Why I need a face 2 face writing group.

If you live in the state of Utah, you are in luck…there is plenty of support for both the new and the experienced writer alike. Joining a group that is especially for writers can be a very helpful thing. Not only do you get support, but you can network and learn new things from others in the field.

Upon leaving WIFYR last June, I was all excited to write AND to help create an online writing group that included all the friends I’d made during that fun week. BUT here I am 3 months later, and I have NOT helped with the writing group that the kind and talented Jared organized. I have to ask myself WHY NOT.

It’s not that I don’t want to be part of a writing group because I really do, but I realized I want to meet face 2 face, NOT computer 2 computer. Even though it means adding one more meeting to my busy life, traveling to who-knows-where through wind, rain, snow, sleet and occasional sunshine or moonlight. That didn’t appeal to me in June, but it does now.

So these are the reasons an online group doesn’t fit the bill for me:

  • I need DEADLINES – not just write-and-submit due dates, but show-up with-manuscript-in-hand-and-face-your-peers kind of cut-offs.
  • I need to HEAR someone besides MY inner or outer voice read my writing to see if it sounds as good or bad as it does in my mind.
  • I need feedback THAT VERY MINUTE, not when an online buddy can get around to looking it over, because if they are as pathetic as I am, they will NEVER get to it.
  • I need living, breathing bodies to interact with because I spend enough time staring at a screen, and as much as I love listening to i Tunes or Pandora, I crave the energy of human beings. I like to see their faces, not just their Gravatars.
  • I need people to laugh at my craziness, to encourage me when I miss the mark, and to share ideas that are better than what I glean from Me, Myself, and I.

With that said, this is what I’m looking for – a group that …

  • meets once a month
  • includes experienced AND INexperienced writers
  • experiments with a variety of genres – from sci-fi/fantasy to contemporary; from paranormal to mysteries; from romance to historical.
  • includes Millennials as well as the Geritol Generation, and
  • can laugh out loud.
  • is willing to take risks with their writing and who encourage others to do so.
  • can give constructive suggestions without making the writer feel inferior, and can receive suggestions without becoming all defensive.

I don’t really want much. But if you know of such a collection of aspiring writers, please let me know. I’d love to land there!

Question of the hour: Why do I write?

“YOU are a WRITER when you BELIEVE that you ARE—and once PEOPLE BELIEVE they are WRITERS, they are ON THE PATH to a life-long LOVE of WRITING.”

~ Tracy Gardner               

Amy is a teacher, an aspiring writer, and a blogger – I am a teacher, an aspiring writer, and a blogger. We both attended the WIFYR Conference last week and both experienced up and down rides – the kinds that thrill and nauseate you. On her latest post, Amy posed the question often asked at the conference: Why do you write? Her post’s purpose is to solicit inspiring responses in hopes of lifting her writing spirits.               

ALL Writers Welcome

I don’t know if my reasons will inspire Amy or anyone else, but I do think every person who writes asks that question of themselves, and the answer is very important for many reasons. I remember when my cousin’s husband gave up golf after decades spent on the course. Why? Because he found no more joy in the game. I think that some individuals may put aside pen and paper if writing loses its spell over the writer. And that brings me to my reason for writing. I am spellbound by it.               

 Despite the play on words, it’s true. Writing has a hold on me; sometimes tighter than others. As a youngster, I wrote poems – terrible rhyming things that I thought were masterpieces; a few stories – just as pathetic as the poetry; and plays – usually a plagiarized creation that I recreated from Little Golden Books or The Children’s Friend.                

In my first round of college classes, I suffered through research papers and English 101 essays. I only remember one paper earning an A, and that had a minus attached to it. I wish I had kept it, but I do remember it was about dieting and one line mentioned the dread of joining 1/3 or more of the world’s population who goes to bed hungry. Not because of lack of food, but because I’d have to count calories for the rest of my life. Besides the decent grade, I recall the teacher’s comment about strong tone or style or something like that. What I think she meant was VOICE – a term not that familiar back in 1967 (at least to me). I think that little bit of encouragement kept me writing for a community newspaper, church newsletters and skits, etc. long after I dropped out of BYU.      

