It could have been the dark chocolate truffles or chocolate covered cherries. Or maybe it was the Rice Krispy treats that Kathryn brought. Whatever the reason, our writing group was super energetic, almost wired, last night. The meeting wasn’t about critiques. It was about workshops, past and future, our next book, and some additional learning and growing opportunities that will begin in January. The discussion got so lively and rich that LaShella and I actually had to take notes to make sure we remembered it all.
Our first writing workshop was Saturday, September 26 at the downtown campus of Central Carolina Technical College, and we spent most of our time last night going over the evaluations of the attendees. The venue, food, speakers, presentations, topics, panel discussion were evidently enjoyed by all who took the time to complete an evaluation form—about 50 percent of those who attended. Had the other 50 percent taken the time to submit evaluations, the discussion last night might have been different.
High marks don’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. Although writers and wannabe writers liked the food, many were dissatisfied with lunch—specifically with the staleness of the bread and the lack of vegan choices. They enjoyed, however, the breakfast and snack items that were available throughout the day. Also, while attendees enjoyed the sessions, many wished they had been a tad longer. A couple of people also mentioned that they’d like a mix and mingle time.
Since we had more than one topic to discuss, our fearless leader and chapter president smoothly moved on to the next item on the agenda: our next anthology. Earlier this year we made the decision to publish a book one year and hold a workshop the next. Alternating years makes such projects more doable and successful. Whether hosting an event or compiling a book, we want our group projects to be quality.
This part of the evening, from my perspective, is when the discussion got revved up a notch or two. As we threw our ideas into the proverbial pot, everyone became more animated. Well, just about everyone. I think our newest member was second-guessing her decision to join our group.
Among other things, our first priority was deciding on a theme. Families, connections, universal themes of humanity, “heart” stories, or what? Did all entries have to be nonfiction as in our previous book or could a fiction piece or two be included? Should we divide the book into fiction, nonfiction, and poetry sections, or should we submit whatever we wanted to and then organize the selections according to theme and place them in appropriate chapters?
We decided the latter was the best choice for now, and I look forward to reading some good stuff soon, especially a story about men and feathers, a topic introduced by one of the members. We also decided that this time around, there would be some parameters about submission quality. Every piece would be critiqued in the group first, thus saving the editor(s) a lot of unnecessary labor. And everyone would have to follow some other guidelines about font, format, spacing, and other manuscript musts. No using the tab key to indent paragraphs!
By this time, LaShella and I had pretty much devoured all of the Rice Krispy treats, and there was still one more item on the agenda: improving the craft. We made a tentative plan to study Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way as a group, and since our newest member, Ashley, has organized such sessions in North Carolina, she agreed to be our facilitator. But that’s for January.
This evening, as I review the goings-on of last night, I wonder why more people don’t join critique groups. Do they not want to improve their writing? Don’t they want to get together with like-minded individuals that will encourage and support them?