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The Helpfulness and Camaraderie of a Writers Group

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I moved from Rochester, New York, to Syracuse, New York in 2008. I didn’t have any friends in Syracuse, having left many of my friends and a large extended family in Rochester. Now that I’ve lived here for six years, I have many Syracuse friends and go back to Rochester frequently to see my friends and family there. I feel as though I have one foot in Syracuse and one in Rochester, and I’m grateful that the two cities are neighbors.

I’ve made most of the friends I have here through the Central New York Creative Writers Café, a writers group I joined through Meetup.com (http://www.meetup.com/creativewriters). I joined the group in October of 2008, just months after it was founded in April of 2008 by a mysterious man we know only as John. In December of 2008, John told us that he wanted to either close down the group or pass it along to another person. A man named Dennis decided to take over as Organizer. After a few months, my dear friend Michael took over. Then in September of 2010, I took over. As of this writing, we have seventy-one members. Fortunately, not all of our members show up to our weekly meetings at once. We usually have ten to fifteen people at each meeting. We also have five Assistant Organizers who, along with me, form a committee that makes decisions about the group.

In my opinion, every writer should be so lucky as to find a good writers group. We operate much like a college writing workshop, critiquing three pieces of writing during a two and a half hour meeting. We give only constructive criticism—insults, unnecessary harshness, and negativity are not allowed. That said, we’re very honest and direct with one another, and the feedback is consistently thorough, forthright, and helpful.

As far as gaining help with one’s writing, I recommend that every writer look for a writers group, or at least a critique partner. Writing is a solitary activity and can be lonely. Further, it’s important to have another set of eyes look at what you’ve written. This enables you to get the opinions of another writer (or a group of writers) that might lead you to make worthwhile changes to your writing. It also helps with proofreading. Often after you’ve read a piece multiple times, you stop seeing little errors that someone else might catch and correct.

I have over a dozen published short stories, and many of these have been critiqued by the CNY Creative Writers Café. The group aided in the improvement of my pieces and, in many cases, this helped pave the way to my publications. But perhaps most important of all, my writers group offers a social experience that is so valuable to me. I’ve made truly close friends through the CNY Creative Writers Café. And this would be good for anyone, but especially for me, a person with a mental illness for whom making friends can be difficult. I need to be able to trust people since I’m open about my bipolar disorder and want to be sure that others will be accepting. When I’m feeling even a little depressed, I tend to want to hide from the world but the group keeps me in it and interacting with others.

Please follow my blog at emilyglossnerjohnson@blogspot.com, follow me on Twitter @EmDotJ, e-mail me at emdotj@gmail.com, or look for me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/emilyglossnerjohnson.

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