No, that wasn’t a typo. I promise it will make sense, just stick with me.
I’m sure most of you know by now that I work in a library. Well back in May, one of my co-workers started a writer’s group called Espression. Manny, who runs the program, has a background in writing. She has her MFA from Converse College and has had a few things published. I’m going to link her socials below so make sure you follow her!
Insta – @blufftonbookbrat
Twitter – @AJFloresca
Espression is a great group where local writers can learn more about writing, have work critiqued, and drink some locally roasted coffee. Each week, Manny plans out a topic for the group to learn about. So far we’ve covered material including dialogue, learning about Pitch Wars, or creating an extensive background for characters. I was so excited when this writing group was started. I’ve been trying to focus more on my writing since I’ve been out of school. I’ve been to a few writing groups in the past, I even made the attempt at forming my own. None of my previous writing groups lasted very long, mostly due to scheduling conflicts.
For me, being a part of something like this is a way to learn more about the craft and to have other people hold me accountable. The people in the group are usually like-minded and are going through the same issues you are. They are supportive and offer a way to have your work critiqued in a structured environment. There’s only so much self-editing you can do. Fresh eyes can point out things that you might have missed or didn’t notice.
Recently I wrote a short story that I wanted to submit to the Cabinet of Curiosities anthology for Owl Hollow Press. Being serious about my writing is a goal of mine, this was a perfect opportunity. In about a week I was able to put something together that totaled just shy of 5,000 words. I can’t remember the last time I had a story just pour out of me wanting to be told. The idea I’d originally started out with ended up morphing into something entirely different. In the end, it turned out to be a unique twist on a Greek myth that I’ve always been intrigued by.
Before submitting this to Owl Hollow for consideration, I wanted Espression to critique. Having them take a look would ensure that my story was edited and ready to submit. My previous experiences with critiques were mild at best. The first time I had a piece analyzed by a group of people, I read two pages out loud and they gave me their feedback right after. It was quick and relatively painless.
My experience with this critique was considerably different. I’m not saying that it was a bad experience, just one that I’ve never gone through before. Everyone in the group received my piece a week before my critique was due. This allowed them to go over it in detail and mark the piece with needed edits. Then at the meeting, they all went around and told me what they liked about it and what needed to be improved. The whole thing was a little intense because I was trying to make sure I took notes on what they were saying while trying to not get too caught up in my emotions. Let me just say that they were not mean. Everyone in that group was professional and gave me honest feedback. Was I a little upset at first? Yes. Did I go home that night and over analyze everything that they said? Yes.
Writing for me is something that is very personal. I’m literally putting a piece of my heart and soul into everything that I do and letting someone get a glimpse of that is utterly terrifying. I’m always worried that my writing is never going to be good enough. That I shouldn’t even try to be a writer, to begin with. These types of negative thoughts stop people from pursuing their dreams or reaching a goal.
My first thought after hearing what the people in my group had to say was: “What in the hell am I doing.” Which is okay.
After talking to Manny I realized that I wasn’t alone – plenty of other people felt the way I did. It can be difficult to have a bunch of people tell you what you need to improve in your piece, or what didn’t work at all. I will admit that in the past I would have let everything they said get to me in such a personal way and that’s not the way to take it. Listening to what they have to say is the only way I’m going to get better. Improving is the only way I’m going to reach my goal of getting published.
When I got home that night, I made a point to sit down at my desk and read the suggestions they had for me. I was able to edit my story and get it submitted to the contest just before the final due date. I won’t know if my story made the cut until July 15th. So until then, I will anxiously be checking my email!
Let others read your work and listen to what they have to say. Take the critiques and grow from them.
And don’t ever forget to espress yourself.