Monday, November 29, 2010

Orange County Fictionaires

Orange County Fictionaires

Almost three years ago I joined two writers groups. I had found both on the internet. The first group consisted of retired women, mostly my senior. We met in a lovely home in Newport Beach on the beach every Monday afternoon. The second group, the Orange County Fictionaires, met every other Wednesday evening in a room on the eighth floor of a hospital, and I had to audition and be voted in. So, I began in January of 2007 to attend both groups. I’d been looking for a writing group for a long time. I’d taken a number of classes and I was looking for more individualized attention and I was excited about giving and receiving feedback.

I went to one meeting in Newport and came home feeling,for a number of reasons,

For Fictionaires, I had to send in my material for an initial screening, and if approved, I had to attend three meetings, participate in critique and on the third meeting I had to read aloud and be critiqued. I would then leave and be voted in or out. After my first meeting I loved the Fictionaires. I found the members to be insightful, talented and witty and I really wanted to join.

For the Newport group, I had to print out a copy of my work, but on the second week I had a printer problem and so I asked a woman, the hostess, if she’d mind printing out my work if I e-mailed it to her. She obliged, but somewhere in cyberspace, all my indentations and quotation marks were lost (through no fault of my own). She suggested that I didn’t belong in the group since I obviously didn’t know how to use my grammatical markers. I went to the meeting feeling annoyed with her and cyberspace. When I arrived, no one was there.

Now I was seriously miffed and offended. I continued to my outrage for a day or two, but after some time came an overwhelming relief which puzzled me. I sent an e-mail thanking the Newport group and suggesting that their time schedule wouldn't work with mine. A few days later I found a message on my cell phone left on the day when I’d found no one at home in Newport telling me that our hostess had gone to hospital. I hadn’t been stood up, but still the damage was done and I was glad and a little concerned. Remember, it would be at least a month before I would know if I’d be accepted into Fictionaires and I still really wanted to belong to a critique group.

While running with my comedian son one morning, I related the incident to him and admitted I couldn’t understand my feelings. I really wanted a writer’s group, why would I be relieved that one hadn’t worked? I had learned from previous classes that just reading my work aloud helped tremendously and that I had something to learn from everyone. (I still believe that every single person has something valuable to teach.) Nathan, who had to read his material before a committee each time he preformed, told me that it was always stressful to share his work and if I didn’t value their opinions, why would I suffer the stress?

I felt somewhat better until my turn to read in Fictionaires arrived. It was a cold February night. I brought a large chocolate cake. I remember one woman told me “I’ll never tell anyone that they can’t write,” and I wondered if she wanted to tell me that I couldn’t write. I read my work and then the critique began. I felt like I’d been surrounded by a friendly group of terriers who had morphed into pit bulls. After a few minutes of their helpful and hurtful comments, I stopped taking notes. I left completely discouraged, but by the time I got home I had a telephone call welcoming me to the group.

And I’ve been going now for almost three years. They are still insightful, witty and talented and I’m grateful to be in their number.

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