Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Writing in a Community (Laurie)
At some point, I'll post about my writing journey in detail. For now, suffice it to say that I never expected to be a writer. So, four years ago, when I took the bold step of putting pen to paper (or in my case, fingers to keyboard), I didn't want anyone to know. I confided in my husband and maybe my sister, and that was it. Over time as I became more involved in my new "hobby," I made light mention of it to my parents and a few close friends, but I still kept the information as close as a tightly-held secret, not wanting to deal with awkward questions about what and why I was writing.
My little bubble served me well for a time, until the idea of publishing a book took hold. The publishing business is complex, and I soon realized I wouldn't be able to take the next step alone. So I joined a writing group. I received a lot of helpful information and attended several meetings where I met some nice people, but the group changed every month and I never felt like any of the connections I made went beyond surface-level.
Then I upped the ante by going to a few local conferences. The content was excellent, but while I came home filled with inspiration, I continued to feel very alone. At last, I was lucky enough to share an elevator with Laura - that's right, the very one who blogs on Lands Uncharted :) We discovered that we both write young adult fantasy and exchanged e-mail addresses, and I'm so glad we did! Unlike other writing connections who had come and gone, Laura and I developed a real friendship, and she took on the task of critiquing my first manuscript with a great deal of knowledge and kindness, while also giving me the opportunity to offer suggestions on her work. In addition to helping me make many improvements to my story and my writing in general, Laura then assisted me as I navigated the perilous waters of querying and rejection. Her wisdom, support, and encouragement showed me the critical importance of having fellow writers to share your journey with, who understand exactly what you're going through.
Around this time last year, I discovered a different writing group called ACFW - American Christian Fiction Writers. As I continued to feel little connection with the writing group I was already in, I decided to attend a meeting of my local ACFW chapter as a trial run. The difference was tangible almost the moment I walked in. I received a warm welcome from writers and even published authors who seemed to truly want to get to know me instead of engage in polite chit-chat. By the time I got home that night, several of them had already sought me out on social media. I had entered a true writing community instead of just a group of writers, and it felt like I had finally found a place to belong. I let my other membership expire without a second thought, signed up immediately for ACFW at both the national and local levels, and haven't missed a meeting since :) I believe it was at my second meeting that I met Erin (another fellow Lands Uncharted blogger!), who has quickly become another friend I can't imagine having to do without as we navigate the challenges of aspiring authorship together.
But I haven't even reached the end of the story! A few months after joining ACFW, I nervously signed up for their critique group. While I quickly discovered just how much work my writing needed, I really connected with some of the other critique group members (including Liz - you guessed it, another blogger on Lands Uncharted!), and soon our e-mails included personal updates in addition to the required critiques. When several of those ladies decided to form a small critique group, they did me the honor of inviting me to join, and I'm so very grateful. I can't begin to express the support and encouragement I've received from this amazing group of ladies, in addition to so many helpful suggestions on my writing. Even though we've never met in person, they are now some of the first friends I come to with exciting news or a prayer request, whether writing-related or not.
Gaining the support of so many fellow writers is what finally gave me the confidence to share my dream of becoming a published author with the world, including teaming up with Erin to start this blog :) It was a scary step, but I've been blown away by the interest and encouragement I've received from so many family members and friends. Though my hope of seeing my stories published is stronger than ever, even if it never happens I feel so blessed that this journey has led me outside of my comfort zone and put me in the path of so many new friends across the country and even the world. It's still nerve-wracking at times to put myself out there as an aspiring author, but being surrounded by such a beautiful community provides ample assurance that I'm not in this alone.
Are you a part of a writing group? What has your experience been? Do you feel comfortable sharing with family and friends about your writing? If you haven't found a writing community yet, I hope you do! I'd be happy to talk about my experiences in more detail if anyone has questions.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. In case you're wondering whether my critique group is really as awesome as I claim, check out this post from my friend Deanna - it even includes a shout-out to yours truly :)