Friday, February 7, 2020
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Monday, May 27, 2019
|Photo credit Holly Moseley|
Friday, December 8, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
HOW DO WRITING GROUPS ACTUALLY WORK?
Writing can be like folding a banquet-sized tablecloth; you can do it yourself, but it's a lot easier when you can find somebody to help.
Note: some of the information on Bearlodge Writers was previously published in an article by Writer's Digest Online that you can access here. Read it and you'll also learn about how groups in Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, California and Montana operate.
guest post by Kathleen Smith
Writing is a solitary endeavor until you have written an essay, a poem, nonfiction or fiction piece and want to make your craft better. Then you must share your words laid so carefully on the page from your heart. The easiest way to improve your craft is find a source of writers for companionship and critique.
In Wyoming because of the miles between communities some writers utilize on line writing groups. Others like me drive miles to be in the company of good writers with the desire to make the writing better for everyone at the table.
Let me share how Bearlodge Writers work.
THE BEARLODGE WRITERS (BLW) group has been active since 1979. BLW is open to any writer, new or experienced, seeking a welcoming, safe place to present work for praise and for constructive, sensitive critique. The group works with writers from first draft to last revision prior to publication. While BLW’s main mission is to offer assistance and support to one another, it has also sponsored writers’ residencies and scholarships and participated in writers conferences.
WRITING FROM: Sundance, Wyo.
SIZE: Currently, we have 20 members on our active email list. Members have ranged in age from 15 to 82.
FORMAT: BLW’s format is simple and effective. We sit around a large table located in a conference room at a very supportive local library, read the work, and garner both praise and critique from the other writers present at the table.
At one time, we did not bring copies of the work to pass around, but simply read the work while listeners made notes. Now, writers bring copies of the material to pass around the table. The writer reads while listeners write notes on the pages or suggest comments, and marks any corrections.
Sometimes, a writer will ask another writer to read the material. After critique, all copies are signed and returned to the writer. It cannot be stressed enough that we value kindness and respect for each writer’s work above criticism.
MEET UP: BLW gathers at the Sundance Library on the first Tuesday of every month, at 11:00 a.m., and on the third Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.
Before the reading and critique session, BLW spends about 30 minutes discussing any business, sharing information about writing successes and publishing opportunities, and answering general questions.
Those present needn’t have a piece of writing on a given day. Those who have brought work to be critiqued draw from a bag of dominoes that is passed around the table. Work is read in order from the smallest domino number to the largest.
Each writer brings a unique and valued skill set to the table. We have writers who envision the story arc, ferret out the thread of the writer’s intent and give advice on overall structure. Others are “grammar police,” able to determine proper word usage and phrasing. Members often comment about how the piece affects them emotionally and/or intellectually.
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER: Most importantly, it is about respect for the writer and the work. We are earnest about sharing a deep level of trust. What is read or said at BLW stays at the table until such time as the author chooses to share it. We offer consistent and sincere encouragement. As one member recently stated, “Bearlodge Writers is a safe place to be vulnerable.”
Welcoming new members keeps the group vibrant, while long-time members offer an historical and experienced perspective.
I am the writer referenced in the above article that travels 150 miles. I choose to make that drive because I always know the words I share at the Bearlodge critique table will be improved.
After years of attending this writing group I have come to realize one person’s dedication and sacrifice of time has made group possible for all. Through the years, others have assumed small responsibilities for tasks to assist the group’s goals. There must be someone to arrange the meeting time with the library and maintain a current contact list for the multi-genre group of beginners and advanced writers.
Gaydell Collier was that dedicated person for Bearlodge and was a charter member of Wyoming Writers. She wrote the following in February 2007:
So what makes a good writers’ group? If we had to answer in one word, we would say, respect, and that includes trust.
Respect for the writer. The writer comes as a pilgrim, bearing an offering. Whether the writer be prince (experience/published) or pauper (brand new beginner), he is granted the respect of willing attention and receipt of the critique he desires, whether it be “Does this work? Are the characters believable?” or a complete pre-pub edit. This includes respect for the writer’s emotions—a willingness to laugh or cry along with him.
