Michille: A Community of Writers

EightLadiesinWaterYears ago, I started hearing voices in my head. After months of trying to block them out, I finally decided to start writing them down. When I got them all down, it was about 50,000 words. I thought, “Wow, I could write a book.” I turned to the internet for information. I probably searched on something like “how to publish a novel” (talk about naïve – as if 50,000 words would instantly put me in a position to be published). I did find this thing called a writers conference. I went to a Maryland writers’ conference and apparently met Nancy as I have her business card with a note written in her handwriting on the back. Neither one of us remember this meet.

Over the years, I tried a face-to-face writers group where we critiqued each other’s writing. It kept me writing new scenes but the critiques weren’t very good. Of course, we didn’t know what we were doing and the group was made up of a nonfiction writer, a poet, a sci fi writer, and a romance writer (moi) so we didn’t get each other’s writing either.

I’ve gone to a couple of conferences and found that the Romance Writers of America and affiliated conferences work well for me. I leave them feeling very jazzed about writing. The generic ones that don’t cater to any specific genre aren’t as helpful. I get tired of dealing with the negative outlook on romance (because, you know, all the other writers are so much better because they don’t write romance).

Then I saw an article on the McDaniel Romance Writing graduate-level certificate program. I almost didn’t sign up, but I’m so glad I did. We were all so excited to be able to learn about and talk about what makes good fiction in general, romance writing in particular, and our own works (and each other’s). In one 8-week course, we posted almost 5,000 times. It got to be a little (okay, a lot) overwhelming. Obviously, we were unwilling to stop chatting about our journeys, but the conversations were bogging down Blackboard – hence the birth of our private McDaniel blog on March 26, 2013, which coincidentally was one year ago yesterday.On this blog, we post about writing, but we also post about life and other things that interfere with writing (I went on a wonderful excursion in Punta Cana thanks to a connection of Jilly’s). There has also been a post or two where one of us virtually bangs our head on the keyboard and the rest of us talk her off the ledge.

There were some isolated face-to-face meets. Kat and Jeanne are relatively close in proximity. My husband and I flew to Ohio to see a concert and met Christina (Jeanne and Christina are guest bloggers on 8LW from time to time). RWA was the first opportunity for a big meet. Seven of us, representing 2 continents and  4 states, made it to Atlanta for the first face-to-face group meet. It was wonderful to be able to talk to everyone in person, although I found that my classmates’ personalities had come through so clearly in the digital classroom that I felt like I already knew them.

I don’t recall where the idea came from to start an author blog. Eight of us committed with the others on board as guest bloggers and Eight Ladies Writing was born and we continue to talk about our writing here, as well. Since McDaniel, the birth of our private blog and the birth of Eight Ladies Writing, Kat and Jeanne still get together and Justine had a wonderful vacation opportunity in England where she met up with Jilly. Kat and Elizabeth are both heading to Arizona soon where they will meet up with Justine. And today, Justine, Nancy and I have picked a central spot in Maryland to meet up for lunch.

What started as a class has turned into a community of writers for which I am profoundly grateful. My writing has stalled, some others are also a little stagnant right now, and others are going gangbusters. But through it all, this community has kept me focused on writing when I probably would have thrown in the towel (because it’s darned hard work).

So being a part of a community of writers works for me. Some people love them. Some people hate them. Are you part of a community or do you go it alone?

19 thoughts on “Michille: A Community of Writers

  1. I have a critique group that I find invaluable. It’s just three of us, which is a great size for us. We can really focus on each other’s work, and they tell me when I’m going off the rails, which I like. Outside of the meeting, we don’t communicate that much—we don’t email with problems, for example, outside of our meetings—but it’s a structure that seems to work for us. I’d be crushed if somebody wanted to leave.

    • I’m glad you have your group. And the additional opportunities with our group (although I didn’t have a chance to critique what you had posted to the other blog). Despite the critiques in my group not being all that valuable, I probably would have kept up with it because it kept me writing new scenes. However, 2 people moved away and the other got a new and demanding job so she stopped writing. I was a critique group of 1.

