Benefits of a Writers’ Group

Benefits of a Writers’ Group

What Are the Benefits of Joining a Writers’ Group?

I’m not much of a “joiner.” So why would I join not just one writers’ group, but three? Pens, people, and publication. One benefit of membership in a writing group like Pen & Keyboard Writers is the opportunity to write, contribute to, edit, and develop an anthology. Our 2023 anthology, Celebrating the Seasons, is also our first, but we had so much fun with the project that it definitely won’t be our last. The most important benefit, though, is the chance to work with some our fellow writers who complement our strength and weaknesses, and to learn from one another.

Pens

Writers write. Many of us have a ridiculous collection of pens, notebooks, blank books, blogs. We write. I told someone last week that I “think and talk through my fingers.” Communication of what’s in our imaginations into our readers’ imaginations is the goal; publication is icing on the cake. Publishing an anthology is one way to ice the cake.

Key to a successful anthology project is that the members work well together and roll up their shirtsleeves, setting egos aside, to do whatever is needed. Pen & Keyboard Writers worked effectively together as a team from deciding on a theme to editing, revising, and editing again.

We chose “seasons” as our theme. It was broad enough to encompass stories about climate, weather, seasonal change – but also seasons as a metaphor for the stages of life. Our group is based in Oklahoma; the group is an affiliate member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc (OWFI). As Oklahoma’s famous native son, Will Rogers, supposedly said, “If you don’t like our Oklahoma weather, just wait a couple of hours and we’ll have it changed. We’ve got every kind of weather there is.” Next, we began to write.

I contributed two poems: “Longing for Four” and “verbum sap sapienti est,” that serve as “bookends” to all the stories and poems in the book. Each poem deals with the transition of one season into the next, as well as the capricious human whims and changing moods reflected in Nature, itself.

People

Some groups are for novice writers and some are geared towards those with more experience. Others, like Pen & Keyboard Writers, have a healthy mix of writers who span decades of life experience and writing expertise. And we help each other because we want to, not because it’s an “assignment” to do so.

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Publication

Early in the process of developing an anthology for publication, we traded our stories to ensure that each submission had at least two fresh pairs of eyes reviewing them and providing initial feedback from “scrap it and start over” to “almost perfect.” It’s essential to realize that every editor will have different corrections and suggestions, and it’s important to consider all of them objectively – not necessarily to incorporate every suggestion, but to consider the advice. Each edit represents a reader’s opinion, a writer’s edits, and feedback from a fellow group member who wants to see us succeed both individually and as a group. And we all want to be proud of the final product – our book.

Once each contributor made their initial revisions, I formatted the book and sent a first draft to the group for review. This time, everyone reviewed every page, providing not only edits to the stories and poems contained within the book, but also their opinions on the typeface and layout. There were several more rounds of edits, since with each pass, there’s a chance of introducing fresh errors or spotting little ones we’d previously missed – be that in typing or formatting of headers and footers, or pagination.

It’s critical that everyone set aside their egos and their inner crises of confidence. There is nothing but the work and our respect for, our trust in, each other. That means giving honest feedback to ensure that no one’s “slip” is showing. Honest feedback, and the ability to receive it, is vitally important prior to publication. After publication, it’s too late for changes – the book is in the hands of readers.

Perfection?

Few published books, including textbooks, are perfect. But that’s always the end goal, and I think we polished our anthology till it shines! We all hope readers will agree.

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Flier – Benefits of Joining Pen and Keyboard Writers