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An adult revelation

I took a writer’s workshop last winter. It was less fantastic than I’d hoped but still useful. We had some real dunces and a couple of good writers. The thing was that as each person got her (or his) book workshopped, about half of them would drop out and never show up again to offer opinions.

By the last class, there were about 6 of the original 12 left. And, while I’d been contemplating asking three of them (M., R., and S.) to be part of a writers’ group, everyone who was there kinda decided to hook up into a group. Which meant that at least two people I didn’t want in the group were going to be there.

After two meetings, those two dropped out. YAY! And the group went on for about 6 months, swimmingly. Then one of the irritating people wrote to us and said that the sick family member she’d been caring for had died and though she was sad, her life was much calmer and she’d like to rejoin the group.

I got that email on Tuesday and just stared at it with a sinking feeling, watching the good dynamics of the group disintegrate in my mind’s eye. This woman — I’ll call her Jane — was nice enough. But she didn’t like any sci-fi or fantasy and all of us were writing something in that genre. Her comments ranged from banal to so off-the-wall that she clearly hadn’t understood the writing. Her book was boring, naval-gazing, and really really cliche. And her grammar sucked.

Two days went by and no one in the group answered her email. I was thinking how much I hated being in a class with people like that when it dawned on me. I wasn’t in a class anymore! I was in a private writing group! Emphasis on the word PRIVATE! I knew that S. didn’t like her anymore than I did and I suspected that R. felt the same, so I decided to hell with being nice and wrote to everyone and said “How do we all feel about Jane?” I laid out why I didn’t want her in the group and asked if they did want her?

No! They didn’t!

So I wrote to Jane and said we’d disbanded for the summer (a lie) and that we’d call her if we started again in the fall (a lie). (We all decided that the lie was more kind than the truth and it hurt no one.) And that’s it. My writers’ group is saved and I don’t have to put up with someone who doesn’t understand what the hell a passive verb is!

I’m suddenly remembering a day when I was 21, about six weeks after I’d moved out of my parent’s house. I was at the grocery store and picked up a package of paper napkins. I sighed because I HATE paper napkins. Suddenly, I realized I didn’t need to buy paper napkins. I could have cloth napkins, even though my parents hate them. I was the boss of my house, not them! I did a little dance right there in the middle of the paper goods aisle.

It’s amazing to me that at the age of 35, I’m still having moments like this.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. June 28, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Isn’t that felling awesome?

  2. June 30, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    you could have just told her the group was a manageble size, that the genre to be covered was ONLY sf and wish her good luck finding a group more appropriate to her needs. if her ego is so fragile [and the bunch of you are such cowards] then how do you actually critique each other?

    you really think you’re being kind stringing her along and not giving her the freedom to find a group which suits her needs?

  3. jamanda
    June 30, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Robyn — I’m not sure why you think lying about it being a SF-only group is better than lying about disbanding. (We are currently all writing SF, but we’ll take anything.)

    What’s more, I object strongly to the idea that we’re cowards. We don’t think she could handle the truth — or criticism — which is why we don’t want her in our group. The real truth wouldn’t be constructive anyway b/c none of us have the time or desire to explain why she’s not really a good writer or reader. That’s why we don’t want her in the group! A polite fiction will allow her to save face and prevents us from having to deal with her.

    If she wants to find another group, she’s always free to do so. I’m not responsible for her failing to do that… if she’s waiting around for a group that may or may not reassemble in the fall, then that’s her own never mind.

    Surely, since you’re so much wiser than us mere 30-somethings you must be smart enough not to buy that specious bullshit about “just being honest” as the mask for nastiness.

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