Respect for the piece. To place the offering on the table requires an act of faith by the writer. This is met by the respect of serious consideration and gentle but honest critique, focusing on the merits of the piece itself, the type of critique desired, and the intent of the writer. It is never the group’s purpose to change the intent, but to clarify, to suggest, and to encourage.
Respect for the group. Each writer brings to the group his respect for its function and for the other members, making sure each one has time for his work to be discussed, is willing to give his thoughtful critique or expertise, and holds sacred within the group whatever revelations might be shared. Because of the mutal trust within the group, there is no “competition.” Everyone has the same goal—to make each other’s work the best it can be.In my mind, the most important aspect of a writing group is to make the writing better without changing the voice of the author.
Our trust and respect is built by sharing an annual Christmas party, working together to bring guest speakers to our writers and others in the area, but most of all is developed by sharing lives in essays, poems, bios for submissions, and by being present at the table.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Monday, October 29, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
Parks and Cultural Resources was also kind enough to join us for the readings. My gratitude to all.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
On November 7, 2011, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead appointed Pat as Wyoming's fifth Poet Laureate. She joins past poets Peggy Simson Curry, Charles L. Levendosky, Robert Roripaugh, and David Romtvedt in serving in the honorary position. According to Renny MacKay, communications director for the governor's office, Pat's appointment will last through May 31, 2013.
Upcoming events for Pat as Poet Laureate include writing and reading a poem for the 2011 Governor's Arts Awards dinner and awards ceremony February 24, 2012, and serving as a judge for the Wyoming Poetry Out Loud state competition March 5-6, 2012. (Poetry Out Loud is a national program in which ninth through twelfth graders are eligible to compete.)
Then, about a week ago, Pat received a letter from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (formerly the Cowboy Hall of Fame) which said this: Independent judges have named Married Into It as the "Poetry Book" of 2011.
The letter continues: "Since 1961, the Museum has hosted the Western Heritage Awards, which honors excellence in Western literature, television, film, and music. Each year, the principal creators or winning entries accept the Wrangler sculpture during special ceremonies at the Museum."
Pat will be traveling with Nancy Curtis, her publisher at High Plains Press, to the Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for the award activities on April 20-21, including a black-tie gala with master of ceremonies Katharine Ross.
BLW is so very proud of Pat and her accomplishments. She is taking the Wyoming literary scene by storm, and deserves every minute she has in the spotlight.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Friday, November 5, 2010
Our fall here in northeastern Wyoming is extending beyond any I've seen in recent years. Even now, on November 5, we've had no snow to speak of, just a skiff one night, and then back to sunny, mostly warm weather. But while the nights are cold, and the wind is growing ever more so, I'm glad winter has been in no hurry to arrive.
Our BLW members got back in the writing saddle this fall, with a motel retreat for a few, some making a renewed commitment to personal blogs, more submissions being made, and all of us back to producing new work and editing through our files, with several new projects started, and one member learning she will be the cover story for a women's magazine next spring. Is that a WOW! or what? Triple WOW!!!, methinks.
November brings the annual Writer's Digest November Poem-a-Day (PAD) Chapbook Challenge, and a few BLW members are participating again this year. Poet and blogger Robert Lee Brewer posts a prompt each day, and then participants produce a poem based on the prompt. Or one prompted by the prompt. (Ha.) Individual interpretation of the prompt is encouraged, and sometimes a poet pushes the idea of the prompt way outside the lines, which makes reading the poems very interesting.
Poets can post their daily poems to the blog, or not, as they choose. I recognize many poets’ names from reading the blog last year; it is intriguing to see how the prompts work on the minds of other writers. I have chosen to post my poem drafts as one way to keep me accountable and writing, but also to see which poems prompt (!) someone to respond. Since the poems posted are mostly in the draft stage (though admittedly there are poems posted, by me and others, that read as pretty darn finished), they can still be used in contests and marketed for publication. From what I’ve read, most people in the industry do not consider work posted to a workshop-type blog as having been published. However, each writer must make that determination for him or her self.
