Community! Find it in Unexpected Places!

I took up a swimming challenge at our local YMCA in January, and I’ve had plenty of time while plowing through the H2O to contemplate. One of the things that came to me recently – and which I did not anticipate – was what swimming (or any solitary sport), writing, and faith have in common.

Did you notice the word solitary? Swimming is singularly solitary, because your face is in the water and the opportunities for interaction are pretty limited. This is true for writing, minus the face-in-water part. It’s an internal activity. Faith comes down to one’s core beliefs, which is, by definition, extremely individual.

What I never expected to discover with swimming is community – and yet it is there. Maggie, Ann, and Linda show up at roughly the same times I do for laps. They bring smiles, enthusiasm, and energy which all rub off on me. (Hopefully, I bring the same to them!) They also challenge me to do more than I ever thought possible, both in distance and in perseverance.

This is what a faith community does for us, as well. While we are responsible for nurturing our own growth, its potential is exponentially expanded when we share our faith with each other, and deepened when we gather to worship as community.

Writing communities can be powerful agents of support and encouragement, too. Because of the solitary nature of writing, it’s important to connect with other writers, whether through online venues such as Catholic Writers Guild, or through face-to-face opportunities.

So how is one to find these opportunities? The question of finding critique partners has come up a few times recently in the CWG blog. It’s not always an easy question to answer. The first step is to find writing groups. You’re here, so you’ve discovered this wonderful community. There are some forums for critique groups; check them out and see if they are a good fit. Also, participate in the live and online Catholic Writers Guild conferences whenever possible, and consider saving up for the annual writing retreat. Opportunities abound within this group!

Beyond CWG, check with your library or a nearby college for local groups. Google writers, authors, or writing groups in your area. (I recently found two groups in my area that I had no idea existed; you might be surprised!) Attend a local or regional writing conference, even if it’s not in your genre. You might connect with another author and decide to trade manuscripts for critique. Sometimes critiques are raffled off as writing fundraisers, or are offered as an extra benefit at a workshop. While this last idea isn’t as likely to result in long-term relationships, you will get some insight on how to improve your writing.

Many special interest associations exist, and most have local chapters. Check out American Christian Fiction Writers (which is focused on the Inspirational market and has a slightly different audience than the Catholic Writers Guild), Sisters in Crime (misters are welcome to join), or Romance Writers of America®. RWA® has a wide variety of online special interest chapters, one of which might address your genre, although all are focused on writing some variation of a Happy-Ever-After ending. Mystery Writers of America has an associate membership level for unpublished writers.  SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, is a gold mine of information for writers of children’s and young adult literature.

You might want to try out Critique.org, an online group that runs on critique exchange. No cost is involved, other than your time in exchange for someone else’s. Or consider an online writing class. One of my critique partners built a years-long critique relationship with a fellow writer she has never met in person. You can find class offerings on Announceonlinewritingclasses, a yahoo group. (Be judicious. When I first discovered online classes, I signed up for several at the same time, not realizing how much time and energy they can take. The cost adds up, too, but if you only sign up for the ones that really apply to your interests and level of expertise, it’s possible to develop a critique relationship with a like-minded author.)

For more on critique and critique groups, see my CWG post from May 22, 2012.

How have you found a writing community that meets your needs? How did you find Catholic Writers Guild? My guess is that many of us came from other groups; share what was best about them!

About Leslie Lynch

Leslie Lynch writes women's fiction, giving voice to characters who struggle to find healing for their brokenness – and discover unconventional solutions to life’s unexpected twists. She is an occasional contributor to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s weekly paper, The Criterion. She can be found at www.leslielynch.com and is on facebook and Twitter@Leslie_Lynch_
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12 Responses to Community! Find it in Unexpected Places!

  1. peoplewho are unchurched are crying for community

    • Leslie Lynch says:

      Hi, Melanie,

      I’m not sure if this reply is really from you, but in case it is, I’d like to respond.

      All people, “churched” or “unchurched” cry for community, or perhaps more importantly, communion with God and others. We are hard wired to desire that. Hopefully, we find what we need through each other, the hands and voice of Jesus on this earth.

      And hopefully, writers will find what they need in community with like-minded writers.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Peace.

  2. Thanks, Leslie! You are right on! After the 2012 CWG Live I organized a local critique group in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. It’s slowly growing, especially with our radio announcements and blog. It’s a source of motivation and accountability for all of us. There’s nothing like face-to-face feedback on your writing. Relationships are growing into that community you describe. Enthusiasm for writing is catching.

  3. Leslie Lynch says:

    What a wonderful witness to the value of CWG Live – and your proactive follow up that includes a blog (!) and radio announcements! That is smart: using a variety of resources to create a group that meets your needs! Thank you SO much for sharing, Nancy!

    I can see that I should have included another question at the end of this blog: How have you created a critique group that works?

  4. After a few meetings, the enthusiasm took hold and different members contributed greatly. One started the blog, another hosted a second monthly meetings across town for those on the other side of the metroplex. Others put notices in their parish bulletins. So community emerged from our common bond of Catholic writing. Great synergism of the Holy Spirit.

    • Leslie Lynch says:

      Now there’s another great idea: Notices in parish bulletins.

      I knew you guys would come up with all sorts of ideas that hadn’t occurred to me! And we all have different gifts that amplify our talents for the glory of God. What an inspiring story.

  5. Mary says:

    I have been part of several different critique groups, some online and some in person. But they were all with people who did not share my faith and it was difficult for me to develop a sense of community. I got tired of only being able to critique the writing style, when what I really wanted to speak up about was the content. Finally I decided that I just couldn’t take it anymore and that’s how I found CWG. I’m not terribly involved yet as I’m still very busy with school and such, but I hope to start seriously building some writing relationships once summer comes. The online conferences sound really good and–who knows?–maybe I could try to start up a Catholic writing group in the Chicago area, too!

  6. Leslie Lynch says:

    Excellent points, Mary! That is exactly why CWG came to be, as far as I know. I wasn’t a founding member, but a Catholic community of writers is what I was looking for when I joined.

    I hope this post nudges folks to seek each other out within the organization; talk about a group of like-minded writers! And I’m excited to see that Nancy’s approach might work for you in Chicago!

    Best of luck to you!

  7. Don Mulcare says:

    Hi Leslie,

    Thanks again for your guidance. I’m looking forward to your guide book. So far, I’ve had mixed success with my crit group search. I’ve sent out two short stories, but there’s been no response. There may be a technical glitch in the web page. On the other side, I’ve seen two children’s stories that taught me quite a bit. I learned as the person providing the critique.

    I’ll continue to appreciate your advice.

    God Bless,

    Don

    • Leslie Lynch says:

      Hi, Don. I’m glad you’re getting mixed success, because the last time we corresponded, you were getting NO success! This is a step in the right direction! Don’t give up; you’ll find the right group soon. I have faith!

      Check with Jen Fitz about the website glitch question; she will at least be able to direct your question to the right person.

      Meanwhile, you are learning one of the most important things about critique groups: You learn the most by reading other people’s work. When you come back to your own, the light bulb goes on and you are finally able to see where your work needs improvement. At least, that’s how it works for me!

      Blessings – and happy writing!

  8. Don Mulcare says:

    Dear Leslie,

    I appreciate your continued kindness. Thanks to you progress has been made.

    The glitch with forum responses may be due to my unfamiliarity with the system. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. I’ll contact Jen as you suggest. We’re in touch about two other technical matters, so this can fit right in.

    The community of which you write, especially your participation in that community has certainly worked for me. I’m a believer. Along the way there have been many answers.

    Many thanks again,

    God bless!

    Don