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Writer’s Group Horror Story: The Vulgar Guy

July 14, 2017

(image via wikimedia)

25 years ago, if you wanted anybody to read your writing and give you a free honest critique, you had to join a writer’s group.  There were no blogs for writers to get feedback.  Literary agents rarely sent anything except a form rejection letter.  Publishers didn’t send anything back at all.  Family members always loved what you wrote (or pretended to).

It was tough finding a good writer’s group after I had graduated from college, and I had to suffer through a few disasters before I found the right fit.  This was before the internet, so I had to search through the ads of newspapers, looking for a writer putting a group together.  I went to book shows and writer’s conventions, trying to make connections.  I’m an introvert.  I was horrible at making connections.  I was always jealous of extrovert authors.  Authors who could talk without effort, they had it made.

Back then, if I had wanted to publish an independent book, I’d have to use my own money to make copies and sell them from the trunk of my car in parking lots.  I couldn’t just write an ebook like The Writing Prompt and put it up on the internet.

No, 25 years ago, if you were an aspiring author with no connections, you had to suffer through the writer’s group experience.

One of the first nightmare writer’s groups I tried met in the back of a book store.  I learned about it in the want ads of a local newspaper.  I lived in a major city at the time, and there were bookstores (and aspiring writers) all over the place.  This bookstore belonged to a franchise that no longer exists and the store took up way too much space in a plaza that also no longer exists.  The lot is for a condominium/townhome complex now.

The book store put us near the back (wise decision) close to the children’s book section (stupid decision).  We were meeting for the first time.  There were close to 30 of us sitting around rectangular fold out tables.  All of us had brought a manuscript, and volunteers had five minutes to read and then five minutes to listen to feedback.  That meant maybe nine or ten of us would get a chance to read.  That wasn’t bad because I hadn’t expected a large group and I was suddenly feeling shy about my work-in-progress.

The group leader was a middle-aged balding gentleman who explained the writing group procedures.  The meeting would last two hours.  Each volunteer would get five minutes to read and five minutes for feedback.  If a reader went over five minutes, the extra time would be deducted from the feedback time.  Listeners were asked not to leave during a reading.  We also agreed not to interrupt the reading.  All questions and clarifications would have to wait for the feedback and discussion time.

I hadn’t expected the group to be this large, and the routine was new to me.  Earlier groups that I had joined through university connections were around six people.  I thought maybe this writer’s mob could break up into four or five groups, but I was too quiet to interject and the group leader asked for volunteers to read.  I was new to this and figured the group leader would know what he is doing.  I’ve learned since then that hardly anybody knows what they’re doing.

It was about 7:00 on a weeknight.  The book store wasn’t crowded, but there were several customers lurking around, staring at this collection of misfit writers.  I won’t get into a person-by-person description of all the aspiring writers, but we had to have looked like a bunch of misfits.

The group leader chose volunteers, and everything went smoothly at first.  One woman wrote about a traumatic experience in 1st person, and we weren’t sure if it was a true story so that was uncomfortable.  Some writers had deep thoughts, and I wondered how my fictional piece about a fake psychic who got coerced into solving a murder to save his business would fit in.

I was so wrapped up in how others would respond to my dopey detective story excerpt that I had a tough time paying attention.  Even though I’m a good reader, I’m not the best listener.  My mind wanders, even when I’m paying attention.  I tried listening to other writers’ stories, but I didn’t pay attention enough to give good feedback.  I fake smiled a lot.  I didn’t really contribute to the discussions.  I was turning into a writer’s group failure.

We had been in the writer’s group session for about an hour when it happened, the moment of horror.  The writer was a young guy, younger than me with a full beard.  That’s all I remember, except for what he read.  I don’t remember the exact words.  We didn’t provide each other copies of each other’s material.  But I remember what his story was about.

It was a sex scene.

And it was graphic.

And the guy used blunt words.  He used the f-word, the a-word, the c-word (both of them), and the p-word (both of them).

And the male character talked dirty during the scene.

And the male character who talked dirty used vile language about his female partner.  He called her the b-word, the c-word, and probably a few others that I blocked out of my memory.

And the guy reading the vile sex scene yelled out his words.  He yelled out all the f-words, the c-words, and every p-word and c-word you can think of with a fiery passion.

And he was doing this in public, in a book store, next to the children’s section.

I knew this was going to get really uncomfortable.


To be continued in…   Writer’s Group Horror Story: The Book Store !

From → Dysfunctileaks

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