Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Writing Group

(From left to right:  Annette Spaulding-Convy, Janet Knox, Jenifer Lawrence, Ronda Broatch - Missing Lana Ayers, Holly Hughes, Jeannine Hall Gailey )

This is my writing group, or most of my writing group.  We met last night to discuss our poems.  We've been meeting once or twice a month for the last eight or nine (?) years.  Something like that.

We don't have a formal name, but when we meet we say something that leans toward something that sounds like a therapy session:  "We have group tonight."  And in a certain way, it is.  The Group keeps me sane.

When we first started meeting, none of us had any books published.  We had a few publications, but we had one thing in common, we loved words and writing.  We loved discussing poems and poetry, arts, language, and what we've been reading.

Now, some years later, here's some of the books they've published:
Ronda BroatchSome Other EdenShedding Our SkinsSome Other Eden  & Shedding Our Skins

Jenifer LawrenceOne Hundred Steps from ShoreOne Hundred Steps from Shore

Janet Norman KnoxEastlake Cleaners When Quality & Price Count [a romance]Eastlake Cleaners When Quality & Price Count [a romance]

Annette Spaulding-ConvyIn the Convent We Become Clouds (also my wonderful co-editor at Crab Creek Review!)

Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer's Disease (Literature and Medicine)
Holly Hughes:  Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer's Disease (Literature and Medicine)

Holly Hughes Boxing the Compass

Lana Hechtman AyersWhat Big Teeth: Red Riding Hood's Real LifeWhat Big Teeth: Red Riding Hood's Real Life

And making her return to our group in September--

Jeannine Hall Gailey!Becoming the VillainessBecoming the Villainess
~ ~ ~

If you can't tell, I'm feeling very grateful for my writing group today.

Julia Cameron talked about "Creative Clusters" in her book, The Artist's Way (a book I first read in 1996 when I was quitting my corporate job and making my life as a writer).

Cameron writes, "As artists, we must find those who believe in us, and in whom we believe, and band together for support, encouragement and protection...We all start out the same way--rich in dreams and nothing more.  If we are lucky, we find friends to believe in  our dreams with us.  When we do that, the creative cluster becomes a magnet to attract good."

"Know this well: success occurs in clusters and is born in generosity.  Let us form constellations of believing of mirrors and more into our powers."

"Creativity grows among friends, withers among enemies."

I realize writing workshops can go two ways, sometimes there is one person who pulls everyone down and the group becomes a b*tchfest or the Doug and Wendy Whiner show.

Or hopefully, the group pulls each other up.

We've pulled each other up, but also, when we first started this group many many years ago, we promised each other that not just  anyone could be part of this group, they *must* have the right attitude and fit.  We were select with who we asked, and later, who we added to the group.  It was too important to us to just allow anyone to join.


Last night was an incredible group.  We hadn't seen each other for a while, I missed the last workshop, which I never do, so it felt as if months had gone by since we'd gathered.

I arrived with a worried heart.  I was talking about how I had started to feel a little doubtful as a proofed my manuscript over and over and over.  I said, "As I continue to read and reread my manuscript I think 'Who is going to like this?  Who is going to think this is any good?'"

Someone in my group said, "It's already won a prize, you're good!"  (We laughed and added that maybe I should I add this to the dedication page.)

But without them, who would I talk with?

While my family is incredibly supportive, they aren't writers.  When I told them "Carl Dennis chose my manuscript!" I might have well been saying, "Some random person on the street chose my manuscript!" because to when they hear Carl Dennis, they don't hear poet I respect, or Pulitzer Prize winner, they hear, "Whoever that is!  Kelli seems excited though."

There is something about a group of writers or artists who support you and understand how you're feeling or what's happening because they are not only in the same boat, but they are each taking turns raising the sails, looking out for rough water.  They know the names of the fish swimming by, both big and small. They allow you to rest when you need to rest, they offer you inspiration, energy and usually some good snacks.  And hopefully, they get that from you in return.

So those people above, they are my not only on my boat, they are my life raft.

I so hope you too have some people to share your journey with (and if not in your own neighborhood, hopefully online).  I'm truly thankful I live in an area where you throw a stick, hit a poet.

It's easier and a lot more fun when you have your tribe, when you have a group to sail with...


  1. Kelli,
    What a small world.

    I joined your Poetry Giveaway and was happy to connect with a poetry-writer-lover.

    And NOW I realize you are friends with Holly Hughes -- I spent the weekend with Holly at AWP, and at a reading for Beyond Forgetting, her anthology, which I am honored to be a part of.

    What wonderful, and surprising, connections are made in this distant-but-serendipitous blog world.

  2. Drew,

    that is a small world! How cool!

    Holly's anthology is incredible, as is she. I'm so glad you are a part of it. And thanks for letting me know your connection with Holly! I like that we are all so interconnected.

    Thanks for your note!

  3. Oh I love this. you are so fortunate to have a group for writing, and super talented one at that! I have an informal group for art, but not for writing. I have long thought I should just start one.... you have made my mind tick again


  4. What a terrific group! I have a few people I work with individually but not often as a group. Miss it a little :)


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