Written by A Guest Author November 29th, 2017

The Surprising Ways Writing Groups Open Doors

By Tina Jenkins Bell

After I graduated from college, I had aspirations of becoming a published writer but had no idea of how to get there.

I needed guidance beyond writers’ magazines, books, and annual conferences. I needed accomplished kindred souls who didn’t mind sharing their knowledge and resources.

I found these souls collectively in writers’ groups. Through trial and error, I discovered writing groups were not a one size fits all. It took me a while to wade through the variations. For example, some groups operated more like clubs. You shared your work, you listened to subjective critiques (no one wanted to hurt your feelings), and you went home. Others were orchestrated by “dictators” who controlled everything, from who you read, to who accessed opportunities.

For catapulting careers, I found the best ones came with the following benefits.

  • Professional, objective critiques. Nancy Johnson, a former journalist, guest blogger, and published writer, said her affiliation with the Women’s Fiction Writers Association supplied beta readers to proofread her manuscript and “strategize revisions.” I second Nancy’s point. As a member of For Love of Writing (FLOW), I’ve benefited from members’ objective critiques and meticulously professional editing abilities.
  • Networking and resource sharing of agents and publishing opportunities and introductions. Maris Soule, who has authored over thirty novels, got her start based on a group member’s introduction. “Years ago, one of the members of the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America (RWA) announced she had sold to Five Star. I’d never heard of them. She gave me the contact information. Since then I have had four books published by Five Star (now Five Star/Gale/Cengage).”
  • Industry instruction, coaching, and guidance on various topics, from writing and manuscript revisions, to promoting and distributing books, to brand management and merchandising options. “The industry changes all the time,” children’s author Evan Roberts said. Roberts is a member of the Chicago Black Authors Network (CBAN) and KidLit Nation. Through these groups, he accessed seminars and workshops to help him better navigate the publishing terrain. He has also benefited from collaborative options for sharing resources and splitting expenses to promote his book at expos or book events, where the cost for exhibiting was high for one person alone but the exposure to thousands of potential buyers was greater.
  • Connections to editors and publishers. Midwest Writers Workshop (MWW), based in Muncie, Indiana, offers a plethora of opportunities for writers to connect with editors, agents, and publishers, via a well-respected two-day conference, retreats, and seminars.

Cole Lavalais, author of Summer of the Cicadas, sums writer’s group power this way. “Writing a book may be a singular activity, but publishing a book requires a village.” To find the village befitting of your interests and aspirations:

  • Investigate the group’s offerings by talking to individual members.
  • Preview websites and other social media to determine what amenities come with membership and how specifically the group supports writers’ publishing aspirations.
  • Attend two to three meetings to ensure the group is the right fit.

Good luck!

Bio: Tina Jenkins Bell is a published fiction writer, playwright, freelance journalist, and literary activist. Her writing has been widely published in anthologies, newspapers, and literary journals including BAC Street Journal, Expressions, and Steam Ticket: A Third Coast Review, and Guildworks anthology. She’s currently completing edits on her first novel, Mud Pies.












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