What do you mean by "literary" writing? Does that mean you only accept realistic fiction?
No! Literary writing takes many forms. It can be a very serious and traditional story like something Hemingway might write, but it can also include fantasy or science fiction--think of Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, and Ursula K. Le Guin. It can also be nonfiction; personal essays and memoirs are just two forms of what is commonly called creative nonfiction, writing about real people and events that strives to be literary.
But what does it mean to be literary?
According to Le Guin, "The artist deals with what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words." To crudely rephrase that, literary writing goes beyond just telling a story to try and say or capture something about life, the universe, human nature, or whatever.
That sounds pretentious.
Sometimes it is. We try not to be.
So what isn't literary?
That's a tricky question. I'd say a hack-and slash fantasy novel that's just about the hero claiming treasure and sleeping around isn't literary, and I'd also say many romance novels and thrillers aren't literary, but there are always exceptions. The Talented Mr. Ripley, for example, is a thriller that is also deceptively literary, and critics are beginning to recognize that many things can have literary value.
But I'm just a beginner! I can't write anything literary!
Literary doesn't always mean good. I myself have written many terrible literary stories, and I assure you that you are just as capable of producing them as I am. What matters is the attempt to capture something bigger in your writing, something that transcends words. If it slips your net, that's fine. We're all here because we're trying to get better, after all.
I have an awesome idea for the group! How do I make it happen?
You could mention it at a meeting, email me or anyone else you think might be interested, or post something on here. We encourage awesomeness here, and new ideas for meetings and activities are highly encouraged.
The group name is too long! What's up with that?
I wanted something that was easily searchable and included the word literary to emphasize that we're not a group for bodice-rippers and other commercial fiction. It's clunky, but it gets the job done.
What is the long-term point of this group? World domination?
Obviously, but all things in due time. Our immediate goal is to set up a workshop, and after that, I'd like to ensure that the group has what it needs to survive after I'm gone so that no one in Iowa City has to be without a writing group ever again. Beyond that, group members are welcome to propose new goals or directions at any time, and if people like them, we do them.