Today I am super excited to welcome to the blog Sophie Jenkins author of The Forgotten Guide to Happiness. Today Sophie is going to be talking about what she really thinks about writing groups and I am super excited to read her thoughts.
As always don’t forget to check out the other blogs on this tour for other amazing content!
Sophie Jenkins : What I really Think about Writing Groups….
In The Forgotten Guide to Happiness, Lana Green, the main character, becomes a tutor at a writing group, and it’s a situation that appeals to me because I know plenty about them. Writing groups are brilliant and wherever I’ve lived, I’ve made sure I belong to one.
But I’ve never taught a writing group. It’s my biggest nightmare and it was very easy to imagine what I’d be like if I had. The complete lack of authority, the wild optimism, the arguments… and when it all seems to be getting out of hand, looking hopefully up at the clock only to see that time has stopped.
Being a published writer is a weirdly exalted position and Lana feels she deserves some adulation from the students. You can’t believe your luck, that’s what it feels like, even though being a novelist involves hard work, long periods of time living in your own head, and a stubborn case of perseverance. But once you’ve got a book on a shelf you feel totally vindicated. So Lana sees herself as a guru who is going to nurture the creative powers of the students at the London Literary Society, but instead she finds herself with a lively bunch of writers who already know each other and have their own opinions about pretty much everything.
The unspoken hope of anyone who joins a writing group is that it will teach them how to be a writer. That’s different from learning how to write. Writing is easy; as Nancy says, its ‘Words, words, words!’ To be a writer you take long walks across the moors, use opium, get into bar brawls, all that stuff. There’s a romance to it.
That’s why the best groups are the ones that are a social club, the ones with a mix of the unpublished and those who’ve had articles and short stories published, and the ones that have published non-fiction; each person is a source of encouragement and gives us the conviction that if they can do it, we can do it – apart from the practical help, it makes publication psychologically more achievable.
I belong to three writers’ groups at the moment and they are all spin-off of larger groups that we once belonged to. We don’t have a tutor. We meet regularly to talk about what we are doing and to share market news, read each other’s work, discuss structure and editing and anything else that is bothering us. We are close, we’ve bonded. We know each other through our writing, and we’re aware of the origin of the recurring themes that are threaded through our stories.
So for Lana, even though she finds she’s not the revered tutor that she expected to be, the London Literary Society turns out to be something bigger than that; it’s a source of friendship, solidarity and support. She moves from a state of loneliness to becoming part of a community. That’s something to write about.