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What I Learned About Writing This Week…from My Writer’s Tribe, Redux

Photo by Julie V. Photography

I am cheating today.

I am cheating in that, before I get to the meat of today’s WILAWriTWe, I want you to go read this one I wrote in February. It was the first time I delved deeply into the concept of a Writer’s Tribe here on Unstressed Syllables.

Please pay particular attention to the “dude, I get you” part and the “carry-feathers-not-sticks” part.

Did you click through and read?

Don’t you try to cheat, now. And do as I say, not as I do. ; )

So. If you really did click through and read, you now know all about what the Writer’s Tribe (or Writers Tribe; I’m still debating that one) is for and why you, O Writer, need a Writer(‘)s Tribe.

Two days ago, seven Consortium writers gathered in Aaron’s living room to roundtable edit each other’s short story submissions for our upcoming short story e-zine, Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1.

I probably don’t have to tell you how apprehensive I was, going into that meeting.

But I’m gonna tell you anyway.

Images of vindictive critiquing flashed through my head. What if everyone had only criticism for each other and no positive feedback? What if none of the “fix this” was ever counterbalanced with “this part was cramazing”? I’m Head of the Writing School for the Consortium, so I get very protective of my writers. I don’t mollycoddle anybody (I don’t think) — but as I looked ahead to our roundtable and imagined my writers bursting into tears over adverbs, passive voice, and plot holes, I had to fight down the urge to mother-hen everybody.

We’re all adults, I told myself. Surely, I don’t need to caution anyone to play nicely with others?

So, Monday night, we hunkered around our tribal fire and chit-chatted for half an hour, neatly avoiding the pink elephant that was our Very First Official Roundtable Editing Session. Finally, somebody broke the ice with a well-placed “Who’s on first?” (though no one mentioned baseball), and we launched into Tribal Council.

Notes on the Tribe's critique of my short story

“Who’s on first” turned out to be me, which was both a relief (getting it over with) and exquisite torture (awesome feedback plus honest opinions on parts of my story that just didn’t work).

Inklings, we palavered over each other’s stories for four hours, and it was glorious.

Nobody cried. Nobody flew into a rage. Nobody threw things. There were many, many compliments. There was a lot of honest criticism. Openness and receptivity to critique were rampant. For some reason, everything got compared to Firefly. Twitterly #TweetVengeance happened. We didn’t go five minutes without collective guffaws and gigglesnorts.

As it turns out, we all play well with others. Without anyone’s hanging a lampshade on it, we affirmed the okayness of each other’s writerly weirdness, and we all obeyed the maxim “Speak Truthfully, But Carry a Feather (No Sticks!).” As Head of Writing School, I felt free to check my mother-henning at the door. As a writer, I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive tribe: one that encourages each other but also pulls no punches in honing each other’s craft.

(They might even call shenanigans on the mixing of metaphors.)

The experience re-affirmed to me how essential a Writer(‘)s Tribe is. They make me a better writer and a better human. I would not be without them.

And that’s WILAWriTWe.

6 Responses to “What I Learned About Writing This Week…from My Writer’s Tribe, Redux”

  1. It should be written Writers’ Tribe. Also, I was pretty stoked over the success of the editing session also. I wish I could have stayed the entire time.

    • Jessie, I guess Aaron and I should’ve hob-nobbed with you about apostrophes long before now. Thanks. ; )

      I wish you could’ve stayed the whole time, too! I’m pondering time limits for discussion of each story next time, so we can make sure everybody gets to be present for the whole conversation. On the other hand, a time limit might curtail the goofiness — heaven forbid! ; ) Thoughts?

  2. Pamela Davis says:

    I’m totally jealous!

    • Pam, I feel your pain! I remember all too well how isolated I felt before this group came together. Have you tried checking with your local library to see if there are writers’ groups open to new members? Or is there a local group of NaNoWriMos who meet during months other than November?

  3. Pamela Davis says:

    You are right, I should check in town to see about writerly type groups. My town is full of artists of all types, including many writers. I just haven’t taken the plunge to get to know any of them! Your blog post is making me think it may be time. Thanks.

    • Plunge away! The water’s great, and it’s not quite as deep as it looks. (By which I mean to say that the benefits of swimming far outweigh the comfort of not joining your fellow writers in the pool.) ; ) Please keep me posted on how you get on!