I belong to a large writer’s group in our community and one of its benefits is access to critique groups. Access may be too liberal a term since openings in existing groups are as rare as unicorns. After three years of attending general meetings, I finally felt brave enough to ask to join a group, only to discover that there was a waiting list.
About a month ago, I received an invitation to observe a group. This group has been in existence for years but its membership waxes and wanes over time. At present, there are only two women left standing, long-time veterans who welcomed me into their circle.
I’ve never belonged to a critique group outside of classroom workshops. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought groups were organized by the type of writing the members produce–fiction, poetry, screenplays. What I discovered at my first meeting is that our group was originally organized around what day of the week members were available. The group leader tells me that over the years, the group’s membership has included poets, novelists, screen writers and romance writers.
The two members are women in their seventies, almost twenty years my senior. One is a self-taught poet who writes dark autobiographical poems. The other member previously published a biography of a Protestant minister and she is now working on a spiritual memoir. Both write with a unique voice and style. I write realistic short fiction and free verse. I wasn’t sure that this was a good fit but I was willing to try. More importantly, the two women were willing to give me a chance and invited me to join their group.
It’s still early days. I am not certain that what I have to offer the others is germane to their work. I don’t know how they feel about my writing. Everyone is supportive of the efforts of the others, which is one of the important aspects of such a group. We’re expanding to include another woman in her twenties, an English major who is working on her own creative non-fiction memoir. I think the best way to describe this critique group is diverse.
I don’t know see where this group will take me but I think it will prove to be an interesting journey.