  2. I love this historical post! Have we had that private blog for a whole year now? My, how the time flies. Our six-month mark for Eight Ladies Writing is coming up soon, too. What a journey!

    I had a writing buddy — we’d meet up once in a while and just write for 45 minutes, then take a break and chat, and write again for another 45 minutes. We talked about doing a cyber meet-up, but it’s just not the same. (-: When you are typing away next to someone, you tend to not cheat because she knows when you are checking the e-mail or doing other dumb stuff that’s Not Writing. She went back to Canada and I have had the serendipity of running into another writer in my area who wants to do write-ins.

    Writing is such a solitary thing, but it’s nice to have a buddy. I’m really grateful for our group!

  3. Michaeline, I think Nancy has one of those side-by-side writer groups. They meet regularly for a whole weekend and write. I could get behind that kind of thing.

  4. Meeting all of you at McD opened up my writing life in a way I never imagined was possible. I still remember writing in the dark hole of aloneness when no one even knew I was writing. I can’t believe I did that for 2 years without going crazy (and managed to churn out words). Now we’re expanding our relationships by taking them into our everyday lives (lunch, visits and so on) and adding new ones as more writers join us.

    Happy birthday to all of us! This is an awesome group that I’m happy and proud to be a part of it.

  5. I have some writer friends that I met at a couple of conferences here in the UK. We email about our progress and meet up for lunch every few months, but we haven’t exchanged critiques. I also have a few non-writer friends who’ll beta read for me, but my main support system is the 8LW plus Jennifer O’Brien and I’m so happy to be part of this community. I like working in my own space at my own pace (I don’t think write-ins would be my thing), but I love knowing I can shout for help any time I get stuck and that when I’m ready I’ll get some straight-talking, top-quality feedback. And I’m really looking forward to catching up with some (most?) of the 8LW in San Antonio.

    • Jilly, I think I could do a write-in, I just don’t see having the time with still having one of my kids at home (and he isn’t old enough to drive yet). I’ll have to ask Nancy when I see her today if she did them when her daughter was young.

  6. Having a community of writers is incredible support. I have no face-to-face groups n my area, part of the reason I started blog. Since then I have met incredible people through blogging and FB and goodreads, it’s nice to get involved with others who share the same interest and can help to motivate you onwards! 😀

  7. Love your blog post. Regarding the writer program you enrolled in was in online or in the classroom? As a late bloomer to the fiction writing world, I need motivation most days. I started the Red Ink Society and am a member of the Indiana Consortium and the Indiana Writing Workshop, but it’s hard to get participation online with these clubs. So I enrolled in NowNovel online and the mentors are moving me alone with my fantasy fiction novel faster than I imagined I could write. Love the idea that have found so many female writers that have the same goals as you—writing, publishing, writing. I will check in often to your blog. Betty

  8. Great post, Michille. Hello from the 2013/14 McD group! I wonder if we ran across each other in the last few years. I live in central MD and even lived down the block from McD. My memberships include RWA, MRW and MWA.

    Congrats to the 8LW for fabulous blog. I love reading about everyone.

    • Thanks, Ann. I’m glad you like the blog. We have a lot of fun with it. We very likely could have met, just like Nancy and I met before, but didn’t remember it. I’ve taken courses at Carroll Community, from Edie Hemingway (Frederick County), attended the Maryland Writers Conference, etc. My son runs against a couple Arbaugh boys. BTW, Nancy, Justine and I had lunch yesterday and Nancy remembered where we’d met. It was actually a work thing – we both are in the grant/proposal game for our day jobs and met at a work conference, not a writer’s conference. God bless Nancy’s younger brain that has a better memory than mine.

      • Well if you ever get back to any of the local conferences, ask for me. I attend several.
        Arbaugh boys? Probably related (on the ex’s side).

        • Arbaugh boys: Ben and Brad – really good runners and smart, too,. They run cross country and track at WHS (my alma mater). My son is at WMHS.

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