Recently I started a new Meetup group…St. Petersburg Loves Writing (don’t judge the name, it’s the best I could do that late at night). We have our first group meetup this Saturday, and I’m not afraid to say I’m nervous. Not only because I’ve never organized a Meetup before, but because my expectations are probably too high, which may only serve to disappoint.
I really didn’t want to create a group – I wanted to join a group. I am in charge at work, and outside of work, I’d rather just be a participant or an observer in life…Management of people is draining, and I’d rather not have to make major decisions outside of the office. The problem is I couldn’t find a group. I had one experience a couple of years ago and since then I’m gun-shy, so creating this new group is a huge step for me.
A couple of years ago I joined a local writing group that held meetings at a few of the different libraries around town. The leader was a very nice man who worked hard to find interesting speakers. I don’t know how long the group had been around, but I got the feeling that they had been together for a decent amount of time. Many of the members were older than me, and a few were around my age. Most of the meetings were designed around the speaker attending – whether it was an editor or publisher or author – so it wasn’t a critique group. Because of the environment, I wasn’t especially concerned that no one really went out of their way to welcome me, say hello or ask me to join them…so I happily sat at a table and just took in the presentation.
Probably the third or fourth meeting, we had a speaker and she was talking about a certain book and its prologue, and asked us what we thought. I mentioned that the book I was working on then used a prologue…because that part of the book was set a hundred or so years prior to the main story setting. One of the women sitting at another table turned to me and said, “Prologues aren’t really used anymore…it’s not trendy at all.” I had two thoughts: First, the first rule a real writer (and to me, a real writer is someone who truly has a love of the act itself and wants to encourage the same in others) learns, is that you write for yourself, not to the trends of the publishing world. Second, I thought of how many good books I had read used prologues, and thought if it was good enough for L.A. Confidential, Robinson Crusoe or The Secret History, it’s probably good enough for any of us in that room.
I never found a place in that group. I’m an outgoing person, but it’s hard to join a group and never be welcomed by anyone except the leader…I finally stopped going.
After that, when I became familiar with Meetup.com, I would log on every so often and peruse the writing groups. There were groups for those who could meet in the daytime (not with my schedule), groups for those who needed to submit several pages to see which ‘level’ they would fit in with (clearly not a group I would entertain joining) and several others – but nothing that fit was I was looking for.
So I started one myself. I have no idea how it will fair. It’s almost a sociological experiment for me…are reading and writing the solitary activities I have always thought them to be, or can a group reminiscent of The Inklings, The Bloomsbury Group or Shakespeare And Company be created? It would be amazing – and I’d definitely have to change the name of this one if we do become successful – hopefully with input from the members.
I can write at home, at a cafe or the park – I’m not afraid to be by myself, but it sure would be great to do it with people you like. So we’ll see how it goes…and if you’re following my blog, you’ll hear all about it by Sunday!