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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

My Writing Community in the Times of Pandemic by KM Rockwood

Writing is a solitary pursuit and it can be all too easy for a writer to become isolated from the rest of the world. Especially now, when people are limiting their in-person contacts due to COVID 19. Under ordinary circumstances, a plethora of opportunities for writers to connect with other writers exists. Conferences, SinC chapter meetings, critique groups, write-ins, even book and discussion groups not composed exclusively of writers or directly related to works-in-progress.

Some of those have been suspended and we really miss them (especially the conferences—Malice Domestic was a highlight in my year!) or moved to a virtual format. That’s much better than not having them, and since travel and hotel expenses are eliminated, it does present an opportunity for many people to attend who otherwise would reluctantly skip them. But they are not the same.

On a more individual level, I sorely miss the in-person discussion and critique groups where I could get and give individual feedback from other interested writers. My monthly group, which has been in existence for about twelve years, used to meet for breakfast on Saturday mornings, where we would offer critiques of up to ten pages of one another’s current work. We’d email the pages prior to the meeting to facilitate the discussions, and each show up with our notes. As in any critique situation, the writer is expected to listen respectfully (and presumably consider the viewpoint presented) but not necessarily agree with it. Some comments are spot on, and others show a basic misconception of what the author is intending to do.

One of our members writes “realistic” speculative fiction. Creatures from other worlds are introduced into our society as observers. The author is meticulous in depicting the world as it exists, drawing from her own experience and presenting scenarios which reflect actual events. Oft-suggested interactions between the observer and the earthly world are politely but firmly dismissed, often without comment.

I remember the truism that other people can point out areas in a manuscript that don’t work, but only the author can fix them. While suggestions may get thoughts flowing, the solution has to come from the only person responsible for the final product. The group now communicates on-line via a Google meeting. It’s useful, but I find it lacks that immediacy and intimacy of the in-person meetings.

And I miss my raspberry crepes. 

My mystery book review club met a few times over the summer, bringing lawn chairs and sitting at a distance in someone’s back yard. The usually-delightful refreshments were reduced to the handful of crackers and bits of cheese I managed to grab on my way out the door. Since the weather has turned colder, the meetings have been suspended.  

My on-line contacts continue as before. I am in a long-standing Guppies critique group. Our activities wax and wane, depending upon how active we are in our individual writing lives, but we all respond promptly when something is posted. I have a few on-line individual critique partners, none of whom I have met in person. We continue in the same manner as before. Peer review, as we use it in our Writers Who Kill blog, also continues unabated. I find it hugely helpful, and, as with any critique, take some suggestions and dismiss others after I have considered them. 

Have you managed to maintain or even increase your participation in writers’ activities? Do you have plans for the “after” of the pandemic restrictions?


Jim Jackson said...

Not being a very social being in the first place, I need physical presence to encourage me to interact. When it's all electronic, I find it easy to stay cloistered as long as I have a few contacts to keep me sane. We had trips planned, and I hope we will be able to take some of those once we are vaccinated and the pandemic under control.

Kait said...

My writer contacts, although definitely not in person contacts, have increased since the pandemic. That is not due to zoom, or crowdcast, but to becoming a full-time writer. I am grateful that technology has created this cradle of contact. It's also enabling me to attend conferences that would have been out of my reach pre-pandemic. Rather than picking or choosing one or two, it's allowed me to feast at a smorgasbord. I hope the option continues even after life returns to normal.

All of that is well and good, now I am looking forward to some face to face with people who have become a part of my daily life. There is no substitute for in-person contact and I'd like to finally attend some of these conference in body if not in spirit.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I was in zoom overload in October and November and stopped attending events in December. Now that I've met deadlines and cleared the chaos of Christmas, I'll return to attending zoom events.

I'm registered for another year of Beth Terrell's on-line book discussion virtual sessions, with an exciting list of books across the mystery/crime/thriller spectrum.

Shari Randall said...

I, too, was overwhelmed by all the offerings on Zoom this year. At one point there were three events I wanted to "attend" scheduled for one day. One event that is always on my calendar is Malice Domestic and I'll be there virtually, for sure! Hope to see you there, KM!

Claire A Murray said...

I moved across country in late May and, despite the pandemic and riots, arrived safely in early June (I drove over 8 days). Luckily, I moved in with my sister initially and we decided to make it permanent.

My world expanded over the summer, with virtual meetings, workshops, and conferences. I've met many people here virtually whom I eagerly want to meet in person, but I've had no lack of interactions. I added a critique partner a few months ago, took some courses, one of which 6 of us expanded into a critique/craft group that meets virtually twice monthly, and host two virtual write-in sessions each week.

Some of this was only possible because I left the day job and became a full-time writer, and technology is at the point where virtual works well most of the time. I've had days where there were 2 and 3 overlapping events going on. Two laptops help me manage.

One result is that my writing productivity and quality have taken off. I'm where I hoped I'd get and working toward new targets. I look forward to in-person events, but know I cannot afford to as many I attended this summer unless they retain a virtual format. A few, however, are in my sights for in-person and reconnecting with friends and fellow writers.

KM Rockwood said...

Let's hope we all end up with an improved writing community when we can get back to meeting in-person as well as on-line contact!