For the most part, we writers are a solitary, introverted bunch. But much as we may enjoy our own company and the quiet musings of our imaginations, we also need to come out of our corners and play with others.

Enter writing classes, circles, retreats and other gatherings.

In my youth, I was so devastated by the harsh critique I encountered in the one and only graduate creative writing class I attended, at the New School in New York, that I didn’t write fiction or creative nonfiction again for years.

It’s with the echo of that bad experience in mind that I have developed my own approach to teaching writing and leading a writer’s circle.

After 30 years of college teaching, I know it’s possible to offer honest feedback to a writer without tearing their work to shreds. It’s just a question of how the teacher structures the feedback process.

In my memoir workshops and writers’ circles, which start up for 2018 this weekend, I enjoy creating a receptive, honest, positive community of writers.

To be willing to take the risk of sharing your new work with others, whether it’s a response to a prompt you just wrote on the fly, or a draft you wrote last week and brought to your writer’s circle, you have to trust that your group will listen carefully and respond thoughtfully and kindly.

It’s most helpful for writers to hear what their readers interested in or would like to hear more about, pointing to the positive potential in the piece rather than nit-picking about what’s missing or wrong.

In the later stages of polishing and perfecting a story, chapter or manuscript, there will be time enough for that kind of fine-tuning, which is best done one-on-one with an editor or author coach.

In the writers’ circle, we’re there to listen, encourage, and gently direct. If all goes well, each writer will leave the circle energized and jazzed up to go back to their solitary desk and let their imaginations fly once more.

There’s nothing like the knowledge that the group will be waiting to hear from you to keep your spirits up and your pen or typing fingers moving steadily along.


Click here for more information about my upcoming memoir workshops in western Massachusetts. And remember to check out my online memoir course too—a self-paced journey that you can embark on any time, anywhere.

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