If your New Year's resolution is to finally finish your manuscript and get it published, consider joining a critique writing group. Success doesn't occur in solitude; achievement requires community. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, sometimes it takes a village to give birth to a manuscript.
Alicia Aucone is the creator of the blog Finding Your Force, the host of The Latina Source Podcast, and the founder of the NYC Latina Writers Group, a forum for Latina writers to have their voices heard. She lives in New York City and is currently working on a historical novel. To learn more about The NYC Latina Writers Group, visit:http://writers.meetup.com/532/?gj=sj5
To learn more about Alicia, visit: http://www.myspace.com/diosadominicana
*What inspired you to create a writing group for Latinas?
After attending a disappointing writer's workshop in Bryant Park in fall 2006, I was frustrated. I left that session really disappointed, wanting to join a group where I can get my writing done, where people will get me, where I don't have to defend or deny who I am. My friend Aurora said, "If you can't find one, start one." That was October 15, 2006.
On October 16th the NYC Latina Writers Group was born.
*How did you find writers to join you? How did you spread the word?
When the group first started, an email was distributed through a networking organization I'm part of called Las Comadres, and then word just spread. Women joined through http://www.meetup.com/, some googled "writers groups" and found us. What's that expression: "If you build it they will come." It started with six women meeting in my apartment and the group has grown to well over 100 members. This is an exciting time.
*How often do you meet? How does a typical meeting work? What rules do you and your group follow?
We meet every two weeks. The format for the meetings is that we have a critique group and a writers' workshop. When the critique group meets, it's mostly for writers who have a work-in-progress and want additional feedback--honest criticism to help us become better writers. We focus on the words/the flow/the writing piece. It's not necessarily just positive feedback, but honest feedback.
The writers' workshop is intense, a full day of writing from 9am - 5pm. In the writers' workshop we talk more about establishing a writing discipline, we spend the day creating new work and supporting one another during the writing process.
*How has your writing benefited from your being part of a writers group? How have the other members benefited from being part of the group?
My writing has grown in leaps and bounds. Whether we're working on a poem or a query letter, I learn something from every writer, regardless of what level they are at. I am a better writer because of the group. I am writing more than I ever have: I have over 50 posts on my blog (http://findingyourforce.blogspot.com) and I had the opportunity to write scripts for Latino Flavored Productions.
The members have provided great feedback. Our group is filled with poets, screenwriters, and playwrights who nurture each other's writings. The consensus among the writers is that they feel safe in our space. I've seen the shyest writer come out of her shell and be comfortable in her skin. They are finding confidence in their words. Many of the writers have achieved great personal successes; we have columnists and bloggers whose works have been featured on SiTV, Tinta Fresca and Latina magazine.
*What advice would you offer to people who want to start their own writing groups?
It starts with one person! There is an incredible need for more writers groups--it truly starts with one person with enough passion, drive and determination to have their dreams come true. There are many ways to promote a writers group: http://www.meetup.com is a great networking site created for people to connect. I held the first meeting in my home. In only four days six strangers met and a writers group was born. The collaboration, the sisterhood makes us stronger; we're growing together. The key to the success of any writers group is A) attend your meetings and B) write, write, write!
Marcela Landres is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published. She was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster and has acted as a judge for the Beyond Margins Award/PEN. For more info visit http://www.marcelalandres.com/.