The Best Writing Group I’ve Ever Been In

My son brought his girlfriend over yesterday after school. She had an English assignment and needed some advice on poetry. I believe my son will always think of me when he hears the words poem or poet or poetry—which is quite fine by me! I can think of much worse words to be associated with!

So anyway, he brought her here knowing that my ears would perk and my tail would wag and I’d jump right in and help her with her assignment. She needed to write an iambic pentameter with a specific rhyming pattern: abab cdcd efef gg – aka a sonnet.

Into my bookshelf I dove, coming up with two books I used back in the day when a friend and I had been taking an advanced poetry class from another friend who happened to be a Creative Writing Professor at a local college. The class was designed to alternate chapters between this book:

Patterns of Poetry An Encyclopedia of Forms

And this book:

Western Wind An Introduction to Poetry Fourth Edition

But, while I was digging around for books on poetry, I also came up with this book:

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

So, while Bethany was counting out feet on her fingers, I was remembering the first time I’d read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

It was after that aforementioned class when my two friends plus one other student came together into the most awesome writing group. We’d meet every week at a local coffee shop, chat and catch up. Then one of us would lead the group in a free-write.

On top of that, we’d meet once a month at one of our homes, rotating our way through a set schedule so that each of us would get a turn.

The hostess had all the power! She’d:

  • Serve a nutritious lunch. Which was challenging since we had one who couldn’t eat shellfish, one who couldn’t eat meat, one who couldn’t eat nuts and one normal one who could eat anything she wanted (you can guess all you want as to the one that I was).
  • The hostess would suggest a book to read/study between her meeting and the one following.
  • She’d give a writing “assignment.” This was really more like a prompt—something to work on between now and the next meeting.
  • And she’d lead the discussion over the book we’d just finished. By rotating from hostess to hostess, we made sure that the person assigning the book was not the one leading its discussion, eliminating any bias.

Our monthly meetings were also the time to share what we’d written from last month’s “assignment.”

And then, once a year, the four of us would go off for a weekend writing retreat. We’d bring food and wine and books and journals. And all the movies we wanted as long as they had a theme of writing.

And it all started with Julia Cameron’s book.

We had decided to take longer with her book, dedicating a month to each chapter, writing all its exercises and then sharing our Artists Way journey the next time we met. Since it was early into our time together, the book became a lovely way to explore not only our own muse but also to get to know each other better.

Our group lasted almost six years and I was sad to see it fade—but life shifts in odd directions, doesn’t it. Kids grow up and their demands change. Jobs take us into different places with conflicting schedules. Friends grow apart. As did we. But Julia’s book will always be a reminder of those friendships. And of the best writing group I’d ever been in.

And lest I should forget . . . Bethany wrote a darned good poem.

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