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2. Craft and Connection: Resources in the DMV for New Writers
Part 2: Writing Groups and Groups that Support Writers
Michelle LaFrance (our amazing writing teacher!) is guest writing on our blog about writing resources and building writing community. See more about Michelle and her Hill Center courses here.
This guest blog series began with a post about writing coaches. In this post, I discuss the types of groups that support writers. Research central to my academic field, which studies the many aspects of how writers come to fluency in their craft, holds that all writers have something to learn—and many writers learn best in conversation with other writers as readers. This is the model that an MFA works on, after all.
Many writers also truly enjoy the connection of working in groups with other writers. Joining (or starting) a writing group is a great way to connect with other writers and get feedback on your work. Unlike coaches, the subject of my first guest post, most groups require no layout of funds, but for the purchase of a beverage at the location where the group meets.
Here are a few long standing groups you might check out:
- Capitol Hill Writers Group—The Capitol Hill Writers Group is a local network of writers (both published and up and coming) and hosts a long list of writing groups that require no financial commitment. Writers meet at least once a month to share and discuss their work. Groups organize around genres, strategies (such as, “shut up and write” or “sharing drafts”), and meeting times. Writers of all levels and genres may apply for membership.
- DC Writers Salon—Based in Dupont Circle, the Writers’ Salon hosts a number of different groups focused on accountability, morning writing sessions, and community-building for writers of all abilities. Friendly, well organized, and dedicated, new writers who are serious about their commitment to writing will find this group a good match.
- Northern Virginia Writers Club—A local chapter of the Virginia Writer’s Club, this organization hosts a series of events on a wide range of topics, such as self-publishing, story structure, and the strategies of helpful critique.
- Writers Groups on MeetUp—The Washington DC area has a host of free and quite active writers’ groups that advertise and organize on MeetUp, a social media platform that connects people of similar interests. Groups on MeetUp focus on script writing, novel writing, short story writing, and others. Many host “shut up and write” meetings, in person and via zoom. In these sessions, writers simply meet to silently write together. To find groups that meet near you, visit meetup.com and search for “writers groups Washington DC.”
- Book groups, author talks, and regional conferences—DC is home to a thriving literary culture. Many bookshops and organizations host book groups. Not a month passes without a bookfair, festival, numerous author visits, or a conference. Of course, these events are more focused on readers than writers, but these events can introduce writer to people, organizations, and opportunities of real value, for the discussion of craft, practical strategies, and community entailed. You can find many of these resources with a google search. Or keep your eye on the newsletters of our local arts centers and literary organizations.
A few words in closing bout joining a group. Just like when you are looking into hiring a coach, choosing a group to share your writing with is an important mixture of fit, an “intuitive” sense that you will work well with the members of the group, and clear communication from the start. Be sure you have chosen a group of folks who are interested in the type of writing you produce. Ground rules, clear expectations, and professional interpersonal boundaries are also important aspects of a group’s dynamics.
To help you get clear on how the group will function, be sure to ask the leaders of the group how often and where members are expected to meet. (Are you comfortable meeting in a private residence for your first meeting, for instance?) How often and via what mechanisms will you give and receive feedback? How long a text can you submit for feedback? Aside from critiques, what other types of support does the group seek to provide to others—some celebrate rejections and acceptances with equal gusto. You will also want to ask the leaders of the group how they handle conflicts should it emerge.
I wish you the best of luck in locating a writer’s group that works well for you. In my next guest post, Part 3, I will discuss other types of literary groups and events that can be helpful for new writers. Happy writing!
About Hill Center: Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital offers quality programming in a restored Civil War-era hospital commissioned by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. It is a vibrant home for culture, education and city life, and serves as a hub for community enrichment.