f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 3 of a New Writers Group – Like Pilates for Writers

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Day 3 of a New Writers Group – Like Pilates for Writers

Right now, it sounds like this is going to be a fiction writing group. I think that’s a fine way to start, though, should it prove successful I think there’s ample possibilities for offering poetry and creative non-fiction wings, should you have writers with interest/expertise.

Sticking with fiction, however, I want to suggest something that runs extremely counter to everything CBA seems to stand for and that is I think focusing solely on the novel may be to the groups’ detriment. This group needs to champion the short story.

And I think I hear a hundred voices go, “What? Where will that get us?” Stick with me for a little.

Remember in the old days when people served apprenticeships that didn’t involve rich men with bad hair? Remember when young boys who wanted to make say, barrels, would find the local cooper and train under him? Well, by and large, we’ve given up on that process, especially in writing. It’s very much, “Find your own way.” Sure we have mentors and writing groups, etc, but we’ve managed to discard what I consider a CRUCIAL formative aspect—writing the short story.

This is the place to experiment with tone and point-of-view and a hundred other things in a convenient to read 1200-word story. It’s an exercise, a bit of training, that pays off in a thousand solid ways down the line. And this isn’t just for beginning writers. I feel strongly that even “professional” writers who’ve published books still need to be flexing their muscles in the short story.

As well, turning an eye to short stories may very well offer you a commodity, which I think is currently being swept out the door like dross when with a little polishing they can be honed and refined and turned into something precious. Whether it’s an annual chapbook that could sold at your eventual conferences or even a partnership with a publishing house (start with us, we’ve talked about this idea) to begin offering up the best in Christian short stories, your group turns the “work” and “exercise” into a productive venture that not only offers the group exposure but the individually touted authors as well. Is this going to be a huge money-maker? Never. But if the goal is to fill the need of developing fiction artists, then I think it’s an absolutely vital position to take.

Again, like the focus on craft or the need for reviews, this may not seem an easy or popular road, but it’s one that isn’t being trod (tread? treaded?) right now. Begin filling these spaces and the need to separate yourselves from other writers groups becomes irrelevant.
We’re getting toward the end of the week. Tomorrow, I think we’ll look at the notion of meeting together and my suggestions on that end. Then, on Friday, like any good pastor would, I’d like to wrap up with some calls-to-action. The “writers-group-alter-call” so to speak. So begin thinking now if you’d like to get in at the ground level of this movement. I may only end up playing Moses to somebody else’s Joshua, but I don’t think there’s going to be forty years of wandering before the promised land is reached either. So pray and think. And we’ll all talk more tomorrow and Friday.