During December, poets edit their work and create a 10-20 page chapbook of poems from the PAD challenge, which is then sent to Brewer as an email attachment by the January 5, 2011 deadline. He and his wife, poet Tammy Foster Brewer, will select one chapbook as the winner by February 2, Groundhog Day.
Last year, five BLW members participated in the daily writing, and three of us were able to work together in a couple of editing sessions, helping each other select poems to include in our chapbooks, then crafting and arranging those poems into a cohesive, readable whole. Much to my surprise and delight, my chapbook Wild Grace was selected by the Brewers as one of 21 finalists in the 2009 November PAD Chapbook Challenge. Nancy Posey won with her collection Let the Lady Speak; Posey is a participant again this year, too.
For those just reading about the chapbook challenge, it is not too late to join in. The link below will take you to the web pages containing all the information you need to begin “poeming” to a daily prompt.
As we move ever closer to winter, may your writing continue to spring forth, unfold, and flourish.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Mapping Me: A Landscape of Women’s Stories is an anthology of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, photography and artwork. Its objective is to explore the connections – the invisible threads – that exist between women across the globe. Our starting point is to place the most basic question of identity, “Who am I?” within the complexities of culture and ethnicity. How do women respond to motherhood, rage, loss, relationships and loneliness across cultures? Do we share the same concept of grief and sadness, joy and love? We ask the writers and artists to tell stories, which negotiate the demands placed upon everyday women by society. The goal of this project is the sharing of such stories that allow the readers to draw their own conclusions whether or not culture is a divisive state between women.
Some Questions To Think About
So what does this mean for you? Well really, it is up to you. Some questions we have we been asking artists and writers to think about are:
1. Who are you? Are you a ‘Culture’ first or a ‘Woman’ first? What is your voice?
2. How do you negotiate the cultural and/or societal authorities that tell you to be thin, pretty, get married, have children, worship, obey/disobey, have a career, stay at home etc.
3. Do you have a burning story about an event, a lost love, heartbreak, arranged marriages, unarranged marriages, infertility, fertility, or even a bathroom cluttered with make up.
4. Do you want to express conflict? Family dynamics? Frustrations over rivalries, children, demands of home and work, silences, arguments, tension with extended
families. Do you have a story of revenge? Manipulation? Women are complex creatures and we are capable of great loving as well as great evil too. We are, of course, human.
5. Who do you see in the mirror each morning? How does your culture affect your body image? Does it? Do you fight against it? Do you buy into any stereotypes? Do you have a funny story to share. We are looking for humour too. This is not a grim book.
Please select a category and create a story, poem, creative non-fiction or artwork.
· Category 1. Stories of movement and motivation, restriction and escape.
· Category 2. Stories about food and nurturing.
· Category 3. Stories about, touch, love, sexuality or virginity.
· Category 4. Stories about self-image, judgments, perceptions and observation.
· Category 5. Stories about motherhood, family, marriage, fertility, birth.
· Category 6. Stories of laughter, fun, malice, viciousness.
Please make sure your work conforms to the following guidelines:
· For round two, contributors’ literary works must be original and unpublished.
· You may submit as many works as you wish.
· Writer’s Word Count Guidelines
1. Short stories: no more than 1000 words
2. Creative non-fiction: no more than 1000 words
3. Poetry: 4 to 6 pieces.
4. Flash fiction – anything less than 500 words.
· Your work must be submitted as either an attachment in a rich text format (RTF) or a word document (doc). No PDF files or docx files, please! We simply cannot work with these file formats. Alternatively, you may paste your work in the body of the email. If your writing has a specific format, attach it as a file to the email.
Works can be submitted in your mother tongue. Please provide an English translation with your submission.
Please do not send us web links of your writing or artwork. We will not see them.
· Artwork Guidelines
· You may submit as many paintings, photographs or a mix of art and prose as possible. We accept JPG files (no JPF).
· Submit your work to the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org
· Please provide a cover letter and include a short biography (no more than 50 words).
· Let us know under what categories you are submitting your works.
· Deadline is the 1st of September 2010.
· Our reading period is 1 to 3 months.
We regret that we are unable to provide payment to contributors. Our goal is to provide a copy of the book to contributors but this is subject to the publisher’s approval.