Thanks to my 3 D’s – The Value of a Writing Group

The journey to turn my earlier nonfiction manuscript into a novel was long and sometimes difficult. As I wrote new sections, added dialogue, and struggled with what bits to delete, my writers’ group, women I met years ago through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), remained staunchly behind my efforts. They have read about Herman and his adventures since the first chapters of the middle grade version and have consistently been a source of encouragement.

The composition of this group has changed, expanded, and contracted since our first meetings.

The original group found each other on a list of SCBWI members from our area who were interested in being part of a critique group. In the early days, we gathered monthly for lunch, discussed the work we submitted for critique, commented on publishing trends, and offered suggestions and encouragement. When my children’s stories and articles were published in youth market magazines, they congratulated me and were fully supportive. Now, after close to twenty years, we are down to four stalwarts, only myself and one other lady from the original group, and we four are as much friends as writing buddies. Though our meetings are less frequent, they push me to keep writing when I feel blocked or to start writing again when the ups and downs of life get in the way.

For all of us, life had progressed in time to our writing. Children grew up and left for college, loved ones passed away, new responsibilities for grandchildren developed. We supported each other through retirement, illness, and divorce. The world around us changed, too—the World Wide Web became all pervasive, the Hubble telescope brought us pictures of deep space, we experienced the horror of September 11, and our country went to war in the Middle East. And through it all these women read about Herman.

Each one of these ladies brings something special to the group. One is good at line editing as she used to edit the university textbooks written by her late husband. Another has a wonderful eye for finding details that seem confusing or sections that are not well explained. The third has a sense of the big picture and makes suggestions regarding plot and continuity. They have critiqued everything from early chapters to the entire novel (more than once), and more recently, my query letter for agents.

A few weeks ago we had lunch together at my home. We shared updates about our families and our activities. And they were eager to hear of any possible progress of Immigrant Soldier toward publication. Their support and encouragement seems never-ending. I call these ladies the “3 Ds”—Donna, Donna, and Denise.

My 3 Ds (you know who you are), thanks for your two decades of encouragement. And let’s hear a cheer for writing groups everywhere — those wonderful, supportive people who push us to do our very best.


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