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Writer’s Group Horror Story: The Enthusiastic New Guy

January 28, 2019

(image via wikimedia)

Back in the days when there was no internet, aspiring authors had to form writer’s groups in order to get feedback.  These groups often met in public and consisted of writers with varying degrees of talent, motivation, and personality.

Even today with the internet, writers can be kind of flaky.  When you put 20 (or more) of them together in public, you never know what’s going to happen.  This is one of my many writer’s group horror stories.


In 1990, I was less than a year out of college and had moved to a fairly large city.  My previous writer’s group had just disbanded because it was small and full of women who’d had other things to do (like birth and child rearing).  It had been a good group with no issues (except for births and child rearing).  Even though I’d been the only guy, I’d also been the youngest and most serious writer of the group, so I’d received lots of positive attention.  I was sorry to see this group break up.

This first group had been so positive that I was desperate for a new one, and I’d heard about a large group that met at a public library on the other side of the city on a weeknight.  The time and location were inconvenient for me, but I was working on a full-fledged novel and needed feedback.

This was my fake psychic detective novel that I mention occasionally on my blog.  I had a cool serial killer name (the Sandbagger).  I had a cool protagonist name (Dominick Cane).  He was married to a cool gun enthusiast/nut Samantha (the name Samantha Cane was used in a movie about five years later, and the character also was really good with guns.  I thought that was kind of a strange coincidence).

The women in my first group had said that they thought I was married because the dialogue between Dominick and Samantha sounded so natural.  They thought I was married?  Ha!  I should have told them my awkward moments in dating stories.

Anyway, I was concerned about this new group.  It was going to be large, at least 20 people, from what I’d heard.  I took a short excerpt from my novel (we didn’t call them ‘works in progress” in the early 1990s), and I made over 20 packets at a copy store.  It cost five cents a page back then (I might be making up that number).  I had a decent job and no girlfriend, so I didn’t mind spending the money.

The night of the meeting, I hurriedly ate dinner, and got ready for the next work day because I knew I was going to get home past my regular weeknight bedtime (I was serious about my decent job).  I made my next day’s breakfast and lunch, and then had my professional clothes laid out for the next morning.

The drive to the meeting was over 30 minutes, and this was before GPS, and I was in a part of town I was unfamiliar with so I had to circle around a neighborhood a few times before finding the right place to park.  The parking lot was small, so I had to parallel park on a side street.  The library was one story with a flat roof.  That’s all I remember.

I walked into the library with my stack of stapled packets.  I tried to carry them with one hand, but individual packets kept sliding around, so I had to shift to two hands, and then I looked clumsy and wimpy carrying them.  Next time would be easier, I thought, because I’d know how many to make.

When I entered the library, the librarian at the front desk gave me a condescending smile and pointed to a corner in the back.  I guess all the packets made it obvious where I was going.

Behind the reference section, there was a huge circle of chairs filled with guys in their fifties (or older) and a few women who seemed younger.  I remember lots of smoking, but I think that’s a fake memory because I’m pretty sure libraries didn’t allow smoking back then.  The floor area of the circle was empty except for ash trays and Styrofoam cups.  I know for sure there were Styrofoam cups.  I’m not making that part up.

Nobody else had manuscripts. That was weird, I thought.  There was lots of talking and camaraderie but no reading.  I was puzzled.  I wondered if I’d stumbled into a 12-step meeting.  Those were supposed to more private, I thought.  Then again, people in 12-steps meetings usually told great stories.  A 12-step meeting would probably make a great writer’s group, if not for the anonymity issue.

I slowly approached the circle and tried talking to a seemingly lonely guy with a vacant stare.

“Is this the writer’s group?” I asked quietly.

The guy nodded but didn’t make eye contact.

The circle was crowded with alleged writers (I saw no proof of writing yet), but I saw a gap with no chair.  I moved forward to place the stack of WIPs (not a term back then) on the floor so I could go retrieve a chair.  Just as I set the copies down, some middle aged guy said really loudly:

“Look!  An enthusiastic new writer!”

And everybody laughed.  It felt like everybody.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was getting laughed at, and nobody had even read my excerpt yet.  This wasn’t a good start.


To be continued!

In the meantime, here’s another bad writer’s group experience, Writer’s Group Horror Story: The Vulgar Guy.

From → Dysfunctileaks

One Comment
  1. Great story, can’t wait to find out what happen next.

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