The patio overlooks a small pond, and as we wait for Kris Dinnison and Claire Rudolf Murphy to show up an osprey hovers then dives, talons spread.
“Is that a frog?” Mary Douthitt asks as it comes up carrying dinner.
Meghan Sayres squints into the blue. “It’s definitely got something.” We watch it, trying to figure out what it has caught. Once Kris and Claire arrive, Mary raises her pomegranate margarita. The salt frost glitters as she begins her toast.
“Sometimes the road is rocky and sometimes it’s smooth.” We all know the road she’s talking about. We’ve walked it alone and together, moving like tortoises and occasionally like hares. Mary’s destination: a 2016 pub date for a book she started in 2007 with an SCBWI grant. “But we travel the road together,” she continues. “We are there for each others’ successes and frustrations. Thanks for all the years of support.” Our glasses clink in celebration. Here’s to our successes:
Meghan just signed for India and South East Asian rights for Anahita’s Woven Riddle. Its sequal, Night Letter, published by Nortia Press, has been nominated for this year’s ALA Best Fiction List
Last month Kris signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin for her debut novel Embraceable You.
Mary Douthitt just returned from a conference in Big Sky with her literary agency, EMLA. Her short story “In the Shadow of Elizabeth Smart” appeared in YARN several months ago.
Claire’s latest picture book exploring the song “My Country Tis of Thee,” through the decades is coming out in 2014.
And, along with her good news about Fannie Sellins, Pure Grit Mary Cronk Farrell’s nonfiction book about nurses in WWII, will be published in 2014.
My own novel MS “One Way Only” has been picked up by Brandt and Hochman Literary Agency and is making the rounds.
As I catch up on what’s been happening during my two month absence, the osprey circles overhead, singular, watchful. Like the writer it observes, waits, then dives. But the writer needs community as well as solitary hours diving for that thing she’s after. This is something I didn’t understand when I began writing. I didn’t understand it until I had published two novels and had a third rejected, and I wish I had. I could have used the support, advice, and communal knowledge of my writing friends. We’re more like a flock of chattering sparrows than dignified ospreys. And that’s good.
My critique group existed long before I was invited to join, and the group make-up has shifted some since then. Our current group of six has been meeting for a couple of years now. Some weeks I can’t make it—there’s that faculty meeting or papers to grade. Missing a meeting is like skipping lunch, not healthy. Even when I have nothing to share I learn so much from the others. They are all successful writers, yes, but the whole writing group endeavor has been a success as well.
This isn’t always the case with critique groups. People have asked me, What keeps the group together? There’s more than one element, but maybe the most important is honesty. We simply tell each other what we think. If a sentence is clunky we say so. If a character isn’t working we recommend dropping her. It’s not always easy to be on the receiving end of these comments (okay, it’s never easy), but usually the criticism is spot on. Then there’s the encouragement, good humor, common sense, and reliability. There’s the give and take—we all try to be sensitive to each others’ time and ask for no more help than we’re willing to give. And then there’s the patience, as we listen to each other vent, and occasionally rant, about How Things Are.
But there’s something else: when we enter one of our living rooms for a meeting, we leave our egos at the door. Not an easy thing for writers, successful or otherwise, but we do it. And so I raise my glass in congratulations for the fine work I’ve had the privilege of reading and in gratitude for such a wonderful community of writers.