Social Distancing Lemonade: How Our Writing Group Did It

My granddaughter's artwork
When life gives you lemons...

We can look at this social distancing experience as lemons. I have had my lemon moments in the past week. Just read last week's post! But we're adapting. One of my writing life adaptations happened Monday night. Well, the culmination of it occurred Monday night. I spent Friday through Monday getting ready for it.


Our writing critique group. I run the local chapter for the South Carolina Writers' Association. We meet two times a month. In. Person. We look forward to this time of sharing and giving feedback on each other's work. Determined to not let that disappear, I began exploring options to hold our meetings online.

And found Zoom.

I participated in a Zoom meeting with 150 other people a few days before I began looking for an online option. This platform works amazingly well. You can:

  • See everyone who chooses to be seen
  • Mute or unmute participants
  • Mute or unmute video options
  • Share files on screen
  • Use a chat box for information beyond the scope of what's happening in the meeting
  • Access it will little issues or problems

Overall, it was a huge win for us. Most importantly, we were able to connect with our writing tribe. We had fourteen people in attendance, some who haven't been able to attend in some time due to caregiver responsibilities. With a bit of think-ahead strategy and planning, it came off without many hitches.

If you're interested in trying it out, here's a short video that instructs people how to access it from a tablet, smartphone, PC, or a Mac. A shout out to Chip Reaves at Bigger Brains* who saw the need for something quick and created this video.

How To Join a Zoom Meeting

I'm not going to say our first run was perfect. My computer froze at one point, but I'm working on a solution before our next meeting. The response from the group has been incredible. Some of our members admit to being Luddites, but it worked in the end. See what they had to say:

  • Good meeting.  Zoom seems to be the way to go.
  • I thought overall it was a success. Looking forward to the next one.
  • Overall, my thoughts are positive.  This can work!  
  • Things went really well last night. Much better than I had imagined. 

So how are you handling your group, in-person meetings? What's working for you? Please share them in the comments of this post so others can find something that works for them.

How are you making Social Distancing Lemonade?

*FYI, I'm one of Bigger Brains trainers, and we currently have
several training videos for free on YouTube, including 
our popular Microsoft Teams Essentials training
 and my complete library of Excel 2010 classes.


Did you use the free version? If so, was the 40 minute limit an issue?
Arisia said…
I've been a participant in several other "first time" Zoom meetings, and this one was definitely the smoothest. Your experience with software training didn't hurt.

Just from observing lots of Zoom meetings, the one thing that causes the most trouble seems to be having too many people unmuted at the same time, especially if any of them are using a cell phone. Last night we often had three unmuted at once--the reader, the critiquer, and the moderator. It wasn't a problem unless two people were talking at the same time. But when our one phone person was unmuted, his mike picked up noise even when he wasn't talking. I noticed his window lighted up when you were talking. That could have been why you froze.

Another thing to consider, although I feel it's worth it, is that I had to spend a lot more time than usual on the meeting. I printed out the pages to be read so I could scribble on them, because I hoped to read them before the meeting to get a head start. Then I spent extra time afterwards, generating my comments and sending them to each reader. There is a pro to go with this con. I didn't have to rush to keep up with the reader or catch up after writing a comment, and I could add or change comments before sending them.
We didn’t. There’s no way we could have done the meeting in that amount of time. Our chapter has had to pay a nominal fee for our meeting location for a few years, and the cost was slightly less than what we pay per month. They have reasonable packages that the organization might want to explore. If they purchased one, it might be possible to allow different chapters to use the one account, I haven’t researched that so don’t hold me to it.
Unknown said…
Great meeting, Barbara! Almost as good as Cabella's. This is going to help us get through corona season. And, no excuses for not writing as it will keep us accountable. It might even be better as we'll have more time to critique each other's work.
Looking forward to our next meeting.
Diana Manley
Thanks for the feedback!

I could have muted people if it became a problem, but our group is accustomed to following a no interruption policy. That helped a lot, That’s an interesting point about the phone participant, although when I think about it, it makes sense. My computer froze because of the distance from my router. We had to rearrange the rooms in our house a while ago, and, unfortunately, the router is not nearby. It hadn’t been an issue before, but I’ve already found the solution to boosting the signal.
Thanks Diana! It will require a bit more time to get the feedback to everyone, but that can be a positive as well.

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