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Why I Belong to Five Writers Groups

I meet some brilliant and interesting people by casting off my shell and leaving my comfort zone. It’s not easy for me to do that because I’m a natural born introvert who suffers from social anxiety. However, a few years ago I decided my passion for writing and need to learn more about my craft was worth my heart palpitations and queasy stomach.

I belong to five writers groups now, but I started out slowly. Very slowly. The first group I joined was Joplin Writers’ Guild. My sister was a member at the time and had been after me to attend a meeting with her. At that point, I’d been on a twenty-year writing hiatus. My heart yearned, but life was too busy. Or so I told myself.

One Monday in March of 2009, the president of the company where I worked asked to speak with me in the conference room. We were joined by a manager who told me that my job was no longer full-time, and I’d lost all of my benefits as of the Friday before. This news came just four months after we’d suffered a wage cut company wide.

My world seemed to shatter in that conference room. I’d dedicated myself to that company for several years and truly believed I’d retire from there. They sent me home then so I could process the news in private. Sending me home was a smart move on their part because after I cried my broken heart out, I got mad. Then I took a good long look at my life.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but life kept getting in my way. Well, after realizing that I wasn’t important to my employer, I made a list of goals that were important to me and ideas on how to attain them. Writing again was at the top of the list. Finding a new job was pretty high on the list, too.

I called my sister that night and asked when her writing group was meeting next and if I could join her. She was elated to take me to the meeting and introduce me to her writer friends. I joined Joplin Writers’ Guild at my first meeting. I’ve never regretted that decision.

The group members were kind to me. They encouraged me and gently explained when I had something wrong or a story needed more work. By virtue of belonging to the group, I was inspired to write. I didn’t want to be the only one saying I didn’t have time to write when we went around the room and talked about our projects. This was especially true if I was sitting next to Larry Wood who seemed to have a new book or speaking engagement to report every month.

After a while with the Guild, I was finally feeling like myself again. I wasn’t the best writer in the group, but I was learning from the more accomplished members and getting better. It wasn’t long before I started placing in their contests, which boosted my confidence and made me feel validated in my work.

I decided to take a writing class taught by the Guild’s own Terry McDermid at the local technical school. That’s when my writing exploded. In addition to writing instruction, Terry explained the importance of putting our work out into the world. She told us that no one would ever publish our work if we didn’t submit it. Then she cautioned us on researching the places where we submitted our work to be sure they were legitimate. Her class changed my way of thinking and made me shed the rest of my shell.

I joined an amazing critique group made up of a few Guild members. After some growing pains, we leveled out as a group of three. I cannot imagine two better critique partners than Bonnie Tesh and April Brock. They keep me honest and offer suggestions that make my work sparkle. We’re so close that a victory for one of us is a victory for all of us.

I joined Ozarks Writers League at the recommendation of Diana West, who many of you may know from her plethora of magazine articles. The lady is always writing and produces nothing but excellence. I’m grateful for her recommendation because I’ve learned more from OWL than I ever hoped. The membership is kind, talented, and patient.

My next group was Sleuths’ Ink Mystery Writers, which granted me a six-month membership as part of my attendance fee to their mini-conference a few years ago. I liked the other writers in the group and kept my membership. They’re so much fun. They feature speakers who teach us things relevant to writing mystery and intrigue such as how to disable a car and various police procedures.

I joined Ozarks Romance Authors after encouragement from Terry McDermid and Sharon Kizziah-Holmes. ORA, as we call it, has been extremely helpful in offering genre-specific education and support. Since I write a great deal of romance and women’s fiction, this group has been beyond informative. From pacing and love scenes to marketing, I couldn’t ask for better craft education.

Finally, last year I applied and was approved as a full member of Missouri Writers’ Guild. Unfortunately, the first conference of my membership was cancelled due to COVID-19. However, they are offering some virtual opportunities in which I plan to participate. I’m excited to be a part of MWG and look forward to learning from their illustrious membership.

I’ve met some amazing authors through my groups. I met Heather Burch through Ozarks Romance Authors. She joined Ozarks Writers League at my recommendation, so we now belong to two of the same groups. My friendship with her is why I felt comfortable asking her for a favor.

I invited Heather to be the guest speaker via Zoom for our August Joplin Writers’ Guild meeting. She graciously agreed, and her presentation on multi-author promos educated all of us. She’s not only a brilliant writer, she’s a marketing genius, as well. I’m confident we all learned something. I took careful notes and look forward to putting what Heather taught us to use.

I feel like I’ve completed a circle. The members of Joplin Writers’ Guild took me in as a rusty wannabe writer who hadn’t been published since the nineties, and nurtured me into the decent writer I’ve become. They afforded me the connections to grow in the writing community. This enabled me to bring a successful friend from another group who offered savvy marketing insight that I’m certain very few of us, if any, had considered.

When I tell people I belong to five writers groups, most of them think I’m crazy. I can’t imagine leaving any of my groups at this point. Each one offers something special that makes me a better writer and allows me to make new writer friends.

Writing is a solitary and often lonely enterprise. Having a good network of writer friends who understand exactly what I’m doing is priceless.

Thank you for reading Ozarks Maven! If you’ve enjoyed my little seeds of wisdom and joy, please subscribe to Ozarks Maven, Like Ozarks Maven on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @OzarksMaven.

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