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Going Local, Going Real

I originally posted this as an article in a Newsletter I edit…

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As writers, we’re pretty well used to interacting with “people” via text… it’s how our characters live. We write/type, and they live.

But what if the only way you intermingle with other writers is through the internet: WDC, Twitter, Facebook, G+… whatever…? Are they real? Or have you made them up? Am I real? Or are you just imagining me?

The thing about meeting up with real life fellow authors is you get to interact (gasp!) face-to-face. Foreign, I know… but let me tell you something…

Several years ago I finally discovered why I had been feeling so “odd” as I clawed my way through day-to-day life and went to work, blah blah. You see, I rediscovered my writing bug. I started penning a story. When it started to grow into something more than “just a story”, I joined WDC and combed through various websites looking for the advice and experience I needed to shape my story into a NOVEL. My best progress was made through the more personal relationships I formed both on WDC and on other sites (I found my strongest supporter on Jottify). It’s all good and well sending a review here and there and getting the odd one back, but there really is something about forming allegiences with other writers with the goal of helping each other succeed in whichever way they wish.

Then one day, for some reason I forget, I decided to seek face-to-face writing groups in my area. I learned of two. One I had to contact someone to get the details, the other one had all the details online, so I just rocked up. In both cases, it turned out to be the last meeting for the year before a 2-month break. The one I had to contact someone about was alright, but I never heard anything about things starting back up the following year, and I ended up not following it up, because…

The other one was so welcoming, had a nice structure to the meeting plans and yearly activities, and I was immediately included in the email list and kept up to date with when things would kick off the following year.

The thing that struck me the most at my first meeting of the Dunedin Writers’ Workshop (DWW) was how amazing it was to meet people JUST LIKE ME! I love my real life friends and family and all… but, writers… we’re a special breed. We really are. When you get together with a group of writers you see that. We’re all odd in our own ways, but there is definitely a unifying force.

Our Workshop meets monthly. Most months we have a presentation of some aspect of writing: Point-Of-View; How to write romance; Increasing Tension, Drama, etc… Three times a year we accept entries for short story competitions which we have judged by a local published author who presents the results and talks about their writing the following month. Because members pay yearly subs and competition entry fees, we are able to give a little gift to our judges, as well as present our winners with a trophy and our runners up with certificates.

So, that first meeting I attended was November 2011. And now I find myself President. I admit, I wasn’t voted in as much as I was the only person willing to take up the leadership role when we found ourselves with a vacuum in that position (much like my newletter editing role, hmm…). The group, and its continuation, is that important to me.

From being a part of the DWW, I have teamed up with some other writers (some also members of DWW, some not) to form a critique group that somehow seems to avoid all those horror stories you see regarding critique groups around the place (you know, the nit-picking, or the completely unhelpful “That’s brilliant, amazing” — not that I don’t say that to my follow critiquers, but I can still find something for them to improve!). But the DWW is a place to meet to talk about writing and eat supper (slices, “cookies” (biscuits) and drink tea/coffee), rather than critique, but it’s also a place to strike up relationships with other writers, which could lead to critique groups, support for book launches, etc.

I don’t know if any of my readers have groups near them like this, but I highly recommend seeking them out, or creating one. Scary as it may be to step away from our computers, that sense of comradery when one meets fellow writers is truly awesome.

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