It’s a little embarrassing for me to admit, but I have never taken a writing course, creative or otherwise. Well, there was that one Adult Ed course at Acton-Boxborough that I took in maybe 1980 or so, that evolved into the Central Middlesex Writers Guild, my first critique group, so I suppose that would count. But really: a liberal arts degree, a professional master’s degree—you would think that somewhere along the line I would have been forced to take a writing course. Nope. It’s too bad, too, because the UNH professor would have been Donald Murray, the late Boston Globe columnist. 20/20 hindsight. So clear.
But I have still managed to have millions of words of my deathless prose (and poetry) published, usually for some sort of remuneration (ego counts), so how do I do it?
Folks, that’s the whole story: I read. When the other kids were outside playing baseball or painting the dog or currying their horses, I was reading. Nancy Drew was my favorite character, Carolyn Keene my favorite author. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder, too. I remember when I was in elementary school, I heard about the Library of Congress’ collection of every book published in the United States, and I wanted to go there to see the Nancy Drew titles I hadn’t read.
Fast forward a few decades. I visited the Library of Congress (twice) and totally forgot about Nancy Drew, although I did see their huge card catalog, still maintained in the back rooms, unlike card catalogs elsewhere, which have long gone as scrap cards sitting by computer terminals.
Then, after reading, I write.
That’s the second step. You have to write it in order to get it read. I never wanted some poor editor to be the first to see my articles/book manuscripts/poems/commentary. So I joined writers’ groups. After the Central Middlesex Writers Guild, I have been in a number of groups, notably the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Concord (Massachusetts) critique group. With a hiatus or two while I worked on cancer books and corporate history, I have been a member of that group for 30 years, and it turns out that it’s the oldest SCBWI crit group in New England and maybe farther afield.
Besides the SCBWI, I have been in (actually, started) several other groups. At the Lincoln Public Library, with the support of The Lincoln Review, we started The Write Stuff, which is still chugging along. After meeting other writers at conferences and workshops, a bunch of us formed a twice-a-year weekend critique group that met offseason at a ski resort in New Hampshire: hence our name, The Loonies. With another group of friends, we started a twice-a-year weekend critique group called Camp’n’Schmooze at Poland Spring Campground in Maine.
These groups provide networking, support, hand-holding, and excellent feedback (not always what I wanted to hear, but valuable…). My writer friends are amazingly talented and generous, so I have no qualms in dropping their names on my website to show the quality of people who are my writing community. You could do worse than reading their books. Trust me.