Join A Critique Group

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Calling all Michigan Mystery Writers! Michigan Sisters in Crime has started a new critique group. It’s for mystery writers, and you need to be a member to participate. We meet once a month for two hours at a restaurant in Troy close to I-75. There were four of us at the first meeting. We came from Ann Arbor, Lake Orion, Clarkston and Washington Twp. It was a great success.

Critique groups are great motivators. I’m on fire to write the best pages of my life for this group. Any member of Michigan Sisters in Crime is welcome to attend. You don’t have to be there for every meeting. Summer is busy time. Still, if you’re writing a mystery novel, even a short story, even if it’s your first one, the critique group is a free perk of membership.

The critique group was just one of the many ideas for our chapter cooked up by Super President and founder, Jan Rydzon. I used to teach creative writing, so I offered to help Jan with this group. My role will be to lead the newer writers or writers who are new to crime writing. We’ll talk about craft as well as critiquing pages. If there are enough newbies, we’ll form our own group so everyone gets a turn to share their work.

I am a member of the group too. I brought my first page in for critique just like everyone else. If I can pull it off, the feedback I received will take my opening from not terrible to great. I find first pages the most difficult. All that info to convey about the character plus hook the reader and set up the mystery in about 250 words. Not easy. But a critique group can help you find that extra bit of special to take your writing to the next level.

Contact me at cindy@cynthiaharrison.com if you are interested. Title your subject line MiSinC Critique Group. You want to write or make your writing better? Join us in July. If you’re not a member, it’s easy to join. We are open to all, not just women. Men too. We call them “Misters” ūüôā Not just experienced writers. Even if you have not yet written a word, you can join the chapter and the critique group. Just go to our website for details.

Until then, happy writing!

How To Get Published

When my writing group came over Saturday for breakfast and critique, I showed them the book stack photo I’d posted on Instagram. The book stack was all the books we’ve published since we’ve been together, but I had a feeling there were a few I’d missed. Turns out yes, there were even more books.

What I was right about is that none of us had published any of the books in the stack before we became a group eight years ago. And now we’ve got 15 books of fiction published between us, with four more on the go. Two of us had published a few books before, but the other two had not published anything, although they had lots of novels in manuscript form. We accomplished the getting published part together. Our monthly Saturday morning meetings have made me (and I hope, each of them) a better and more prolific writer.

Maybe because I knew I needed them, I started the group. It went through a few iterations before it became the firmly committed four of us, two women and two men, novelists all. And look at what we’ve done together. Everyone in the group seemed as stunned and satisfied as I’d felt when I had gathered those books into a stack and snapped that photo. It’s real, it’s tangible proof. Writing groups help writers get published.

I’ve been in many writing groups though the years, and all of them have had benefits, but this small group is the one that I count on when it comes to publishing a new novel. It took me a long time to find these folks, or rather, they found me. And I’m endlessly grateful. My life has been enriched by each of them, and not just my writing life. We’re all married forever types and the spouses are an extended part of our circle. They join us for breakfast before we get down to work. We see each other socially with our partners, too.

They stick by me, loyal even as I absent myself from Michigan for a few months these last few years. I can always count on them to tell me the truth, even when it hurts. None of us is a cruel critic, but we are honest. We are not simply cheerleaders for each other, although we are that. Our highest priority is to help each other write the best books we can, and sometimes that means saying the difficult things. In our favor is the fact that we all understand our core function: to help each other get it right, and get published, again and again.

Writing is a lonely job. You really won’t understand that until you’ve spent the time required to write and publish a book or ten. And that’s another key ingredient to a writing group: friendship with others who are committed to the writing life. I value these writers so highly. They get it, the writing thing, like nobody else, not even a spouse, does. I’m grateful to have them in my life. They help make being a writer less lonely. And they absolutely are the reason I have published such a satisfying number of books.

Wanna get published? Join a writer’s group. Or start one yourself.

Beware of Darkness

IMG_2571Yesterday I took part in an election in an organization I’ve belonged to for nine years. I knew there was a person in power who is an admitted homophobe; she actually wanted us to put a note on the new membership page saying we would read no gay or lesbian material. The board voted that down. One of her more ridiculous comments was “all gay writing is porn.”

So we, the other members of the board, had to do some educating–about what gay literature is and is not, about civil liberties, and about how she was kinda asking us to break the law because she thinks it’s a sin to be gay.

This morning, after a night of reflection and reading, I resigned from that organization because this person remains on the board and with the election shaking out the way it did, I had little hope she would be ousted any time soon.

The irony is I worked in harmony with this woman for eight years before she began making racist and homophobic statements to not just the board, but to me privately. Be careful who you befriend, my friends. Sometimes they are hiding a darker side. I’m not sure why her darkness has started seeping out now, but I am sure that I want no truck with it.

So I’m done with that volunteer position on which I spent so much time and energy and moving on to better things. Hate has no place in my heart or my life.

Ten Terrific Storytellers

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Until I joined a writer’s group, I didn’t have a friend in the world who was as obsessed as I was with words. I felt kinda strange scribbling poetry and journals, like what the heck was my problem that I wasn’t like other teenagers? In my mid-twenties I finally took a creative writing class and found my tribe in a group sponsored by the professor.

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Since that first group, I’ve taken many courses, attended scores of workshops, and met hundreds of writers. Writing groups and writer friends are precious links for those of us in this mostly solitary endeavor. My current writer’s organization has introduced me to so many fine writers including published poets, novelists, and journalists.

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Cindy LaFerle

Today I’m featuring books I love from a writing group I have been a part of since 2008, ¬†Detroit Working Writers. I am often asked for ¬†reading suggestions, so these are that, but would also make fine Christmas gifts. If you’re looking for Michigan settings and themes, or just an excellent read to lose yourself in, I highly recommend every one of them!

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Veronica Dale

Special Star Veronica Dale’s book of short stories¬†Night Cruiser¬†will thrill and chill readers who want something deliciously dark.¬†Cindy Hampel’s self-help book Its Not Personal¬†offers hope and advice for those of us dealing with difficult people.

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Award-winning Cindy LaFerle was my first friend in DWW and her book of personal essays Writing Home remains a favorite. Debut novelist Linda Sienkiewicz knocked me out with In the Context of Love her novel of love and loss. Iris Underwood works her lavender farm and writes with equal grace. Growing Lavender is a lush adventure in verse.

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Diane DeCillis

Poet Diane DeCillis’s exquisite images and fierce emotion make her collection Strings Attached an amazing achievement.¬†Elizabeth Buzzelli is a master of Michigan mystery who pens comic and clever plots from the northern part of our state. Her Emily Kincaid series cracks me up.

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Elizabeth Buzzelli

Speaking of “up north” C. S. Gordon’s literary novel ¬†The Heart & Horn gives the U.P. a fresh look.¬†Christian Belz sleuths closer to home with the Ken Knoll series featuring an architect as seemingly hapless but actually adept amateur sleuth.¬†And Linda¬†Anger, DWW’s immediate past president, compiled the beguiling collection Sweeping the Floors at the Full Crumb Cafe that includes poetry, fiction and non-fiction.

The DWW website features these and other Michigan authors (whose books I have yet to read). It also gives info on our 2016 writer’s conference and how you might become a member of our group. I’d love for you to join us.

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collage courtesy of Linda K. Sienkiewicz