My First Writer’s Meet-Up

Last night I did something I had never done before: I met with a dozen strangers to read aloud and critique work.

Writing can be a very isolating profession. I throw myself pretty hard at my work, and much of it requires silence, or at least a certain sequestering from outside influences. I think the nature of our work does not just make it easy to lose ourselves in it, but also makes it difficult to connect with others who do the kind of work that we do.

Thus thinking, (and also bearing in mind how enthusiastically agents seem to recommend critique groups), I thought it high time to check out the local writing community. It was actually ridiculously easy to search online and find several groups and meeting places in my urban environs– and I chose one, and I showed up, and SHAZAAM! It Was Good.

It went like this. People showed up. Some regulars, some first-timers like myself. We ordered food and drinks, said our introductions (we were a wide range of ages, writing backgrounds, and genres of choice), and then, one by one, those who wanted feedback on something they’d written read it aloud to the group. Everyone listened, and at the end of the piece offered criticism.

How cool is that?? I’ve done writing workshops, and I’ve swapped poems and stories and chapters and even novels with writing buddies, but I have never done an all-oral format before. With total strangers, to boot! I tell you, if you want to see how well something you’ve written stands up, don’t just read it aloud– read it to strangers. And read it to strangers who write. As I say, everyone there was coming from a different place, but it didn’t take long to see the value in hanging out with people who know the industry and craft and any of the intricacies thereof. I will definitely be going back.

Good news, too: the piece I chose to test pilot was well-received! People laughed where I intended it to be funny (thank God), the audience said they were intrigued enough to want to keep reading (thank God again), and listeners were able to pinpoint details I’d overlooked or could improve on just like that, and offered some great suggestions. I can’t wait to make some adjustments and make my opening even stronger! (Yes– “stronger,” because at least one person directly said “strong writing.” I am still a bit giddy about that.)

I also had the privilege of hearing some pretty cool material from its authors firsthand. There is something special about hearing an author deliver their own work!

I am excited to spend more time with this group and see what comes of it.

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8 thoughts on “My First Writer’s Meet-Up

  1. Good for you. It’s important to participate in events like these or at the very least find a group of people that you can do this with. The fact that your first experience was a positive one is also reassuring.

    • Definitely. And there were so many first-timers there who I think all felt the exact same way: happy to be among others of the trade! Have you done anything like this specifically for non-fiction?

      • That’s good. And I belong to a small writer’s group where we read each other’s work to one another. Some guys are fiction while others, like me, write non-fiction. It’s a pretty honest crew so the criticism is both refreshing and helpful. Nothing with complete strangers though.

        • Gotcha. I suppose, regardless of the type of writing each person brings to the table or how well those writers know one another, as long as the criticism is honest it will serve everybody well!

  2. Well done Julie, that takes a bit of courage though you make light of it. It was certainly a proud moment for me the time I read a passage of my writing out in public and no one yawned or walked out 🙂

    • You know it’s a victory when nobody snoozes or up and leaves 😉 It’s interesting…when I think about it, I didn’t really feel nervous about it. Sharing your work is always a little intimidating, but I think a year of being an obvious foreigner in Japan and at the front of a class of anywhere from 5-45 students has dissolved my crowd anxiety somewhat!

  3. I’ve actually been wanting to set up a writer’s group around my city or even online through google hangout. It’s just a lot of work and I’ve been slacking in other areas lately, so it wouldn’t be the smartest idea. But I’ve found the ones I’ve been involved with to always be incredibly helpful.

    • Ah, yes, it’s got to be far more difficult to arrange for those not in sprawling urban areas… You know, I’m sure that that looks glorious on a writer’s curriculum vitae, though. Starting a writer’s group.

      At any rate I am glad there are some you’ve been able to work, and that they’ve been helpful! I think any time writers get together, good things happen 🙂

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