29 April 2007

Writing groups

On Friday evening, I went to a book launch. One of the members of my writing group, Western Women Writers, self-published her second book of poetry. Poetry publishing in Australia is a tough market to crack because it's so small. Margaret didn't seek commercial publication, I think, aware that her book would appeal to a niche market.

There's something inherently satisfying about seeing a project go from inception to published book, to hear the drafts, and to make suggestions, however small, along the way. It's a learning experience. Margaret credited Sherryl, in her talk, for causing a major change in direction in the manuscript along the way. That's one thing I love about writing groups -- hearing someone suggest something and seeing the possibilities.

I also love the support that we give each other. There's a lot to be said for a group where everyone works cooperatively rather in competition, which can happen too. Cooperation leads to everyone celebrating each other's success. In Western Women, the tradition is that when you have a story or poem or whatever accepted, you have to bring cake. Most bring it on acceptance. I tend to wait for publication -- so had to take one recently for a short story that was published in Fantastic Wonder Stories. I'm always circumspect about celebrating too early, because my first story accepted never saw the light of publication. The story, about 1500 words long, was accepted, and I was offered $450, much more than I've had for any similar-length short story I've sold since. Then, a month later, the magazine folded and that was that. I wasn't able to place it anywhere else. Sometimes, I think I should rework it and send it out again, but it's so old now that I look at it and cringe.

We also support each other through taking a plate to something like a launch, and it is lovely holding the finished product in your hand, and catching up with friends who I don't see nearly as much as I should -- some members of another writer's group I used to attend, and past students. The most rewarding part of all though is seeing the look of delight and pride on the writer's face. It's always worth going along just for that!

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