Passing the Reins of Leadership

Some of our members at a book launch

Last month, I stepped down as the leader of my local South Carolina Writers' Association (SCWA) chapter. For ten years, I led this critique group, and for two years prior to that, I served as co-leader. Last month, one of our members asked how it felt to not prep for running the meeting. My response? "Wonderful!"

I loved leading this group, and I plan to still participate, but I need to devote more time to my writing as opposed to running the chapter. That role became much more time-consuming when we moved to virtual meetings instead of in-person. I'm thrilled to say that two members have stepped forward to run the meetings, and the woman who has assisted me in the last two years agreed to continue, and actually expand, her role. I'm very thankful to them and their willingness to accept the reins of leadership!

Whether in-person or virtual, my chapter has been the core of my writing tribe. We teach, encourage, and cheer for each other.  I attended my first meeting with this chapter in the late summer of 2007. The group met in the back room of a local, independent bookstore at the time. There must have been fifteen people present. I listened to their feedback for each writer, amazed at their rapid ability to catch issues just moments after the writer read their pages to the group. It intimidated me.

After in-person meetings,
we visited over dinner

This wasn't my first writing group. I'd attended two creative writing classes at Clemson University and another one in a local tech school's continuing education programming. Unlike those classes, this group didn't rely on a teacher to guide them. They knew a lot about what worked, what didn't work, and what the publishing industry's current standards expected. They helped each other refine their work and embraced that feedback with vigor. It blew my mind, but I kept coming back. I learned. I improved. Eventually, I gained enough knowledge to provide the kind of feedback I first had witnessed. I can honestly say I would not be the writer I am today if it wasn't for this group.

Like any community, our methods and processes have evolved, especially once we went virtual. Our membership changed too. Although, we're a multi-genre group, I was the only fantasy writer when I first joined. Now, we have several speculative fiction writers. Of course, not every writer stuck with us over the years. Some left due to family or work responsibilities, others moved out of the area, some lost interest or realized we weren't the group for them, and, sadly, a few have passed away. 

Over the years, I've written several posts about writing groups. I know not everyone supports the idea of critique groups. There are some awful ones out there, so they have good reason. I got lucky and found a great group. If you find a good group that helps writers grow in their craft, it's worth your time. Many of our members started out with great ideas and raw talent and have developed into incredible writers. Among our members we have hundreds of publications, from essays and short stories to novels; quite a few awards, including Pushcart Prize nominees; and several publication deals.

Although I'm entering a different phase in my participation with this group, I'm thrilled to be part of such a supportive tribe.

If you don't have a writing tribe, find one. Every writer needs someone to walk with them as they create.


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