Writers Groups

Writers need good, personal support structures because so much of the work is done in solitude. Christian writers conferences, whether they are held online or in person, are part of this structure, as one receives training; exposure to different ways of thinking; critical review; advice from people with experience they lack; and, most importantly, relationships.

But another level of support is needed for experienced writers and is actually far less formal than conferences. As we all grow more and more “virtual,” it might be time to reemphasize the need for in-person, small, regular gatherings with creative colleagues.

In the old days, these meetings were called “having lunch” or “meeting for coffee,” in case you forgot about these types of human events. (Insert snarky emoji here.)

This concept has many examples from literary history. Christian writers might know about The Inklings, a group meeting in England in the 1930s and 40s, made up of C.S. Lewis; J.R.R Tolkien; and a number of other accomplished, mostly male writers. However, Dorothy Sayers was a frequent guest. They met informally, but regularly, in a pub.

Stratford-on-Odeon in Paris included writers like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. During World War II, the location where they met was destroyed.

There were groups in New York City. The Algonquin Roundtable met regularly for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel for ten years until 1929. It included Harpo Marx, George Kaufman, and poet Dorothy Parker, among others. Another was The Factory, where Andy Warhol worked; frequent invitees included Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, and Truman Capote.

The concept goes back more than two millennia. Socrates held informal meetings with students four centuries before Christ’s birth. There have been many more examples since then.

Today, some Christian writers groups meet regularly only to talk about life. But it needs to happen more often.

It is difficult to communicate the tangible benefits of getting together with other writers; but I know for sure, if you don’t, the experience of writing can end up a dry, unfulfilling exercise.

Maybe we consider getting together at writers conferences far too pragmatic. I get it. You paid money and carved out time to go to a conference; you have the right to expect great speakers, information, and opportunities to network.

But maybe a better schedule for a Christian writer event would look like this:

Day One

7:30-8:30 am – Breakfast

8:30-9:00 am – Group Devotions

9:00-10:30 am – Workshop on something important (only one)

10:30-noon – Sit around on comfortable chairs discussing the workshop

Noon-1:00 pm – Lunch

1:00-2:30 pm – Sit around the tables after lunch talking about whatever comes to mind

2:30-4:00 pm – Nap time

4:00-5:00 pm – Predinner walk with three other people

5:00-6:30 pm – Sit around on comfortable chairs chatting about things

6:30-7:30 pm – Dinner

7:30-10:30 pm – Sit outside on a lighted patio (dessert buffet important) talking about life

Days Two and Three

Identical to Day One (except for a different workshop)

If you aren’t intentional to make interaction otherwise, life can become programmed and “transactional.” Writing is an art form, and writers need something more than education. For that matter, so does everyone.

Often we are so concerned about being good stewards of our time and money we miss important things, like inspiring and encouraging others, which invariably inspires and encourages us.

Do the training conferences. Make the contacts. Give the pitches. Be critiqued.

But afterward, get together regularly with a group of people who do something generally similar or even complementary than you. You’d be surprised how much you can grow over time when you are together with people, with no agenda.

19 Responses to Writers Groups

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 13, 2022 at 3:20 am #

    A writers’ group is not for me;
    too bad, but there’s no doubt.
    I wouldn’t take it seriously,
    and soon I’d be kicked out.
    I have a joke for all occasions,
    and am always merry,
    ignoring my dear wife’s persuasions
    that fun’s not always necessary,
    and often not appropriate
    (you surely can’t make fun of THAT!);
    I sometimes try, but then forget,
    and my presence just falls flat
    when I rise to take my bows
    after milking sacred cows.

    • Sue Schlesman April 13, 2022 at 7:02 am #

      I LOVE this! It’s so true. One of the hardest things about being a writer is the tug of war inside my spirit between artist and business person. I spend so much time learning how to be a writer that I don’t have enough time to actually BE the writer.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 13, 2022 at 1:55 pm #

        Sue, you inspired this. It’s for you.

