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Let there be FOWG

– a guest posting to SBWC’s Blog

There is something magical in validation from peers. For most of us, our lives are a quest, in some form, for exactly that. Validation that our efforts, beliefs, values, talents, friendships, are not in vain. If we’re lucky we find our tribe, and within that larger group, a select collection of lunatics that will invest in us for that journey. Here’s the result of one such quest:

I have attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference off and on since 2005. The how and why I ended up there involves being dragged by my mother to a one-day conference, and a brief bit of scolding by Marla Miller that same day. That first year at SBWC introduced me to the most generous community of artists there is, bar none. And in 2005, I found a community who was all about helping fellow writers along that journey.

 I have attended several times since, as life allowed. Returning to the larger collective is restorative and spurs on activity just before and for a few months after. I continued to work on the original manuscript that had brought me to the conference and started a couple of others. I had made a handful of friends, the beginnings of a network. Then life would intrude again, and progress would wane.

 You will hear, as a new writer, you need to find a writing group. A collective for read-and-critique, that will push you to write regularly and improve. I had flitted about a couple of community-based groups at my local library, an online one started by Dell, and one hosted by a local bookstore, but I never felt the trust necessary to accept honest critique, to invest in it to improve in my craft. As a writer of speculative fiction – SciFi, Post-Apocalyptic, Horror, Paranormal, etc. – who suffers from imposters syndrome – finding a group that I trusted with these weird thoughts flowing from my head was essential for me to move forward.

 It wasn’t until wee hours of the morning, in the afterglow of a productive Pirate Session, that it happened. The conversation started something like this:

 Me: We really need to do this more often than once a year.

Stephen (lighting a cigarette and blowing it up into the early morning Santa Barbara fog):  That is the dumbest f*king idea I’ve ever heard, and we need to do it immediately.

 After we stopped laughing, the conversation then evolved into who. A little later in the year we had our first meeting in Ventura, and I had found my subset of lunatics.

 We all write very different stuff. We’re all in different stages on our journey as writers. Along the way, we’ve added one, and lost one, and we guard the core fiercely. The main tenant remains making each other’s writing better. We all bring something different to the table. Hear things the others don’t. To a person, we will all say the group has done exactly that, made us better writers.

 At the group’s suggestion, I started to work in short stories in 2017, to help me tighten my prose. And submitting to anthologies is one way to build a publishing record, build a readership, and to aid in submissions of larger works to traditional publishing houses. In September 2019 I had my first short published, “Fiddler.” The next year, “#ICETEROIDSURVIVORS.” My third short published, “The Lost Fedora,” was August 2022.

Call it what you will, The Inklings, Algonquin Roundtable, The Bloomsbury Set… or FOWG. The value to finding a writing group can’t be understated. They can take many forms, a monthly in-person read-and-critique, swapping works by email, etc. Find a different set of eyes to see your faults, fellow writers who feels safe in calling you on them, AND who feel safe enough in themselves to hear it in return.

The trust within our group is born out of the larger whole, the commitment of a community of writers, the SBWC community, to seeing we all grow in our craft. I will be forever grateful to this lunatic fringe, and hold to it fiercely, as it validates these years of work.

To Stephen, Mac, Nick, Maryanne, and Angela – aka FOWG (our F*king Outstanding Writers Group) —Thank you.