Years ago, when I was at the beginning of my career, I learned a great deal from my agent. Having been an editor for years before she was a literary agent, she had a lot of advice to share. One of the first things she urged me to do was to join a writers group. She explained that networking in this nutty business is essential. Writers at their best look out for each other. They're supportive. They share information. Sure, there are the other kind of writers--those who are selfish, only looking out for their own interests--but they're fortunately in the minority.
Maria was so sure I would benefit from joining writers groups, she made the initial contacts with local groups on my behalf. She wanted to make sure that the lone wolf didn't bail on her game plan.
Over the years, I've belonged to national and international organizations like the International Thriller Writers (to which I still belong) and the Authors Guild, as well as local chapters of national organizations. But the group I've most enjoyed was a very small one. Five of us used to get together once a month at a restaurant for dinner and shop talk. Sometimes, we'd read each others' works in progress and share honest feedback. Sometimes, we'd talk about what was going on with our publishers. Or we'd talk ideas and research.
One night, we were at Rick's Cafe American (yep, it was designed to look like Rick's in Casablanca), and a server approached our table as one member of the group was explaining an idea she was developing that involved the use of curare. The poor server, not realizing we were discussing a fictional plot, looked like she was on the verge of a stroke!
Though all five of us were published, I don't think that's why the group was so good for energizing me creatively. Even if we'd just been starting out, trying to get that first break, I believe it was our enthusiasm that made the group work. We took what we were doing seriously. We weren't just playing at being writers. We were dedicated. Some of us could even have been described as obsessed.
The group eventually disbanded. Conflicts arose among three of the members. I used to say D. would run over E. if she saw her crossing the street--but M. would drive up on the sidewalk to run over E. (Just for the record, I really believed she would!)
I haven't seen any of them in years. One passed away over ten years ago. Another stopped writing at all. One is, I believe, now doing what I've been doing--re-releasing her backlist--I don't know if she's doing anything new. One still publishes conventionally. I would love to start another group like we had back then. I always came away from those dinners ready--no, eager--to write. Maria knew what she was doing when she pushed me to leave the solitude of my writing cave and join the social side of it all.
Anybody game for dinner and a good time with a side of inspiration?