I belong to 2 writers’ groups and both meet on Thursdays… a highlight of my week. The members of one group write in English and the other’s write in Spanish. Both are important to me, but for different reasons.
The great majority of my English-language writers’ group members are women. A few men attend, but not as consistently as the eight women do. We meet in the mornings when our wits are a little sharper. We are in the same age bracket and share a lot of common viewpoints. But that’s where our similarities come to a halt. We hail from a variety of places north of the Rio Grande; we all had different professions. Some have children; there are also some grand children. Some of us are married, some unmarried. We’re all working part-time on our diverse projects: poetry, photo-memoir, life writing, novels, self help… We divide our time between the members who are present, giving everyone a chance to read some of their work. We are not negative and like to support rather than scathe one another’s writing. This is not to say we don’t critique, we do… but we strive for non-aggressiveness.
My Spanish writers’ group comes from an entirely different bookshelf. The women are much younger than me; the lone male is older. Except for the retired doctor, they all work at busy day jobs, so we meet in the evening. Most have young children and many complications in their lives. But they do what they have to in order to come… often they resemble wiped-out greyhounds that have run several times around the track. In this group we read for the first hour. Last week’s selection was a segment of Mario Benedetti’s “El Reino de los Cielos.” Through this group, I have been introduced me to many fine Spanish language writers. During the second hour, one or two persons read their work. The piece gets torn apart. “This is not right!”… “You’ve changed tense!”… “This part should be moved…” “This part – scrap it!” But even though they are terse, they are fair.
To me, the best thing about writers’ groups is that everyone wants to hear what I wrote this week. Most others in my life will run for the door rather than read works-in-progress. I recognize the improvement the others have made since joining Writers’ Group and I hope my writing has also gotten better.