I'm a member of a writing group in Bucks County that ended up being called the Bucks County Wrebels the spelling a joke when one of the members suggested adding a 'W' to the word 'rebel'. There are six of us (Jeanne, Marie, Dave, Chris, John and me) and we broke away about five years ago from another group. Of course, we're all still very friendly with the original group--which is much, much larger--and a few members are also still members of that group. Last night we had a meeting at which we brought in another new member and already I can see she will be a valuable addition to the group.
Until she joined, there were four males and two females and, when we considered adding a new member a few months ago, Jeanne and Marie (also avid 'Y' members) said it should be another woman. They felt we needed another female voice and mind for balance, and they are right, of course. We concentrate chiefly on writing novels, though now that I have been writing an adaptation of my published novel, we'll also review plays and screenplays, too. Some of the group also write short stories, which is something I tend to avoid because I'm not comfortable with the format as I need pages to unfurl my stories.
I am at the moment the only member of the group to have a novel published. Others have had pieces published in magazines and Dave has had a book about local history published last year. In December, Marie got the good news that Random House wanted to publish her Young Adult novel in 2007 and,last night, she arrived elated and told us the contract was negotiated and it is now a two-book deal. So all in all, we're a group that's highly motivated and others will undoubtedly follow Marie and I into seeing our work published.
Last night my play was up for scrutiny and I was apprehensive. It is one thing to have written a novel, but quite another to take it and adapt it for another media. So I arrived at Jeanne's home (we meet there) both excited to meet the newest member, Grace, and a nervous about the critiques. Grace had brought a gift of a box of cherry and liquor dark chocolates (not a bribe), candies I'm partial too, though all present refrained because we're all trying to cut back on the calories. Okay, I lie. I had two where I would happily have scoffed five, so that's tantamount to restraint.
The critiques were valuable in that, as with critiques of our novels, they were thorough and very helpful. It brought home to me how truly essential it is as a writer to surround oneself with people whose talent and judgment one trusts, and how vital it is for a writer to join a writing group. Of course, the Wrebels pulled aspects of the play apart, pointed out flaws and weaknesses, but that is absolutely essential to creating something compelling, something that will endure, something that a stage director might want to produce. During these times, when my work is being critiqued, I find that a tendency to be defensive comes to the fore. I think this is natural in many of us, and so long as we recognize it, quash it and listen to the opinions being offered, much can be learned.
What was particularly satisfying to discover last night was that Grace has a great deal of theatrical acumen and experience, which made her opinions even more valuable. And, of course, this morning as I read her and the others comments contained in the script's margins, I realized how truly lucky I am to be in a group such as this. It was also this group of friends and colleagues who first critiqued parts of the novel and cheered it on its way toward publication. And now they're doing the same with the play. Thanks guys...and girls.
[technorati: Bucks County, writing stageplays, playwrights, writing groups