Have You Ever Started Your Own Writing Group?

I’ve belonged to writing groups over the years, both online and in person. This year, I’m toying with the idea of starting a small group at the mobile home park where I moved last fall. It’s been hard joining things for the last couple of years for several reasons. Starting mid-2018, I was home-free and traveling in my motor home across the states. I never stayed in one place very long but I did stay in touch online with several writing groups.

Then I started re-assessing my nomad ways in March 2020 when we didn’t know what, across the country, would be open or available for RV parking. I was still living in my RV but I found a place I was able to stay for nine months. During 2020, I got on the waiting list for some long-term retirement type RV parks and was able to move to one in a new state a year ago. Now that most everyone here is vaccinated, we’re beginning to go back to the social activities of pre-COVID and I’m getting to know my neighbors and make friends.

On-line writing groups and critique forums can be useful but I was really starting to miss the in-person back and forth that can take place when you get together with others who share your hobby. From what I’ve been able to gather, there are at least four people that live here that would be interested in participating and that’s a good start.

In my ideal group, we would get together about two times a month. We would share a small excerpt on anything we are currently working on and receive feedback. We would also have one topic at each meeting that we would like to explore more and whoever has experience can share. These topics would include things like self-publishing, how to find an editor, designing covers, the best software for writing, and more.

Sometimes, throwing out a writing prompt and letting everyone work on it for fifteen minutes or so and then sharing is fun too. This can get the creative juices flowing when that particular project you’re working on seems stuck.

What I don’t like about writing groups is someone who feels they have to read whole chapters to the group at a time, taking up way too much of the meeting time. Or someone who just wants to share personal stories without letting up, thereby boring all other attendees. It seems there’s always one person like that in groups I’ve attended in the past but I think if the group leader sets the right tone at the beginning, those inconveniences can be avoided.

The scariest thing about in-person groups is sharing very personal writing pieces with people you see everyday or socialize with in other capacities. I feel like I might be editing myself a little bit and watching the TMI around my neighbors. The good thing is that I have plenty of writing pieces that aren’t too personal and still entertaining. That’s a good place to start until I feel more comfortable with the group.

Next task, pick a good name, pick a date to start, and then let the residents know and see what happens. What are your experiences with starting a writing group?

The Memoir — Can’t start/Can’t stop

My experience working on personal stories and some resources for your endeavors

Have you ever tried to write a personal memoir story or chapter? A lot of my essays are of the personal memory style with a little opinion thrown in. But when I get down to writing something of any length, I seem to get really bogged down in the details and the enormous amount of material.

I had a few false starts over the years toying with styles ranging from chronological to subject ordered to writing prompt stream of consciousness to compilations of random essays. I’ve read numerous books on how to write a memoir or just read recommended memoirs. I’ve joined writing groups and taken classes online.

In my personal opinion, some of what I’ve written is good. But then I get stuck. One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t tell everything in one book. In fact, one of the highly recommended authors I’ve learned about has written numerous memoirs and each one tackles just one point or person in her life. Who is this author? I don’t remember and can’t find my notes. However, read up on any good memoirist and you will find the same formula. Here’s an article from Book Riot, 100 Must Read Memoirs.

If you’re ready to tackle the tricky task of writing stories based on personal memories, here are a few resources I’ve collected over the years. If you do a search on free online memoir writing, several low priced or free choices will come up at any given time.

Free or less than $50 online courses:

Video Course: Break the Rules and Free Your Story from Anya Achtenberg, The Disobedient Writer — I completed all the exercises from this course in 2018.

Udemy Kick Start Your Memoir Writing Exercises — On sale right now but regular price is $79.99. I try to find deep discounts on Udemy courses. Current price for this one is $12.99 (as of 5-19-2021).

The Memoir Network — Lots of free resources, including several mailing lists with lessons. Just takes an email to register. I just recently joined this network.

Coursera has a course from Wesleyan University called Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself. The videos and exercises are free but you have to pay if you want peer feedback. Also, this is part of a larger unit that is not free. I completed the exercises in 2020.

The following are books I’ve purchased over the last several years to kickstart the essays and work on writing prompts. These are not necessarily the best books on the subject and I haven’t actually read any of them all the way through but there are some good ideas and some writing prompt exercises to get you started.

Old Friend From Far Away — The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg

The Situation and the Story — The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick

Writing Life Stories — How to Make Memories into Memoirs by Bill Roorbach

Forums and Groups

I have looked into joining a few times over the years but for the most part, it seems like it’s more work and time than I want to put in to this when I’d rather be working on my own writing. For several of the groups, you can get peer feedback but you have to earn points in order to do so, which requires leaving your own feedback numerous times before you can submit your own work.

