A place where writers may meet/commiserate with other like minded/hearted souls. Shop talk, methodology discussions possible. We welcome authors of any genre, format, or medium - fiction and nonfiction writers, but also poets, screenwriters, songwriters, and any other writers. Our group is quite diverse in experience and perspective. We are very welcoming of new members. If you're curious to see what our meetings are like, please join us and find out!
OUR FORMAT: Each meeting is three hours long.
Frequently, we begin by going around the room and asking each attendee to introduce him or herself, including a VERY BRIEF summary of writing interests and any publishing credits. We may forego this introduction period when attendance is very large, and it would take up too much time. We also take a few minutes to explain our format to new attendees.
We then move into a one-hour (approximately) discussion of a single topic relevant to the craft. The topic for each meeting is usually set at the prior month's meeting. We try to alternate between "business of writing" topics and a "craft of writing" topics, but we aren't terribly formal about it. The most popular topic, "How to find an agent and/or publisher to publish your work" tends to come up 2 or 3 times per year. Other recent topics have included book cover design, the role of setting in a narrative, and how to create and maintain a blog or web site.
After the discussion, we take a 10-minute break so folks can get refreshments or visit the facilities, and then we do critiques. Typically, the group has 3-5 pieces to critique. Members receive these pieces by email in advance of the meeting, so they arrive having read the pieces and prepared to make comments. Some members choose to print the pieces and mark them with comments or corrections, but this is not required.
Our critiques follow the following format, which takes 25-30 minutes per piece of work:
1) The author has an opportunity to introduce their work with any preface or comment of their choice. After this, the author is metaphorically "killed." For the duration of the critique, the author is not permitted to speak or respond. Reader comments are directed to the group, not to the author.
2) Each work is assigned to a volunteer moderator, who is familiar with the critique format and will guide the discussion. Because we are a large group, readers with comments raise their hands, and the moderator calls on readers in turn. The moderator helps keep comments relevant and productive, and will move the review along if it gets bogged down or stops being productive.
3) In the first discussion section, readers are asked to make positive comments. What did you enjoy about the work? What struck you as being done particularly well? What makes this work stick out in your mind? Why do you think it is artistically good, or commercially marketable?
4) The second section is for constructive criticism. What did you not think was executed well? What changes do you think would help improve the work? These criticisms should be constructive, intended to improve the work - and they should be criticisms of the work itself, not of the author. This is a section for issues larger than misspellings or grammatical errors.
5) The third section is for nitpicks. This is where small criticisms, like grammar errors and misspellings, can be mentioned.
6) We finish with a round of applause for the author and for reader comments, the author is metaphorically revived, and invited to make a brief comment in response to criticisms. Sometimes there will be questions the author can answer for the group. Authors are discouraged from being defensive against criticism - if you disagree with a comment, it's best to take what value you can from it and move on.
While we are not totally opposed to considering changes to our critique format, we have been doing critiques for quite some time, and have found that this format works best for us. We have generally succeeded in keeping a friendly, cordial atmosphere, and critiques usually generate helpful comments and suggestions. Most authors who have been critiqued say the process is very helpful to them - and almost everyone comes back for more.
HOW THE PIECES FOR CRITIQUE ARE DISTRIBUTED: Pieces are e-mailed to active members, typically 2-3 weeks before each meeting. This gives readers an opportunity to read in advance, and write comments if they choose. Reading work aloud does not fit with our format - though we have occasionally made exceptions, for short dramatic works or poems. If you'd like to read or perform a script or poem, ask an organizer.
When you attend your first meeting, you will have an opportunity to provide your e-mail address, so you can receive copies of pieces for future meetings. Your e-mail will not be spammed or shared with anyone. We promise. By restricting the circulation to people that actually attend a first meeting, we avoid adding non-members to the group that don't demonstrate a commitment.
For new members attending their first meeting, we realize this means you will not have copies of the pieces to be workshopped. This is, to some extent, deliberate. We invite you stay and observe at least one critique so that you can see our format. You are, of course, welcome to join in the discussion - but we like new people to see our approach first-hand, so they can understand the format we follow. If you like what you see and leave your email address, you will get the new submissions before the next meeting and you are full member.
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR WORK FOR CRITIQUE: When you attend your first meeting, you'll get an e-mail address to submit your own work to our organizer Julius, who is kind enough to handle distributing work to the entire group. The group will accept any type of work (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, lyrics, script, etc) but we do ask for a 4,000 word maximum. If your work is significantly longer than 4,000 words, we ask you to break it into sections.
We do not accept new pieces of writing at our meetings for critique, nor do we invite authors to read their work to the group. We understand some other writers' groups take this approach, and that's a perfectly respectable format, but it is not our format. Please do not bring your writing to a meeting expecting it to be critiqued - submit it by e-mail. Work by "new" authors, who have not previously been critiqued, is warmly welcomed and given priority in our "queue."
When you submit your work, remember to include, at the very least, your name, a title (if there is one), and to number your pages. It is also very helpful to note, on your cover page, whether the work is a stand-alone piece, or a section of a longer piece. If it is a section of a longer piece, and not the beginning, it is recommended that provide a very brief (1 paragraph or so) summary of relevant information from earlier in the work, to aid in the reader's understanding.
Lastly, while we are a group for adults, we are committed to free expression, and we reject censorship, we've learned that it's to the author's benefit to include a cover-page warning about any especially graphic sex or violence in your work. This is not because explicit work will be refused - it's so your critique session isn't dominated by a few readers who were shocked and appalled, and to respect the wishes of some readers with delicate sensibilities.