read our collective take on “why Maine?” While our state isn’t perfect (what state is), there are plenty of reasons to visit or live here. The flip side of that are the challenges. Issues like lack of public transportation, areas still lacking high speed internet, spotty health care access, areas with no affordable housing (although there’s a place advertised in today’s Rolling Thunder newspaper for $15,000), are well documented and need not be rehashed here. Writers have their own challenges.
The craft of writing is by definition a solitary one. 90% of my writing output gets done when I have the house to myself. That’s one of the best parts of having Monday as a day off. One of the disadvantages is that writing without feedback at some point is like operating in a vacuum (hence the title of this post). Maine lacks writing groups and getting one started seems to be a fairly big challenge. When we first moved to Hartland, I was going to one that met in fast food restaurants in the Lewiston/Auburn area. While I welcomed the opportunity to read and get feedback, there were a number of problems. The venues were sometimes crowded and noisy, the turnover in the group was disconcerting and, after we moved to Hartland, the driving was a deal breaker.
I tried another group in the Waterville area. There were three of us, but one dropped out pretty quickly, leaving two of us. We gave it our best shot, but two really isn’t a good number for a writers group. Not long after that, I discovered my current group at the UU Church in Dexter. We met twice a month for several years, dropping back to monthly when heating costs became an issue for the church..
While some writers came and went over the years, our core group has been pretty consistent and we’ve learned to understand each others writing styles. That’s very important. When you have significant diversity in genre, style or both, you need to have continuity and a trust level or things don’t work. Even with us being the only group in our corner of the woods, keeping it going hasn’t been easy. What follows is something I posted last week on the Hartland Library blog, because we’ve had to move the group and change the day and frequency.
Pati Harris, who along with Susan Estes, maintained the Dexter group and kept it running for close to 20 years, experienced serious health issues earlier this summer. She has since moved out of state. As a result, Susan and I have decided to move the group to the Hartland Public Library and change the meeting day and how often we meet. The group will meet on the first and third Tuesday of each month (full schedule below). We’ve had the same core group for the past several years: Susan, who is writing Christian westerns, Jeris who is penning her life history, Pati who wrote animal themed essays, poetry and Sunday school plays, Gloria who writes devotionals with a bible verse for each day of the year with accompanying questions and yours truly who writes short mystery stories, YA fantasy fiction and teen novellas. As you can see, we’re a pretty diverse group.
We’re looking for new blood. It’s not always easy to get useful criticism and feedback when the same people hear your stuff at every meeting. As far as we’re concerned, the only requirement for membership is a desire to write and get better at it. If you fit that description and are (or think you might be) comfortable reading in front of a small group of people, then we’d love to have you join us. If you have any questions, feel free to call the library at 938-4702 or email me at berek at tds.net.
I realize the chances anyone reading this will be able to join us is slim, but I wanted to highlight the dilemmas faced by writers in rural areas. Granted, I belong to the short mystery and fantasy writing listservs at Yahoo.com, but I find that reading aloud so other writers can hear something in progress does several things posting a piece for critique cant do. First, you can’t see facial expressions online and they’re sometimes far more helpful than words. I also find that I’m an auditory editor, catching uneven and flawed passages with my ears as I read them. Can’t do that online either.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing groups, especially any interesting personal experiences.
SCHEDULE for 2013-14: (we start at 7 PM) 16 Mill St., Hartland ME 04943
9/3, 9/17, 10/1, 10/15, 11/5, 11/19, 12/3, 12/17, 01/7, 01/21, 02/4, 02/18, 03/4, 03/18, 04/1, 04/15,
05/6, 05/20, 06/3, , 06/17.