Writers are readers, too. From 4th grade on, I’ve been an avid reader. A competition to earn a fish for each book read motivated 9-year-old me to open one book after another in order fill up the aquarium on the bulletin board in Mrs. Jorgenson’s classroom. I quickly moved from those Golden Books to Nancy Drew to abridged classics like Heidi and Little Women to Reader’s Digest’s condensed novels like Mrs. Mike and The Egg and I. Of course, my older cousin introduced me to the sleazy books you have to hide from parents, but regardless of the genre, I LOVED all those pages plastered with familiar and UNfamiliar words that pulled me into places I enjoyed visiting – whether or not I should have been there!    



Arms akimbo

My love of words grew, and along with it, a love of writing. I meticulously searched for just the right noun to place on the third line of an original poem. I found “zephyr.” I looked for an adjective to describe meadows hidden in mountain valleys, and celebrated when I stumbled upon “verdant.” After I saw the word, “akimbo,” while reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I tucked it away until I needed it to describe a disgusted mother’s body language.               

I’m not sure when I REALLY considered myself a writer, but it wasn’t until I started writing nearly every day. Not because I HAD to but because I NEED to. My day feels incomplete unless I record something more substantial than my grocery list: ideas, reflections, descriptions, research,  experiences, etc. on one of my 3 blogs.                

But now I’m stretching myself even further because of an obscure incident that rather jarred me. Six years ago after returning to Utah from a stint in Georgia, I bumped into an acquaintance from our old neighborhood. After a few minutes of catching up, she asked if I had published my book.                

“What book?” I replied.               

“Weren’t you working on a book when you moved away?”               

I had to think. While I have thought about, daydreamed, and toyed with the “I’ll-write-a-book-someday” idea, I didn’t realize I had said TALKED about it to anyone –  especially to someone I hardly knew. I almost told her she had me mixed up with somebody else, but I stopped.               

“That’s still on my to-do list,” I said.                

And so there it is.                

Besides being captivated by words, I write because I haven’t finished my book.                


Dying over dialects, among other crazy things

“Dialect is heard with the eyes.It is one of the most contrived elements of fiction and must be handled well to avoid turning characters into superficial stereotypes.”

~ Patrika Vaughn

I am excited, nervous, happy, terrified, anxious, hesitant, but satisfied that I will be okay. Actually, more than okay. Tomorrow I start the Young Readers Writing and Illustrating Workshop. And while I do have concerns and questions, I feel confident that I will learn much and not be too humiliated.

While part of me wonders why I think I could ever write a book, I take solace in Sara Zarr’s answer as to why she became a writer. She actually offered several reasons: 1) like to write; 2) it’s something an English major can do once he or she graduates; 3) and this one is the BEST one – “when I met other authors and saw that they were people just like me, I decided I could do it.” (Not an exact quotation but I think it conveys the spirit of what she meant.)

On the other hand, I also chatted with an author who shook her head as she related that nearly everybody thinks they can write a book. Maybe most people COULD write a book, but that fact is most DON”T. But there sure are a lot of people who do. Just walk into The King’s English or one of the mega bookstores, and you’ll wonder, “How can I join and compete with ALL THESE WRITERS? Am I crazy to think I can?

So what else is freaking me out? The 5 pages I sent to my session leaders. It needed to be the start of a story/book AND it is supposed to be our best writing. Don’t know about that, but I sent it anyway because it was all I had, AND it needs work, AND I also question my use of dialect.

The first chapter is set in England, and I hear a British accent in my head when I write, but here’s the rub or rubS:

  • Never been to England.
  • Don’t know which accents come from where.
  • My attempt sounds more Irish than English.

So here it is, past midnight. And I decide to research how or if a writer should even try to use dialect in building characters. The advice I learned from Ms. Vaughn (quoted above) and Cameron Michaels is as follows:

  • Write in standard English – NOT phonetically!
  • Cadence and rhythm suggest the dialect.
  • DON’T use “wanna, shoulda, coulda and oughta”.
  • DO use “wanna, shoulda, coulda and oughta”. (That choice gets mixed reviews.)

Has anyone who stumbles onto this blog ever experimented with writing dialect? What were the results? Stuck with it? Abandoned it? Rewrote story to include Americans without accents?

I’ll let you know what my colleagues and facilitators suggest after they read my characters’ British/Irish dialects. (Gulping. Crossing fingers. Heading for bed.)