Tuesday, February 16, 2010


All Adults Must Be Accompanied by a Child. Etching. 18x24. © by Ruth Zachary.


I participate in two writer’s groups, meeting monthly, and have for more than four years.

One is focused solely on poetry. The other has members who write a variety of work, including essays, human interest stories, poetry, short story fiction, novels, and even more.

We have had people who were at different levels. Those who use the groups to an advantage are serious about writing, the writing exercise, or what ever the planned activity is for the next month. Most people have written some wonderful pieces over the years.

My opinion is that peer feedback from other writers really helps one to see what needs improving. Feedback is not criticism. It is given in “I respond in this way…” or “did you mean this, or something else” by a particular phrase? I ask for feedback when ever there is time for it.


Share guidelines for non-threatening peer feedback, and discourage mean spirited criticism.

The group is not a forum for competition, and most people come to improve their own writing and encourage the writing of others in the group.

Our poetry group has wonderful exercises which stimulate us to try new things, offered by Mary Lauck. Above all, I believe just showing up at the next meeting makes me write when I might otherwise procrastinate.

I have been part of different writing groups since the early 90s. Sometimes I couldn’t find one to join and that felt like a deprivation. I have started writing groups, which came and went.

It is sad when they break apart, sometimes because people move away. My advice is if you can find a group, join it. Even if you feel your writing is better than some other people’s in the group, believe that they will improve soon. I think any group is better than no group, although I have heard opinions counter to this.

I think there if one tries to exert some influence with gentleness, even one person can usually urge the group toward healthy growth.

Appreciate the accomplishments of others and show it with enthusiasm.

Share helpful information, books and articles with others. Encourage writing opportunities.

Try not to share issues which are too personal. Some people just can’t take it, and the group needs to stay focused on writing, not to be a support group. If you are writing about something close to the bone, treat the issue as fiction. Individuals may offer support, however, when friendships develop separately from the group. Never write unkindly about another person in the group.

Try to stay on track. Personal exchanges offer understanding and background, but too much of it can cut back on time for focusing on the writing. It helps to determine how much writing will be shared, and to make sure there is time. If there is too much work, have each person bring the excess to the next meeting. If the group is too large, break into sub groups or cut back on how much is brought to be read.

Only once have I been in a group where one person dominated every discussion. That group asked the person to leave, but I think that is unusual.

Overall, all my experiences in Writing Groups have resulted in learning and improving my skills.

All Images and Writing are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary©2010

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