On Meeting Writers…

Proof that monkeys and beer sometime mix.

It was a dark night in Chicago. Eden was tired. She had to get up early. But there she was, biking across town to meet a man barely knew…

Sounds kind of scary, right? A decent setup for a pulp mystery or maybe some boring existentialist diatribe on the nature of meeting people for the first time. Well, the man Eden was going to meet was me, and while I’m not really all that scary in person, I’m probably good casting for the latter. 🙂

Eden Robins is a Clarion West grad, writer, and editor of Brain Harvest. I’ve known Eden for awhile, in the casual way one comes to know someone online, a tweet here and there, a message or two. In addition, Eden and Shane Hoversten the Brain Harvest crew did a critique for me not too long ago as well, so I was thrilled to finally meet her in person.

We had a great chat about writing, although I kinda felt like I probably blabbed too much. Still, there’s nothing like the camaraderie of writers. Where else can you talk about the strange ways and means of fiction and draw looks of understanding instead of confusion (or even fear)?

One of the most difficult things for writers to handle is the face-to-face discussion of their work. If you’re a regular reader of How Not to Write, you might think that I’m an exception to this rule, but you’d be wrong. I blogged anonymously for years (both here and elsewhere). I shied away from sharing my work with anyone except those closest to me and least likely to offer anything approaching criticism.

But a few years ago, I discovered that if you share your work with other writers you actually get valuable feedback, you improve. The same thing happens when you just talk abut the process with another writer.

Along this line, I had another conversation recently with a writer I work with. John Fraizer sent me a chapter of his work in progress and asked for my feedback. In talking about the work, we also talked about the process of fiction and even though we have different ways of working there’s such a powerful sense of validation when you hear someone describe their process and find your own to be strikingly similar.

Oh, and I have to give Kevin Blake a nod for the advice I passed on to John… “You’ve got a great story here, once you trash the first nine pages.” John didn’t have nine pages to trash, but I did on a story I wrote a long time ago. Kevin’s advice was one of the first I’d received from another serious writer.

I’d like to thank Eden for coming out to a very noisy bar after a long day. It was the highlight of my trip, which is saying a lot because a lot happened while I was in Chicago. I’d also like to thank John Fraizer for sharing his work in progress with me and for asking for my opinion of the work.

Say Hi To These Writers

What’s the point of having a post on meeting writers if you don’t actually go out and meet some?

Eden Robins

Drop on by Eden’s blog and congratulate her for making M-Brane SF #9! Twitter: @edenrobins

John “Fraize” Fraizer

On Fraize’s blog, you can let him know that NaNoWriMo isn’t insanity and that he should enjoy the process. It’s fun and he ought to enjoy it! 🙂 Ok, maybe it is nutty but it’s still fun. Twitter: @fraize

Kevin Blake

Kevin just launched White Belt Writer. He’s probably going to be pissed that I linked to it in this post, but hey… what’s the point of being a writer if you’re not going to put it out there and shake it!!! 😉 Twitter: @kevineblake

How many writers do you know? I mean personally. How many have you met in person? How many have you shared a beer with?

10 thoughts on “On Meeting Writers…

  1. Hi Jamie! Wow, thanks for the kind words and links. It was awesome to meet you, and no, you didn’t blab too much! 🙂 I like your idea of meeting writers… funny how we’re all still sort of strangely isolated, talking to each other obliquely through Twitter and Facebook. Hopefully we’ll meet again and talk more about writing… maybe in a less noisy venue. 🙂
    .-= Eden´s last blog ..Check me out! No seriously, check me out! =-.

  2. Pissed? Hell no!

    That’s why it’s there, to hold me accountable for writing and to get feedback.

    Besides that, if you aren’t doing the work and putting yourself out there it’s difficult to have the kind of conversations you’re talking about here.

    Why should another writer take you seriously if you’ve got nothing to show for it?

    Oh, and I believe my exact words were: “Your story starts on page 10.”
    Just sayin’ 😉
    .-= Kevin E Blake´s last blog ..My dress rehearsal blog =-.

  3. @Eden Whew! When you left, I was like.. “Christ, I’m a babbling idiot.” Though, perhaps these things aren’t mutually exclusive? It was really fun to meet you in person. I can’t wait to see you write on your blog… “I’m ready to write my novel!” 🙂

    @Kevin Well, I also remember when you first picked up the White Belt Writer domain and you told me to keep my aforementioned big mouth shut! p.s. Yeah, I edited your advice but only because it read better that way. 😛

  4. Ah ha, you had to come up air! Anyway…

    This must be writers reach out to the fans week or something. I posted about a book on my own blog and dog-gone-it if she didn’t drop by and leave a sweet comment. I’ve never had that happen before. It was rather fun.
    .-= Deb´s last blog ..Do you do life by the book or improv? =-.

  5. Jamie,
    Many thanks for the intro to three new to me anyway writers. I am always looking for new stuff to read. I have heard about the NaNoWriMo, but up until this year, I never could participate. Not even sure if I can this year. It is however an interesting idea.
    .-= marell moore´s last blog ..Validation and all that Crap!! =-.

  6. Thanks for the mention, Jamie! I definitely feel better about sharing my work with other writers. I suppose we’re all looking for a bit of validation so that they know they don’t suck.

    Every piece of advice you gave me resonated true with me. It made want to go and edit and keep plugging. Any aspiring writers should take advantage of anybody willing to give honest advice. If, however, your critics always tell you your stuff is great, you need to fire them. Only critical reviews make you better.
    .-= Fraize´s last blog ..USA vs. Norway =-.

  7. I’m lightheaded, nervous, and completely exhausted. For the past three weeks, I’ve written like mad and had four–yes, four–different people hand back copies of manuscripts scratched up and full of comments, corrections, and opinions. They did exactly what I asked of them, and I know the end result is a better product because of it, but ouch! Critiques sting. And this isn’t even my fiction writing.

    As for the face-to-face moments, they were straight forward, no bull, to the point… and mercifully brief. It reminds me of hurried mornings involving a plane when my would mother would dress me and do my hair, tugging and tucking at a million miles an hour as she checked that my ears were clean while I attempted to brush my teeth without poking myself in the eye.

  8. As usual, great post, Jamie! Your writing history and mine have some similarities, and I couldn’t agree more with your current thinking–it’s essential to meet and learn from other writers. Writing conferences are a great place to make new writing friends, and also the online discussion groups and chapters of national associations (MWA, SinC, RWA, SCBWI etc.) But for me the most crucial part of my writer education was my local critique group. There wasn’t one back when I was starting out. I first “came out of the closet” when I took a non-credit creative writing adult education course at the local community college where I made friends. When the course ended, we started a local critique group. 17 years now and more successful than ever! (http://www.geocities.com/ithacafictioncritique/ and about to be booted off free geocities in the next few weeks). They’ve taught me so much. I would’ve been spinning my wheels if it hadn’t been for them.

  9. I have to say, I know a LOT of writers. But it’s because I volunteer for writers’ groups. I run the Calgary Chapter of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, I’m a member of our local Writers Guild and I volunteered for six years with NaNoWriMo to get some of the more random writers in the area… it was a lot of fun. I find much different writers in each group… but we all appreciate or try to respect the other person’s chosen genre. I also run an online writing group for mothers http://www.thewritingmother.com – so I’m practically surrounded by other writers!

  10. where can i meet these other writers you speak of? somewhere other than online or at an old folks barns and noble meet up?

    serious answers only.

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