Hi. Joanna here. For this week the Ask-a-Wench question is:
You all belong to Word Wenches, obviously. Is there another writers' group or organization in your life that gives you support and enjoyment? Or is there another, perhaps altogether different, formal or informal group that influences your writing or help you in your writing life?
Mary Jo says:
There are so many valuable writing groups that it belies the idea that writing is a solitary profession! Most writers love to get together and talk about writing, the business, and, of course, our work sin progress. My first group was the Maryland Romance Writers, the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. There were only ten members, but they knew a lot more about writing and publishing than I did. I'm still a member of MRW, it's grown much larger, and it's still very supportive.
typical frantic scene at RWA National Conference
All RWA groups, both regional and national, have been great places where I've learned and met lifelong friends, including most of the Word Wenches. I have a special fondness for Novelists, Inc. which is for popular fiction authors from all genres. It's always offered terrific support for the business of writing, and it's become a leader in helping writers master the emerging world of independent publishing.
Yet the Word Wenches are unique. We all write and love historical novels, and there is structure because we've all committed to posting regularly on this blog. That's business, but we've gone beyond that to become a sisterhood. We share information and laughter and offer sympathy for life's downs as well as congratulations on the ups. Not to mention sharing pet pictures and stories. <G> We like each other, we cheer each other on, and there is no queen bee. Which is why we're still here, doing what we do and enjoying it.
I second what Mary Jo said about writing no longer being the solitary occupation it used to be. Email and affordable phone calls has changed all that. I have writing friends all over the world, with whom I can talk over a writing problem or brainstorm an idea or share a piece of writing.
The Word Wenches have become a friendship group, not only a blogging group, even though we only see each other very occasionally. I have another group of writer friends with whom I go away each year for a week of writing, brainstorming, discussion and friendship. We've been doing it for seven years so far, and we support each other through life's ups and downs, as well as the writing and publishing adventure. This was our first retreat.
(Joanna slipping in with a comment. That link above, about Anne's writer group, is just chock full of tips on How To Build Your Own Writer Group With A Great Retreat. I mean, that link is gold.)
And back to Anne:
As for more formal groups, I'm a member of Romance Writers of Australia as well as Romance Writers of America. Both organizations do a lot to educate writers and help people get published and I'd recommend anyone starting out to join. I also belong to NINC, Novelists Inc, which is a US organization of multi-published authors of popular fiction, which is more oriented toward career-building. It was at a NINC conference I first met wenches Mary Jo and Jo and Pat. I also belong to several state Writers Centres in Australia — they're more oriented toward literary writing, but I like to have contact with a range of writers.
For me the strongest and most helpful connections are the personal ones — people I met through author groups or writers' organizations. I had no idea when I set out to become a romance writer that in doing so, I would find some of my best friends.
Andrea comes by to say:
I’m afraid much of what I’m going to say will sound like an echo of Mary Jo and Anne. Nonetheless . . .
It’s a good thing I didn’t know how clueless I was about being a writer when I first sat down to put the story in my down into words. Otherwise it would have been far too daunting. (Yes, someth imes ignorance really is bliss!) Somehow I muddled through my manuscript and it was accepted by Signet for it traditional Regency line. My editor, Hilary Ross, then suggested that I might want to join RWA and attend its annual conference, in order to learn the ropes. There were organizations for writers? THat was a revelation to me (I told you I was clueless.)
So I dutifully booked a flight to Chicago and showed up at the registration desk, brightly announcing I was there to register. I received a pitying look and was told I had to have registeedr MONTHS ago. No walk-ins! Well, that’s when the first of countless kindnesses from fellow writers occurred. A more experienced Signet author overheard the exchange and promptly took me by the arm, bought me a drink and introduced me to a buch of other authors. I couldn’t attend the seminars, but I was included in all the informal gatherings and made to feel part of the group. Someone lent me her conference workbook to read, another explained how the organization worked . . .
RWA became a highpoint of every year after that, a time to share laughter and and talk shop with fellow authors. I’ve learned a lot about the craft of writing through the seminars, But far more importantly, I’ve made some of my best lifelong friends through it. I think I hyperventilated when I first met Mary Jo and Pat and Jo at one of those first conferences. Mary Jo overlooked my near-swoon and was nice enough to offer advice as I got a few more books under my belt. When she asked if I’d be interested in joining the Word Wenches, I had to pinch myself.
