Wake up, Polly Parrot.


Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers -- The Intro

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These are the weekly Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers.

A few weeks ago, late in May 2002, I came across a small notice in Creative Loafing (a free weekly newspaper in the Charlotte, NC area) announcing a local writers group that was looking for new members. Through the years, I have participated as a member in a half dozen such local groups and workshops, as well as a bunch of on-line groups. It's been six years since I've been in a face-to-face group like the one advertised in the paper, so I thought I'd check it out.

I didn't want to join an established group such as this proclaiming to be a "pro" writer. I know from experience how that can go. If the group consists mostly of beginners, then the addition of a pro might change things for that group. No, I don't really see myself as a seasoned pro, but to a beginning writer, that's probably what I look like, just by virtue of my sales record. My intention is not to go in and mess up an established group, and I don't want to intimidate anybody out of giving me some fair critiques because they think I am far beyond their current level. I don't want to assume the role of "master" to a bunch of beginners. If I join the group, I just want to be an equal member, without disrupting their current set-up. This way, if I decide not to stick around, I haven't undermined whatever pecking order they may have in place.

I decided before going to my first meeting that I would not tell the group that I had already sold a significant number of stories to professional markets. While I wouldn't hide my identity, I would purposely withhold telling them about my publishing history. I'm not so vain as to think that the mention of my name will cause any recognition, even in writerly circles, so I figure my anonymity is fairly secure. If someone in the group does happen to recognize my name, I'll deal with it at that time.

Since I assume most of the people in this group have access to the Internet, I will not use anybody's real name. In fact, the name of the group, and meeting locations will also have to go by aliases, since I don't want anyone Googling around and finding out about these articles until I'm ready to reveal what I'm doing. That's right, the group doesn't really call themselves the Garden Variety Writers (but I'll explain where I got that name later). If the group knows what I'm up to, it might change how they act and react, and I want this to be an honest record of how a group like this works, or fails, without having anyone behave differently for the sake of my website record.

In the next few months, I expect to detail the inner workings of a small local writers' critique group. Now that I'm a bit more experienced, I'll probably see things in a different light then when I was the beginner in such groups, hoping to glean a few crumbs from only slightly more experienced writers. Call it a chronicle, journal, diary, or web log (OK, a blog, if you must). As such, you'll probably spot some misspellings, non-sequiturs, problems in grammar and such with these entries. Sorry, but if I have to spend a lot of time cleaning these things up for the masses, then it's more trouble than it's worth for me. I want these to be my spontaneous recollection and thoughts on what transpires in the group, without the bullshit, and there's only so much time I can give to a project like this. After all, there's some real writing to be done. When I'm very busy with my fiction, there may be some gaps in this record, but I'll do my best to keep this up for as long as I can stand it.

As I write this introduction, I have already attended one group meeting. It looks like an interesting enough group, else I wouldn't have decided to start this series. I am not just joining the group for the sake of these articles, so please don't write to tell me how unfair I'm being to my fellow writers. I want this group to work out, and become a permanent member. It's way to early to tell how things will play out, but I can be hopeful.

These journal entries will take the place of my monthly Plain Banter essays for a while. I hope in these coming weeks and months to be able to slip in, as part of the workshop experience, bits of information of interest to other writers and readers, so another way of looking at it is I'm doing weekly essays instead of monthly ones for a time. Maybe these entries won't be as polished as the monthly columns, but I think it might be more fun to present writing tips in the form of a journal, at least for a while. I'm sure some of you will let me know if you're enlightened, entertained, or appalled. If you are one of the GVW members and you've found your way here, please, please, please don't tell the others until you've spoken to me first.

So then, here are the weekly Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers. Enjoy.

Copyright © 2002 Brian Plante Count=22878

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