Friends are important to writers. Without question, writing friends and groups have been invaluable in my growth as an individual, a writer, an educator and a public historian.
For me, the first significant writing group was the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society (AWCS), based in Calgary and currently approaching its 30th anniversary. My association with the organization began in its second or third season, and the society and friends I have made at the Centre remain a source of inspiration and support.
So, why is this organization–and others like it across the country–priceless to new and emerging writers? Certainly, provincial and national organizations support our development. Also, many post-secondary and continuing education programs offer creative writing workshops.
In contrast, AWCS is a small and local society, but for me, that is its strength. Such groups make involvement–whether as a student, member or volunteer—easy and unintimidating. At AWCS, round-table workshops usually consist of six to ten people. Clearly, you can’t hide in a back row and just soak up the ambience. True, initially, you may want to simply watch and listen to whatever unfolds. But in these small gatherings, you will meet like-minded people with whom you can feel comfortable.
Many similar organizations offer eight week workshops. But if you aren’t ready for anything that intensive, try a Saturday or a weekend workshop. If you don’t want to pay for a course, participate in the informal get-togethers. Talk to others about workshops and upcoming events; and likely, you will find someone who can make a helpful suggestion or at least understand where you are in the journey.
That reassurance is no small thing for those with little writing background. Once, I taught an eight-week course in which a participant had told her family she was going to a computer class. Admitting to the dream of writing, being a writer or being an author–all different stages in the process—can be difficult for the vulnerable, aspiring writer. But it is a dream many of us understand.
Provincial organizations such as the Writers Guild of Alberta (WGA) and national groups like The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) or Canadian Authors Association (CAA) have outstanding services for you to consider. Still, your best bet is to begin in your own community.
If you are unfamiliar with local writing groups, ask your librarian, who is truly a “fountain of knowledge.” If it is too intimidating to tell the librarian that you love words, of course there are other sources of information.
On the net, it is easy to remain anonoymus, and online research is a reasonable first step. There, you will discover others with a passion for writing and locate information about readings and workshops. Next step? Enrol or attend an advertised event.
Whether you follow a blogger, join a writers’ organization or take a class, find a group that is focused on the genre and style of writing you admire. Sharing the challenges along the way with those like-minded folk will make the journey even more rewarding.