Some online forums include:

My Writer’s Circle

Writing Forums

Scribophile

The only one I paid for was actually quite professional and I enjoyed the interaction with the group members but at the time, I didn’t really have a focus and wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend my time on the fiction or the non-fiction so I bowed out until I could be more proactive in the group.

Inked Voices — free for 14 days, then $85 a year.

Here are free Online Resources, including blog posts on writing, that I’ve bookmarked over the years:

Association of Writers and Writing Programs

LitReacter — a really good site; just takes an email to join. I’ve read some very helpful blog posts here.

Storyfix

David Gaughran puts out a lot of free materials, including resources on self-publishing— email to register

Writer’s Digest

May all your writing be fruitful.

Updates to the Blog Pages

I don’t know how many of you use WordPress. Sometimes I love the convenience of it and sometimes it can be very frustrating for me. I like to customize things my way and am used to desktop publishing, going all the way back to the 90s. The WordPress templates, while enormously convenient, don’t always allow for making changes in a user-friendly way.

After publishing my second travel book on Amazon Kindle, I decided to change up the blogs a little bit. The end result is not exactly how I started out envisioning things but I’ve reached workable sites that contain the information I wanted. I had an RV Review site and a Sightseeing site and after publishing my Sightseeing book, decided to take down the site, Sightseeing Aboard. That involved changing menus, links, and descriptions. Instead of all the same content on a blog, I now just have a link to the Kindle book.

I hadn’t taken a look at stats for awhile either. Even though I don’t advertise and most of my writing is for my own benefit (kind of like keeping a journal), it is nice to see people migrating toward the stuff I publish.

  • Animals Aboard — currently at 148 followers. Most viewed post “Long Term Stays in Your RV” at 515 views
  • Author Tina Mischke — 77 followers. Most viewed post “TMS — Too Much Shopping” at 163 views
  • Tina Mischke’s Cozy Mystery Blog — 8 followers. This is a very new blog and I haven’t promoted it at all
  • Sightseeing Aboard — no longer active. 17 followers
  • A Healthier Journey 2020 — no longer active. 34 followers

Although my writing takes various forms, I try to keep things categorized in such a way that they will fit into one or more of the above. It can get really confusing for the reader if your stuff is all over the place, making it hard to find or read about a subject.

My generic categories are:

  • RV Park Reviews
  • Traveling with Dogs Articles
  • Nonfiction Essays, mostly about writing or travel
  • Information on fiction writing — upcoming or in progress books and stories

Of course, some idea is going to hit me one day that I have to write about and it won’t fit into any of the above. The great thing about WordPress is that you can add as many blogs as you want at no additional charge.

The site, Animals Aboard, is very resource heavy and I recommend using the little search magnifying glass at the top unless you just prefer browsing. That site, which was my first, now has 117 published posts.

Things are always a work in progress and I will consider any suggestions that readers may have to make things easier, less confusing, or to fix mistakes.

Happy Travels!

Writing Courses

https://www.pxfuel.com/en/free-photo-jtosb

Have you ever signed up for a writing class, either online or in person? I’ve taken a few over the last couple years since I retired and decided to devote more time to my writing projects. I have either not paid anything or paid under $40, although you can find classes online that go upwards of $400 or $500 per session. I’m not there yet as far as wanting to spend that kind of money but sometimes I’m tempted. 

I’m tempted because I would love to have some professional feedback on what I’m producing. I sometimes feel like I’m writing in a bubble, especially now with only essential businesses open. I joined a writing group last summer while I was in OKC that met once a month. I only attended one meeting. I felt inspired but wasn’t really sure I was getting the kind of feedback I really needed for my personal projects. The workshop consisted of writing from prompts and then going around the room and reading them out loud.

One of the most beneficial freebies I took and actually produced a sizable amount of content was a free online class called The Disobedient Writer. I’m not sure if the whole course is still available for free online. Here’s the link: https://thedisobedientwriter.com.

I’m currently taking a course from Coursera called Writing A Personal Essay. A portion of this series is free if you don’t submit any assignments. Still beneficial if you go through the videos and the writing exercises on your own.

Writing is a dynamic process, whether you’ve published 20 books or are still working on your first novel. I hope in the near future, we will be able to get together again in groups for feedback and support, but until then, it will all be virtual.