Writers Who Need Writers

Thankful this morning for Michigan Sisters in Crime critique group. We met on Saturday at noon and by the time we left my battered confidence was in much more hopeful shape. It’s no secret the WIP, started about year ago, has been giving me fits. Finally, in the company of other writers, everything bugging me about my plot resolved itself. I see the full picture now. My confidence is high.

Writers need confidence to even start a story. It’s a pretty big deal to believe you can write a novel. I don’t mean those people who say “I’d like to write a novel, I have it all in my head, it’s a great story, I just don’t have time to do it.” That’s a false confidence that every writer who is actually producing finished manuscripts sees through immediately. Because writers find the time to write. Jobs, kids, cooking, cleaning…they do all that and write, too. Because they can’t NOT write. They must write.

At first, they scribble in secret. Thrilled but worried too. Is it any good? We are too close to our own words to really know the answer. In my 20s I started sending out my poems and short stories to little magazines. There were editors who liked and published them, other who didn’t bother replying, just stuffed my stamped self-addressed envelope (this was in the 1970s, so, no internet) and sent it back. I remember dreading the mail. Or, less often, smiling wide enough to break my face.

Soon enough, I found my first critique group. They were poets. Nobody had anything much good to say about my poems, but we had fun drinking at the bar afterward. And since they didn’t ignore my work or ruthlessly rip it to shreds, I kept going back. I liked the company of other writers, other people who did the thing I did. I’ve been in many groups since then, and published a bunch of novels (and a tiny chapbook of poems).

I have a publisher now and an excellent editor. But I still need my critique groups. Yes, groups. I have three: one in Florida and two in Michigan. The newest group is great because we all write mystery. Right away, we know the basic structure. There’s a murder early in, someone tries to solve the crime, the bad guy gets caught at the end.

Michigan Sisters in Crime is the best resource I’ve found since moving from poems and stories to romance novels and women’s fiction and now finally, landing in the world of mystery writers. Not only do MI-SinC have a critique group, they continually have events geared to mystery writers. Check out the workshop “Under the Trenchcoat: A Peek Into Private Investigation” on July 27. You don’t have to be a member to attend this event. But unless you’re a member, you might not hear about it.

As for the critique group, who I thank for my remarkable breakthrough over the weekend, it’s fabulous and free to all Mi-SinC members. We meet once a month and you don’t need to attend every session. If you’re a mystery writer living in Michigan, or want to become one, consider joining MiSinC. Our free critique group takes all levels of talent, from beginner to published. You’ll feel energized and motivated, case closed!

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