Please note that we do not meet Second Tuesdays (see below)! Also, please, for the love of god, don't read this whole thing, all you really need to do is just skim over the bold parts!
Here's how we work!
Generally speaking, we spend the first half hour hanging out and waiting for people to come in.
If you have work you'd like to share, find the friendly moderator with the yellow pad and let them know. In the interests of effective criticism, we ask that you bring 5 hard copies and recommend something under 3000 words (as sometimes it gets noisy and having something in front of you makes it easier to follow along and take notes, as we simply have problems finding time for longer works).
Other than that, bring anything you want! Poems, short stories, segments from novels, memoirs, creative non-fiction, genre fiction, letters, screenplays, scripts, treatments, pitches, queries, personal essays, you name it. Hell, if you want to you can even bring in somebody else's work. Like obviously we're going to give preference to people's own, but we'd love to criticize e. e. cummings or Walt Whitman or Shakespeare, it'd be totally fun.
If you don't have work, don't worry about it! Reading is just as important as writing, your worth as a writer--nay, a human being even--in no way depends on your rate of production, and you don't have to bring anything to come to group. Like some of us have been going to groups for years and count the number of times we've brought in work on one, maybe two hands. It's also worth noting that almost nobody brings work their first time, one just wants to get a feel for things and figure out if it's the right group for you, and this is completely normal.
Also, there are no caps or limits on attendance, anybody can come, and it's totally free.
Anyway. Once everybody has arrived (7:00), the moderator divides the group into sub-groups (primarily in the interests of balancing content, but also things like demographics, personality, genre, and general diversity--like we think these groups work best when you have as many different kinds of people read and give you feedback on your work as possible).
Each sub-group has it's own moderator whose responsibility it is to basically make sure everybody gets a fair and equal opportunity to give and receive constructive criticism, to keep time, and to make sure everyone's being sensitive, respectful, and otherwise maintaining a safe, communal space.
If you have any requests, just let us know! Like if you brought the next chapter of your novel and would like somebody to see it who read it last week, or if you really like the way X gives criticism, or maybe you haven't been in a group with Y in a while and would like to hear their work, by all means. If you need to leave early, or are coming late, or need somebody to read your work for you, we can do that too. We're totally accommodating.
Once everybody is in their subgroup and sitting down in their respective seats at their respective tables, respective beverages in hand, the moderator says hello, everybody introduces themselves ('Hi, I'm Jake, I work at a restaurant and I write stuff') and the moderator says a few words about how groups work and offers a couple of suggestive guidelines and friendly reminders for keeping them the great kinds of places they happen to be.
Then, each person reads their work aloud while everyone follows along with the hard copy in front of them. Not only does reading aloud help you get better at reading aloud (an indispensable skill for the up-and-coming writer), but hearing and reading allows you to multi-task and give better criticism. Also, everybody sitting around a table silently reading to themselves, at their varying speeds, looking up and around awkwardly when they're finished, would be totally uncomfortable. If there are certain things we need to know about your work to understand it (or certain kinds of feedback you're looking for), just let us know before you start reading. E.g. backstory in a novel, context for a short story or poem; problems with character development, interests in emotional affect; etc. We're here for you.
Once you've finished reading your work, people will take turns offering you compassionate, constructive, and thoughtful feedback.
If you think you don't know how to give criticism, don't worry about it because you totally do! Like this isn't the place to go into it, we know criticism is a weird thing, but basically (a) you speak the English language, (b) you know how to read, (c) you have thoughts and feelings and experiences, and (d) anything you have to say about a person's piece at all is immensely helpful to them, even if you're just telling them about how you liked it (even if you didn't). Also, we've been doing this for a while, some of us even went to school for basically exactly this, and we can help you learn how to articulate things.
After an hour of reading, we take a short break at 8 so people can go to the bathroom, smoke, get a new drink, stretch, text message, etc. Then, after reading for another hour, we finish at 9 (though you're welcome to hang around and chat, as Carly's closes at midnight).
If you have feedback, let us know! Like if there are different practices or things we could do to help groups run better, if you think Z does a really good job moderating or giving criticism, if you want to talk more about what W said about your work, if we missed a comma somewhere in all of this copy, seriously, if there is anything even remotely related to writing groups that you'd like to talk about, we want you to talk to us about it. We're the moderators, we're supposed to be the resource here, and we are so serious about feedback.
Likewise, if there are cool and fun things you'd like to do with the group, let us know! If you're looking to do, say: a sweet alternative history anthology; a collection of short works in which each author is given an object prompt from the previous author, all of which take place in the same hotel room; a kind of redemptive literary secret santa where we'd all sign up and give each other prompts based on the poems or short stories we wished we had finished/wanted to write; a cinquain cycle; the possibilities are endless! This is a huge network of people you're tapping into, it allows all of us to do a lot of cool things, it presents a lot of opportunities, you should take advantage of them and by simply coming to group and showing up, you don't even have to talk to people, even once, you're a member of this community!
As mentioned earlier, we don't meet on second Tuesdays. Why? Because your designated friendly moderators go to/host an an open mic at Practical Art every second Tuesday from 7:00 to 8:30 pm (with monthly features) and we thought it'd be fun to try something a little different. It's a really awesome venue, there's a big blue couch and air conditioning and lots of chairs, the owner puts out wine and crackers and cheese, it's really relaxed, like hanging out, practically, and it presents a good opportunity not only to meet other like-minded people here in the valley but to present/perform your work in another context!
If you have any questions, please send either one of the moderators an e-mail or post it here on the Meetup itself. Also, join the Facebook group!
Thanks much, and we look forward to seeing you soon!