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Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers -- Week #1

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I saw the ad in Creative Loafing last week, called the phone number, and Wednesday night went to my first meeting of the Garden Variety Writers at the Hemby Bridge Public Library. No, that's not the real name of the group, nor the real library where they meet. I'm going to use false names and locations throughout this web log. I'm sorta undercover, and I'd hate to be outed because one of the members stumbled on the blog by Googling around on the Internet for their own name. I also don't want to be sued for libel, even though I mostly intend to tell the truth in these entries. I say "mostly" because it's inevitable that a lot of it will be my own opinions and not cold hard fact. So this is my blanket disclaimer; this is how I see it. Other's might see things differently. Let them start their own blogs.

The GVW are mainly a critique-based writer's group, which means they meet periodically and discuss each other's prose works. They are mostly geared toward genre fiction, specifically science fiction, fantasy, and horror, with a bit of mystery, romance and (ugh) poetry. I'll explain that "ugh" when we get to the poems, but it didn't come up in this first meeting. Most of the group seem to be working on short stories; a few of them are working on novels.

The group meets every Wednesday night, which I think is a bit excessive. Most of the other face-to-face groups that I've belonged to in the past were once a month groups. That's actually a bit too slow for me, and is probably the main reason I've fallen into my one-story-per-month schedule over the years. I think meeting more often, as this group does, may help me to develop a faster schedule, although I think a weekly grind may be pushing it a bit too much. I also don't want to get so buried under doing critiques and attending meetings that it actually hinders my writing. I'm not looking to join a social club here -- just get some feedback on my work.

This group has, I am told, ten other members, although only eight show up for this meeting. They have apparently been around for four or five years, according to Fabian, their leader (I think). Fabian is about 40 years old, a bit on the heavy side, and a talker. He tells me a bit about the group, what they do, how they operate, some ground rules for critiques, and such. He runs through his introductory spiel as if he's given it many times before, which makes me wonder about what kind of turnover the group has. I hope it's a stable group -- there's nothing worse than having to figure out a new bunch of members every few months.

Next, we go around the table and each member introduces themself. I have sketchy notes on who's who, but I'll feed that to you in the coming weeks as I have something to say about each of them, instead of hitting you over the head with ten names for you to keep track of. They are a fairly diverse lot. Some seem very serious about their writing, some not. Some have sold a few things, others haven't gotten up the courage to submit anything yet. A couple might just be tourists, looking for something to do on a Wednesday night. We'll see who the real players are in time.

I give my own concocted background: I tell them (honestly) that I write mostly SF, with some fantasy and horror. Somebody asks if I've published anything and I tell them that I've sold a few things to some semi-pro magazines a few years back That's true enough, although I've sold a lot more and to better markets than I'm letting on. I know immediately from the other members' introductions that I'm easily far ahead of any of them in the publishing field. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm a better writer. Some of them may surprise me.

The group gets down to business and critiques a couple of stories that were handed out at the previous meeting. Some members seem to make good points and some are a bit picky. A few members (the tourists) don't have anything much to contribute, and I suspect they haven't done their homework and read the stories under consideration. There's no way to tell who is a good critiquer at this point, since I have not read the stories in question. All in good time, I guess.

After the critiques, Fabian asks if anyone has new stories. Two of the members do, and distribute copies to all. Pamela records the story titles in a book, and adds my name to the list of members. That's good -- someone is keeping track of attendance -- who got which stories, who critiqued, and such. Pamela is apparently the secretary of the group, and it was she I spoke to on the phone when I answered the notice in the newspaper. If nothing else, they're organized.

For now, I'm just happy that they seem to have a routine down: a greeting, some introductory "how's it going?" sort of chatter, around the table once for each story critique, then give out stories to critique the next week. That's how most of the other face-to-face groups I've been it worked.

It's a good start. Let's see what next week brings.

Copyright © 2002 Brian Plante Count=7367

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