Saturday, March 27, 2010

The sisterhood of the writerly pact

I just met with my critique group - a safe sounding board for the works-in-progress of five inspiring women who met through the UCLA writing program. When we first started getting together a year and-a-half ago we were ambitious. We planned to meet every two or three weeks. After a while, we realized this wasn't realistic. Now we get together once a month - usually four out of five show up.

We've fallen into a comfortable routine. We almost always meet at Ann's. She feeds us an array of yumminess. If we meet in the morning, that could mean Belgian waffles. Sometimes we sip mimosas. For the first 45 minutes we talk about our personal lives - family, men, work, men, yoga - men. It can get racy - kind of like group therapy.

Then we each share a chapter or scene. One of us reads out loud and everyone comments and gives written notes. It's heartfelt, supportive and honest - soul baring stuff. I feel alternately disheartened and motivated. Thank you for pushing me, Bonnie, Pegah, Mahin and Ann - my sisters-in-pen. I know I need to push my writing more. I know I'm neglecting it.

I'm 100 pages into a novel that I haven't looked at in months. Then there are picture book manuscripts, two dummies and even a few color spreads. Some short stories. I have a concept for a memoir that I started a long time ago. I'm even negligent about submitting my work. It is sleeping - comatose might be a better word - in various files in my laptop, in manila folders, on shelves and in boxes. Now, I'm five chapters into a new novel - I left that protagonist stranded on an island weeks ago. Even she's fed up with me. On occasion, I hear her papery voice fluttering through the pages of the manuscript as she begs for attention.

It looks like she's going to get it. The upshot of this month's meeting - after the food, the group therapy and the critique part - the four of us made a pact. Even shook on it. We agreed to finish first drafts of our WIPs by the end of the year. After shaking hands we looked at each other in shock. The thing is - I'd already planned to do it this year in my head - but I didn't know if it would happen. Now it's real and I've gone public with it. I'm freaking out.

Just forget you read this.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

It's amazing how going public can put a fire under you. Sometimes we need deadlines to face the hard work of writing. Can't wait to hear you've finished that WIP.

PM said...

Your writing is beautiful and I completely believe in your story :) Set Monique free--and let her come alive on the pages of your manuscript. Can't wait to read it.

Lori W. said...

Hooray for you and your group! Now that you've gone public w/your pledge, we'll all be cheering for you to get it done! Thank goodness for critique groups!

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

Thanks guys. So great to have all this encouragement. What a fun supportive community!

"MOMMA" GAIL said...

I KNOW you can do it my lovely friend! Put your talents/gifts out there for all the world to share! I believe in you!