        I wish things now we lighter,
        but I know this to be true:
        be not business-dude nor writer;
        my friend, please just be you.
        Be the best that you can be,
        and don’t set it apart.
        Let them love you, let them see
        the glow that’s in your heart,
        for you cannot stay always,
        and one day you’ll be gone,
        so give them strength for future days,
        let them feel you in the dawn.
        Give them all, that they’ll be whole
        to carry in their lives, your soul.

      • Holly April 14, 2022 at 9:24 am #

        I agree Sue. Good points. It is true refreshment when I do sit down with a writer who has a similar call to writing has I do, and we can share. There is great encouragement. Wish I had your phone number! My website: HCFriesen.com . Just published my first children’s book.

  2. Loretta Eidson April 13, 2022 at 5:41 am #

    Excellent article. I love your conference schedule. Ha! Especially the dessert bar. The value of in-person group sessions is a much-needed event. Covid managed to separate us from that face-to-face communication. I’m thankful for Zoom and other online meeting resources, but you can’t put a value on meeting new friends, gathering with old friends, and sharing in person.

  3. Gordon Palmer April 13, 2022 at 5:41 am #

    I’d love to discuss this brilliant idea further, Dan. Coffee at 2? It’s on Steve.

  4. Sy Garte April 13, 2022 at 5:46 am #

    Sounds like Heaven. Especially all those comfortable chairs. I know lots of other Christian writers, but none near me. So maybe Zoom is the best option, for now.

    • Dan Balow April 13, 2022 at 8:24 am #

      Sometimes getting together with people who are not writers can be helpful. Friends who might be your audience of potential readers is a nice reality check as well.

  5. Edie April 13, 2022 at 5:46 am #

    Dan, this is so great! I’m so fortunate to be part of a group of advanced writers who meet together every Monday morning for breakfast. It’s a breath of life and encouragement we all need. We can’t all always make it, but this group has given new life to my writing.

  6. Lynette Eason April 13, 2022 at 5:54 am #

    Absolutely love this. I’m a part of the same group Edie mentioned and I always look forward to it! Especially, the brainstorming when I need ideas. 🙂

  7. Jaime April 13, 2022 at 6:48 am #

    I live in a fairly remote area, but I’d fly to wherever your conference is! Lol! Sounds perfect!

  8. Kay DiBianca April 13, 2022 at 7:49 am #

    I’m excited about getting back to real-live writers’ conferences and I love the schedule you came up with. Please include me on the email when you get it organized! 🙂

  9. J.D. Rempel April 13, 2022 at 8:15 am #

    Conferences and meetings online have been a blessing to me. I have chronic illnesses so I’m unable to leave the house. I agree completely with you about in person interaction, I miss it. But this pandemic has given me the social life I crave by allowing me to “attend” writer’s conferences and “meet” new people.

  10. Patti Jo Moore April 13, 2022 at 9:09 am #

    I love your suggestions, and also your conference schedule. 🙂

    What a great idea to designate time for a nap and also making sure to include the dessert buffet, since taking care of our bodies helps with refilling our creative wells.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • Jide A April 13, 2022 at 10:26 am #

      Refilling the creative well.. Love it!

  11. Jide A April 13, 2022 at 10:22 am #

    Thanks Dan. What a concept! Meeting up with people face to face. Sounds like an adventure,. Courtesy of COVID.. Looking forward to take the plunge. Thank you for the “”push”

  12. Tom April 13, 2022 at 10:51 am #

    Much like small groups at church, personal interaction and opening ourselves to others is critical for personal growth. As a by-product, we get enjoyment.

  13. Charlie Seraphin April 13, 2022 at 2:29 pm #

    I’m inspired just reading about it! If you decide to host such a conference, slot me in!

  14. Laura Bentz April 14, 2022 at 6:17 pm #

    I always remember this women’s retreat I went on years ago from my church. The Pastor’s wife was supposed to talk to us in 2 hour blocks all day. But when we got together, she got sick and couldn’t do it. We ended up just lying in the sun at the condo and swimming in the pool. And walking the beach. It was the best retreat I have ever attended. Sometimes, less is more. . .

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