The cold depths of winter? Rain-soaked days of summer? On social media these extreme weather days elicit nothing but frowny faces and gloom. Facebook complaints rise tenfold. Whiners rejoice.
For writers, these days are gold.
At least for me they are. I can huddle inside with no guilt, without sun deprivation, cozy with my laptop and the myriad of characters holed up in my brain. “At last,” they say, “we have you all to ourselves.”
They can direct me, persuade me, do things I never before conceived they would do. They tell me about their pasts, share their secrets. They twist plots. Sometimes, they even kill each other off.
Of course, if I give these characters too much time, they can become the Company That Won’t Leave. They get too comfortable, come out of their world and nose around in mine. This past winter one of them followed me every time I got distracted and clicked over to Facebook.
“You’re wasting time,” he would warn. (Or she—I can’t tell.)
“You don’t NEED to watch ANOTHER cat video!”
“Who cares which Friends character you are?”
“The clock is ticking, sweetheart. The kids will be up soon.”
“GET OUT OF THIS TIME-SUCKING PLACE AND COME BACK TO US!”
But then something—someone, actually—caught his attention: Ginny Fite, a woman I had only met in person once, but who lived in my neighborhood and was a Facebook friend. Did I mention she is an author? Every time a post of hers appeared on my feed, the voice perked up.
“Ginny Fite? You should talk to her.”
“Hmm…maybe you should have her over for coffee.”
“She’s a writer. You can discuss writerly things.”
“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TALK TO THIS WOMAN!”
So, I did. On a snowy February day I had Ginny over for coffee. We did discuss writerly things. Turned out she’s just as smart, witty and interesting as her Facebook posts led me to believe. And she’s a WRITER. We share the same disease.
On her way out that day, Ginny stopped and turned to me.
“Are you in a writer’s group?” she asked.
My heart skipped. “No.”
“I have to clear it with the other writers first—we like to keep the group small—but maybe you can join us…”
That little voice gloated. “I told you so.”
The rest, I’m optimistically saying, is history. Once a week for the past five months, I’ve met with Ginny, Katherine, Tara, and Karen. Through winter’s slow thaw, the bright green spring, and now this wet, wet summer. Every week we sit, take turns reading aloud, critique, and most importantly, support. This group has taken away some of the loneliness of writing. They offer what no queried agent ever has: actual constructive feedback. I feel like I’ve met kindred spirits. We understand each other—the insecurities, the inexplicable compulsion to write and face rejection, the dogged search for one perfect word—in ways only fellow writers could. It’s almost as if in another life we were inmates in the same asylum. The best part of all: they’re making me a better writer.
My husband eloquently put it in football terms: “You got the ball to the ten yard line…they’re helping you get it in the end zone.”
In June this group of women (with a couple more who are on hiatus) held a joint book signing. The event garnered some press in our local media, including this article in the Frederick News-Post. The article perfectly defines the work we do and the benefits of belonging to the group. I am so proud to be the “she” in the last paragraph.
In addition to the inspiration, discipline (once a week means a deadline—not much time to waste on Facebook), the camaraderie and friendships, one other great thing came from listening to that voice in my head. One day Ginny asked if I would be interested in writing for Fluent Magazine, a gorgeous online magazine “covering the arts and culture in West Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and neighboring regions.” Long story short, this happened:
My first article for Fluent appears in their Summer 2015 issue! (See page 10)
The moral of the story? Trust your instincts. Listen (discriminately) to the voices in your head. I did, and wonderful things have been happening ever since.