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What a Writers' Group Should Be

 

I'm an introvert, albeit one that likes people. But my tendency is to avoid meetings in general and to be constantly unsure of how to function in groups. My particular idea of purgatory is the three-minute church mandatory greeting between the announcements and the sermon. What on earth am I supposed to do? I try to bend over and rummage in my purse, if possible.

That being said, I am an ardent member and supporter of the writers' group founded by Debbie Wilson, PeggySue Wells, and Marsha Wright as an outgrowth of a magazine interview Debbie did with PeggySue, and a class at Taylor University in (at the time) Ft. Wayne Indiana where PeggySue met Marsha. They decided they wanted to keep meeting to sharpen and encourage one another, and set aside one Thursday afternoon a month to do so. Everyone would get the opportunity to read what they were working on out loud, and cookies could be brought, if you were so inspired, but were never to be mandatory. I think meetings began at PeggySue's, although they have traveled to many different houses over the years. For a while, I got to have them in my little bungalow. It felt to me like the house had been built for the purpose.

There are many groups for writers. People tell me stories about theirs. Some are bless-me clubs, where an unspoken conspiracy exists to call each others' work excellent, regardless of its merits or its flaws. Some are like a room full of sharp knives, where you emerge with your manuscript--and possibly your heart--torn to shreds and you drive home telling yourself that you're an adult, you should be able to handle this. Some are the province of a local literary lion who uses the group as an informal court and whose word must not, under any circumstances, be gainsaid.

Our group--its formal name is "Soli Deo Gloria"--straddles these camps gracefully. The skill of some of our members (I will not embarrass Debbie Wilson by naming her) gives them a standing to speak, and tends to produce a hushed silence after their work is read. But corrections are offered, and accepted, without defensiveness or whining. Some members, although excellent writers, wow the group with their unflagging persistence and marketing savvy. Most of us have ideas of great merit that would die a-bornin' without some nurturing. I think I can say--and I'm reviewing eight years of attendance with my mind's eye--that every person I've ever met there had an idea with a spark of the divine in it. And the group has been remarkable in not snuffing out the spark even when it was embedded in a lot of asbestos packing material. My book, The Piglys and the Hundred-Year Mystery, would still be stuffed in a spiral notebook without the group's kind encouragement. But it was mixed with insights, critiques and pointers that I absorbed and included. Meetings range from two to twenty participants, and the skill levels represented range from budding teen writers to seasoned professionals, male and female.

I've gone on and on about SDG without saying what's most important to me: that this group, in which I don't think any two people go to the same church, functions like a church. We go through crises together, we rejoice together, we laugh together. And perhaps my favorite thing, we bear with each other. For the most part I don't notice us having any flaws, except my own tendency to get sleepy which absolutely mortifies me. But if someone tends to drone on, or if someone else is late, or absent-minded, or thoughtless, a wordless conspiracy of overlooking seems to swallow up the shortcoming and allows the perpetrator a grace to go forward and grow. There's a cheerful elasticity of heart that stretches around each other's inconsistencies.

I think this is what we're supposed to be like, with each other, in the economy of God. We should shore up what's sagging, lift up what's praiseworthy, turn a blind eye to some faults and a gimlet-eye on others, and be there for each other, year in and year out. SDG-ers, this post's for you.

 

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Mary, please add me to your newsletter mailing list! You article was soooo right on! ...or should I say write on! ....but not Wright on. (I had a late night last night. Can you tell?)

            - Marsha Wright

Mary, this line made me cry because it speaks to what's wrong in our society: "There's a cheerful elasticity of heart that stretches around each other's inconsistencies."

Can't we all just be kind to one another?

Thank you, Mary! This made my day.

            - Bobbi Galvin

Wow, Mary! What a great heart-felt post. I couldn't agree more. I feel blessed to know all of you and will miss you this winter. I'm not sure how often I'll be back, but I'll look forward to Debbie's update about all of your lives. Anytime I can encourage each and everyone of you is a great day. By the way, this little illustration to the right of this box is AMAZING. How did you capture yourself this well? I would think that drawing yourself would be difficult. Merry Christmas.

            - Michelle

"I think this is what we're supposed to be like, with each other, in the economy of God. We should shore up what's sagging, lift up what's praiseworthy, turn a blind eye to some faults and a gimlet-eye on others, and be there for each other, year in and year out. SDG-ers, this post's for you."

I love what you wrote here Mary, and I look ahead to a day when life for all will be precisely as you described.

Until then perhaps some of us have been able to find these rare places of true fellowship where we least expect to find them.

I am happy that you have found such a place and I'll try my best not to be too jealous.

"Soli Del Gloria" "Glory to God Alone."

            - Frank


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