Returning to Palm Writer's Group was the highlight of my evening. During the previous two months, pre-occupation with family matters rendered me unable to attend. As usual, there was a fair balance of humor and banter at the round table (rectangular but still hosts a meeting of the minds.) There were a few awkward moments where topics included in writers' manuscripts became the butt of wisecracks making some of us blush.
As I sat there tonight, I began to realize how much I missed this group of people for the year or so when I had moved away and not attended the meetings. The group has changed so much over the years but it is still colorful and diverse.
The former president of the group was back and shared a story which told of a recent spiritual experience. I enjoyed reading his work and seeing him again. Faithful, long-time members along with newer members-- a few faces I didn't recognize--all contributed to a wonderful experience. Fellow word-lovers of varied perspectives agreed together to help one another improve the writing ability of each individual. There were mystics, Catholics, Christians, agnostics, atheists and people from various lifestyles spread around the table each smiling, laughing and critiquing the others' works without animosity. It's just the sort of place for a Christian Writer to be.
To top it off, I made a new friend, thanks to a mutual friend, Barb. Our testimonies and choices of a life verse were similar. (A life verse is one chosen to be used somewhat like a mission statement given to a person by God.) We shared a wonderful conversation after the meeting. I was familiar with books by authors with whom she is associated and have used them to help church members who have been hurt by various offensive things in the church (not my church, per say, but the universal church in general). I am interested to see where the Lord takes this "God-incidental" meeting as I really connected with this guest on many levels. I look forward to interacting with her and seeing the input she brings to our group. I'm sure that she has much to offer us in the line of constructive criticism.
It was good to see my writing colleagues and to be back in the grove again. Now I just need to get signed up for the web activities connected with the group. It is time to be diligent about this once more. Palm Group helped me tremendously over the years with improving my writing skills. I also became good at editing and critiquing as well as receiving critiques. This is the group that John, the former president used to call "The Carnivores". I was on the receiving end of a few of those man-eating critiques. It sure did sharpen my skills (after I picked my fragile ego up off the floor!) I'm thankful that I've been a part of this fantastic group of writing critics and writers. There are so many new members that I am excited about getting to know. (I'm reading their awesome stories, too.) This it the group I like best for their editing and analyzing abilities.
Clermont Christian Writers Group will be starting up again Monday at 1pm BUT they will not be in the old library downtown. The library has a new groove--a brand, spanking new building near the college in Clermont. (Did you know there was a college in Clermont? I had no clue.) Well, I am anxious to meet up with these writers again after the group went on a summer hiatus. I've missed the crew there which included members from Africa, Clermont, Leesburg, Tavares and surrounding areas.
One writer is a missionary in Muslim territory. She shared ways that Christians can invite Muslims into their homes to show them Christian love. Her writing is fantastic! She writes vignettes about her experiences in Africa. They are cute little children's stories with a gently-woven-in moral. I love them.
Another lady grew up in a Circus family but she is so mellow, sweet and kind. Her stories are very spiritual and show the relational side of walking with God. She writes devotional material as well as skits and has a large novel in the works. I found an immediate connection with her as I also grew up in a family that traveled and performed, though for different reasons.
Too there is a former sports writer who writes prophetic books and stories that evoke deep emotional responses toward the faith and toward helping others. He always has a unique perspective on things.
The leader of our group is a many-time published Chicken Soup for the Soul writer. She does a marvelous job of keeping us updated on market opportunities, providing accountability for members in our writing goals. Her most helpful talent is the ability to encourage everyone to be the best writers that they can be.
There are several other writers that I enjoy reading in this group as well. They write to comfort those with long-term illness or personal baggage and/or for entertainment as well as their own person enjoyment. A couple battle disabilities and illnesses but continue toward their writing goals, blessing us all with their words.
I'm excited to return to our next meeting Monday. I just hope my directional disabilities don't kick in too high gear on the trip. I will have to take advantage of both Map Quest and MS Streets and Trips. I might even beg my friend, Lyssie, to let me borrow her GPS in addition. Can you tell I'm Geographically Deficient?
So, now that I've rambled on and on about my writing groups, what does this have to do with you, the readers?
Well, I've ranted periodically on Rather Be Writing about the need for writers to attend a writers' group of some sort. The reason why is because I believe that it is difficult to be a good writer and stay on top of the game without cheerleaders to spur you on further on the journey. I feel that the challenge of submitting to a group of critics prepares you for the possible rejection you might receive from a publishing editor. In addition, reading the work of other authors teaches you things about writing that you can't learn if you only write and read one genre. There is a great deal to be learned from the analysis and discussion of all types of writing.
Much of the writing I read and critique in Palm Group is material I would never otherwise read as it is secular (nothing wrong with it, just not my personal choice for everyday reading.) Some of it comes from an absolute opposite viewpoint spiritually or politically. Reading it, gives me an understanding of people unlike myself and an opportunity to develop a relationship with the same. It can help, as well, when I am writing about a character, to know how real life people from real life situations might word things or act. It's a free education, if you will. We all learn from each other. It's an experience I wouldn't trade for the world and that I would highly recommend to all writers. (No hyperbole here. LOL).
When it comes to Christian Writer's Groups, it is obvious that the group often contains more of a spiritual focus which can sometimes even reach outside of the writing topics. If all writers feel that they march to a different beat from the rest of the world, then Christian writers feel it in even more profound ways. This market is not as widespread with opportunities and often has limitations that other markets do not. those who read this genre may not be as willing or able to purchase what is offered. Being in a Christian group can also help understand the picky sticky areas of the genre. It is so helpful to receive tips and info on other Christian Writers' marketing experiences as well as to feel the genuine care over the spiritual leadings on: how to write, what to write an where to submit. We've held meetings that included prayer when someone felt discouraged or needed direction. As a Christian writer, that is a unique experience. I want to be led by the Lord in anything I write, whether it is for the secular or Christian markets. Christian Writer's Groups understand the need to be spirit-led and yet still prod you toward publication goals you may choose for yourself.
But what if you don't have a writers group in your area? There are many wonderful online communities for both secular and Christian writers. I've posted about some of them under the labels marked "cheerleaders". If you know of any, please post your comments so that other readers may benefit. To quote a popular musical, "We're all in this together."
If you aren't able to join an online community of writers nor a local critique or writing group, then I suggest praying for God to send you online writing friends with whom you can connect. I've met some of the best writers and editors online! I believe they were heaven-sent to my life for the purpose of mutual encouragement on many levels as well as professional improvement. If you don't have connections with other writers, you know the One who can make it all happen for you. Ask and you will receive. God is good about answering specific prayer!
When it comes to business connections, trust Him also. Trust and obey and let Him make the way! Remember you are writing for a purpose. He is the provider and we are the distributors. Look to the Ultimate Navigator for direction! He will not lead you astray but will move in and through you to new and old grooves.