Writing is at heart a solitary profession, but this group makes it feel that I’m not going it alone. It's amazing in how supportive and encouraging everyone is to each other. We brainstorm ideas, we discuss writing craft, we share personal ups and downs. In a business that constantly in flux, having that steady support and camaraderie has been really important. The Wenches aren’t just fellow writers, they have become best friends.
I doubt that I can add to the other posts. As a lifelong introvert, I never talked about my writing when I first started out. I was living in a tiny town without a bookstore and didn’t know The Romantic Times existed until Kathryn Falk tracked me down and asked if I knew Leigh Greenwood. Silly me, I thought he was a country musician. I think she may have mentioned RWA, but when I asked my agent and editor about the organization, they told me it was a bunch of cantankerous crazies. So my first real writer’s support group was Novelists Inc, which I learned about in the very early days of email—over long distance and a phone modem from friends I’d been corresponding with through snail mail.
My first Novelists’ Inc conference was an eye opener. I was talking to the women who wrote the books I loved. They were just like me in so many ways that it was like coming home to family. Better, because they understood the craziness in my head. That group taught me to talk about what I did. We exchanged information that made me realize my agent and editor were trying to keep me from learning that I was seriously underpaid. Since I was into women’s lib at the time, I took to the warpath and joined the cantankerous crazies, helping women make a living at writing.
Since then, I’ve met authors who have become close friends because they lived within driving distance, and authors whose friendship has exceeded state and national boundaries. Brainstorming with Mary Jo and Susan King led to reaching out to mutual friends and forming the Word Wenches. And although our numbers and members have changed over the years, I’ve found every one of them to be a tremendous source of support and friendship over the years.
Joanna: I'm with everyone else here in loving the wonderful national organizations like RWA. I've made lots of friends through the local RWA chapter.
And the RWA Natiional Conference is a blast.
I have a group of local writers — not all Romance writers — who get together on a wildly irregular basis and talk writing craft, marketing strategy and, y'know, life. We encourage each other.
Writers spend a lot of time in our heads. It's good we belong to a profession that also leads us to writing friends.
Susan joins in with:
When I was a green little newbie, a seasoned writer (of whom I was greatly in awe) gently told me that the very best thing about being a published author had nothing to do with writing or books. The best part, she told me, would be the friends I'd make along the way. And she was absolutely right. Every writing organization I've joined has not only taught me much about writing and publishing and opened doors — but has brought great friends into my life, some of whom have become very special friends far beyond the writing circles. I am so grateful to be part of the Wenches, a group that began as an idea between author friends (Mary Jo, Pat, myself) to create an author blog where we could share our love of historical fiction – and it's expanded over eight years far beyond what any of us expected. Honestly, I think we would have been pleased to hang on for two or three years as a group! We still enjoy doing the blog, we love connecting with readers and sharing thoughts — and behind the scenes, we have grown into a group of true friends who understand and care about each other on much more than a professional level. I'm truly grateful for this support network of real friends — I think we Wenches all appreciate how lucky we are in that regard.
Beyond the Word Wenches, and beyond the local and national organizations, the writing group that I value most is the little brainstorming triumvirate that Mary Jo and Pat and I formed years ago. It's always been a generous, honest, protected circle of sharing ideas, respecting each other's individuality as writers, and supporting our stories as well as our directions in life. It's a springboard for bouncing around titles and taglines or the bigger things like how to send the bad guy over the cliff. It's the place where I'll air my worries as well as my hopes. I cherish it greatly, and I'm always amazed they let me hang out with them.
So it's not about the writing or the group support or the influences and career advice. It's about the friendships, and then all the rest falls wonderfully into place.
And Jo has this to say:
I love writers groups, because only writers understand the craziness of it all, but I love romance writing groups the most because romance writers, overall, are positive people who value community and connection. I value my long term memberships in RWA and NINC, and also less formal internet communities, but I have benefitted most from the in person romance critique groups I've had through most of my career. Most writers do need other writers, on line and in person.
What groups do you belong to that stretch your mind, fill your heart, and lead you to friends?