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What Shakespeare May Have Missed

Story ID:3762
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:OurEcho Community
Location:Rockford IL USA
Year:1997
Person:Nancy Kopp
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Author’s Note: Gail asked for posts about writers’ groups. I wrote this essay in 1997 as a farewell to the members of my critique group in Rockford, IL. Dick Dunlap, who posts his work at OurEcho, was also a member of this group. You may be able to pick him out in my essay. I now belong to an online writers’ group and recommend both types of groups to all writers. On reading this over again, eleven years after it was written, I see so many things I’d change if I wrote it today. My Writer’s Groups have helped me grow as a writer.

What Shakespeare May Have Missed

To be in a writers’ group or not to be? That’s a question to which William Shakespeare probably never had to give consideration. In his early writing days, he was most likely too busy walking out to Anne Hathaway’s cottage to be in such a group anyway. At eighteen, hormones take priority over time.

I, on the other hand, have had the good fortune to be a member of a Writers’ group the past few years. It came about through a chance meeting with the man who was instrumental in starting the Winnebago Writers. We met at a one-day summer seminar for area writers. He introduced himself, rather casually mentioned the new group, and then said to call if I was interested.

A few days later, I looked his number up, called, and made arrangements to attend the meeting.

That first evening, the ‘group’ consisted of two men and me, not much of a group you might think, but I was hooked immediately. The assured me there were others who would surely be at the next meeting. It didn’t matter, because I had found kindred spirits who had the same crazy goal as I—Publication! Besides that primary objective, they felt like I did about writing. They, too, derived satisfaction from words that flowed from mind to paper, words they hoped an editor would read one day with a smile rather than a scowl, words that might bring either pleasure or knowledge to a reader, no matter their age. I knew without asking that they understood me, understood who I was and where I was heading.

Meeting the first and third Tuesdays of every month, we read our work aloud or sometimes ask another to read for us. When the reading is completed, a silence ensues until one person tosses out a positive comment, followed by others. Oh yes, we stress the positive first but next any weaknesses, doubtful phrases, mechanical errors and so forth are brought up. The criticisms are constructive so there is no offense taken. The author under fire shakes his or her head, sighs a bit, and makes a few notes while vowing to work on the piece as soon as possible.

The numbers change, but the core group has stayed constant. Others try us out for one or two meetings and then disappear into the night and are never seen again. Perhaps it is fear that drives them from us. Perhaps they are not serious enough about their writing, after all. I can only believe it is their loss.

Now, about that core group…we’re a widely varied assembly when it comes to genre, as well as our daily lives. But come, meet my fellow writers…

You’ve all heard of Dick Whittington and his cat. No, he’s not in the group, but we do have a truly “witty Dick” who regales us with tales of the Nevers family and other satirical pieces. Along with the laughter he provides, Dick has brought a tear or two to many an eye on occasion with touching descriptions of a favorite pet or an old man.

Fran teaches third grade by day and writes mystery/romance novels in her treasured spare time. Reading a chapter or two per session, she keeps us guessing and eager for the next chapters. She’s tried her hand at a few short stories for children, too, for a change of pace. We like them and urge her to submit her stories.

Carol has written and illustrated a book of stories for children that deal with a stuffed dragon who subtly unearths many of life’s lessons to some children who find him in an old trunk. Unlike the rest of us scaredy-cats, Carol has self-published her book and is spending her time successfully marketing it. She no longer has time to attend out group, but she’ll be back one day, I’m sure.

Joe’s been missing awhile, too. Joe, who wears his long gray ponytail well, reads his southwestern mystery novel to us a chapter at a time. We miss you, Joe, and we all want to know what’s happened to the woman lying at the bottom of the basement steps with a gunshot wound in her chest. Surely, she’s bled to death by now! What a spot to leave us in. Come back soon, Joe. Writers have inquiring minds, and we need to know!

Michelle is a computer whiz by day. Then it’s home to write ever so clever children’s poems and stories. Always a bit of surprise or twist to bring a heartfelt smile from each of us.

Beth is the newest “regular” bringing us tenderhearted children’s tales, looking, like all of us, for approval and advice as she plies her craft and writes increasingly well.

And finally, there’s Tom, Tom who is a daytime engineer by necessity and a writer at night by choice, often well into the night. Science fiction, horror, adult fiction, and children’s stories—he’s tried them all. We look to him as leader of the group, not only because he started it, but because he teaches a How To course in writing fiction at a local college, and it probably isn’t because he has a quiet natural way of leading. Better than all that, he’s published more than any of us. He wins the blue ribbon for numbers. We admire that. Maybe we envy him a bit, too. We all need the encouragement he freely gives. “Send it in,” he often says, “no editor will climb in your bedroom window and search your bottom drawer for your latest manuscript.” Wise man, isn’t he? Thanks, Tom.

I’m moving six hundred miles away soon. Will I look for a new Writer’s Group? Absolutely, but there’s a tiny corner of my heart where the first group will always be. Like Mr. Shakespeare, I won’t have to ponder the question of belonging to a group or not belonging. For me, the Writer’s Group is a tool of our trade, and anyone who does not seek one out might miss something pretty darned great.