Charlie's Blog

The Benefits of Writing Groups

Sunday, March 26, 2023 11:39 PM


            When I was in college, I was invited to join a writing group called "Xenobia." It had writers like Dave Wolverton, Lynn Worthen, M. Shayne Bell, Kathleen-Dalton Woodbury, to name a few. They were writing and publishing. I…had some poetry in "The Leading Edge" and was working on short stories. I felt so inadequate. I wasn't writing as much—or as well—as they were. I didn't go. I was only involved in the BYU fantasy and science fiction community for 2 1/2 years. I think I started around March or April of 1985. In August of 1987, I got married and moved to California. I came back to help with LTUE every year until I moved back in September of 1990. My husband was in Saudi Arabia for the Gulf War. He came back in May of 1991. When he left in August of 1990, I had a one-year-old and I was six months pregnant. I kept helping with LTUE, but didn't do much writing. With two small children in my parents' house, writing again took a back seat.

            I wrote, off and on, once the kids got a bit older. I did get a novelette published in 1993, thanks to M. Shayne Bell. I also published some poetry. But I wasn't writing as much as I should. Life happened. I got involved in community theatre.

    My kids grew. They would do summer shows with us, and occasionally others if kids were needed. I was busy volunteering with multiple conventions.

            I started to get more serious about my writing when I took one of my short stories to a writing workshop at the 2008 World Horror Convention, but I still kept putting it off. 

    I sold my second story almost two decades after I sold my first. It came out in 2013. That's when I started using a pen name.

            But I was still dabbling. Doing bits and pieces here and there. My daughter kept telling me to do NaNoWriMo. I kept replying that I didn't have time. (I finally did in 2017, and have done every year since.) 

            Because of my involvement with the World Horror Convention (I ran it in 2008, 2012, and 2016), I joined the HWA and became a founding member of the Utah Chapter. I'm now the Co-Organizer. Cody Langille is the Organizer and he's awesome. He runs Timber Ghost Press. I had a short story in the first anthology the UHWA put out. I've had short stories or poetry in most of them.

            I joined The League of Utah Writers when Johnny Worthen told me his chapter (Genre Writers Infinite Monkeys) was doing an anthology. Because Paul Genesse said he owed me for all the work I did with LTUE programming, he accepted my short story and worked with me (HARD) to get it polished and ready for publication. We disagreed on the ending. He wanted my character to kill a Greek god. I wanted him to go back where he came from. I went with my ending. Other than that, I think he was happy with the result. At least I hope he was. 

    Back to Johnny. I joined the League, and I entered a poem in the annual writing contest. It was a poem I'd written in college. It took first place. It encouraged me to keep writing poetry, and join a chapter of LUW that focused on poetry. I continue to submit poetry. I've won something each year. (They have first, second, and third place, then first, second, and third honorable mention.)

            I wouldn't have any of those writing opportunities without the UHWA or LUW. This year, I'll have something published in 20 anthologies. All of them small press, but all of them sales. Only a handful didn't pay something.

            The Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association (UHWA) meets the second Thursday of each month. It used to be in person, but it's now on Zoom. I get a lot of support there. Cody and Caryn Larrinaga helped me when I set up Carlisle Legacy Books, LLC. They support me in my writing. And I get ideas and learn from the monthly meetings.

            I'm still a member of the Infinite Monkeys, one of the chapters of the League of Utah Writers. I've since joined two others. I'm a member of the Red Butte Bards and the Oquirrh Writers. The Bards is a poetry group. They meet the first Tuesday of each month. The Monkeys meet the second Wednesday. The Oquirrh writers meet the first Thursday. For the Bards, we send in a poem or two each month and the others give comments. We don't edit, but we can critique. The Oquirrh Writers has guest speakers and is very supportive of writers. We often talk about and encourage each other’s writing. The Monkeys is now giving its members publishing opportunities in their own annual anthologies. They also have guest speakers. 

            We didn't sell much at LTUE last year, but we spent a lot of time talking to the writers at the table next to and behind us. Jessica formed a writing group with the other two, and I later joined. We don't meet often, but it's a support network.

            The above writing groups also have opportunities to critique other writers' WIPs and to get their writing critiqued. It's a way to learn your craft and polish what you've written. There are other groups that just do critiques of each other’s work. Some rotate so every writer has a turn. Some go based on who has something to critique. As long as you have people who are there to help and support, it's a good group. It's especially good if you have writers who are farther along the path than you are. I will also add that it's good if there are writers not as far along as you because you can learn as much from them and you have an opportunity to share what you've learned.

            Writing is mostly a solo endeavor. But all writers need readers to tell them where the plot stalls, where the characters start acting unlike themselves, where you're missing something, or where your story sags. That is invaluable. So is getting readers who will help you with some grammar issues. You'll still need to pay for an editor, but you can get your work a long way towards publication by working with other writers. Writing groups are an excellent way to do this. It can be a formal group, like the UHWA, or LUW, or it can be a smaller group where you just get together once a month and critique each other. Either way, it can be incredibly helpful. If you live in Utah, check out the League. If you write horror and dark fiction, check out the HWA. Join a local writing group or community and get involved. Most of all, write. It's taken me ten years to build up the momentum to where I'm ready to dig and get things done. That's after a very long drought. Your journey is your own. Embrace it. No one follows the same writing path. But write. Go to conferences on writing. Go to Superstars. Go to a local event like the Quills Conference (in Utah) Or Pikes Peak (in Idaho). There are a lot of them out there. Go to a convention for the type of writing you do. Meet people online and at events. Network. And write!