How Do You Keep a Writers’ Group Going?

I don’t actually know. The few times I’ve tried to start groups of my own, they’ve fizzled within a year or so. But over the course of taking different writing classes, I’ve met people who have formed long term writing groups, which have provided support for their careers and improved their writing. Here’s advice from some of the people who keep those groups going.

Commit to a schedule.

“Having a set time and schedule was a long term commitment that worked well for us to improve our work with the goal of publishing. Others can see what you can no longer see to edit, recurring themes, transitions, repetition, etc. This bond also developed into an enduring social friendship plus a bonus of an eager buddy to go to workshops with.”—Rosalyn Kaplus

Roz practices what she preaches. She and her writing buddies met over a decade ago and have been writing together ever since. You can now find her work in two different anthologies: Her piece On Becoming a Memoirist is part of The Magic of Memoir, edited by Linda Joy Myers, PhD and Brooke Warner. She also has a short story, 37′ – It Was Heaven, included in the fiction anthology Everything’s Broken, Too, edited by John Dufresne. The story was inspired by the obituary of a man who was born in 1937.

Find a ring leader and a venue.

“You need a ring-leader and a venue. You also need to have real writing goals. A progress-promoting format is key. At some point we had guidelines for feedback–I think keeping it about the writing and not the writer’s life is the only real biggie. In year three, we have graduated to taking turns bringing in a longer piece to workshop (2500 words or less) and fitting two prompts in a 2-3 hour period.  Someone needs to keep time for 12-15 minute prompts…and bring the prompts!”—Elizabeth Heise

If you can’t tell from all the technical details in this quote, Elizabeth Heise is the ring leader in her writing group – she’s the one who emails everyone to remind them about the monthly meetings. And she’s the one who brings the prompts. Also worth mentioning: the venue her group has is particularly cool: the garage-based improv studio of actress and acting instructor Katrina Morris, whose most recent short film, Supermarket, was featured in the Miami Film Festival.

Keep your eye on the main goal.

“Everyone has to be making progress.”—Claudia Franklin
“Stick to the reason that you’re there. You don’t have to be friends ahead of time.”—Tora Bueno

Claudia and Tora are two of Miami’s hidden writing talents. Keep an eye out for their work. My prediction is that you’ll be seeing more of it soon.

Sometimes the best writers’ group isn’t run by the writers.

“My first writing group met in a class that we all paid for, then kept meeting up on our own. It ultimately died, I think, because everything, even a writing group needs some type of leadership. Also, I think when people are paying for something, it helps them show up. Later, I taught a class at Miami Dade College and about ten of my students wanted to continue with me the week after the semester ended, so we did. That was 7 years ago and I’ve been teaching my own classes since. Now that class is the class behind the podcast, Writing Class Radio, which my student for all these years, Allison Langer, and I started as a way of bringing people into our class.”—Andrea Askowitz

If you want to check out Andrea’s writing class podcast, or the writing classes that it captures, details are at writingclassradio.com. It’s also worth mentioning that this is not Andrea’s first contribution to the Miami literary scene. She started the now-hugely-popular storytelling event Lip Service, is the editor of and contributor to the story collection Badass, and the author of a hilarious pregnancy memoir that’s been my favorite gift book for expectant mothers: My Lonely, Miserable, Lesbian Pregnancy.

12 Years of Writing Classes in 12 Days of Emails

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