On Wednesday I got a draft of Steve’s latest work in progress. I met him in an Advanced Fiction class at the Loft in September 2009. After the class ended we formed a writing group with a few other classmates. The original lineup didn’t last very long. Let’s chalk that up to bad chemistry.
As the original group began to disintegrate Steve brought in Kurtis who brought in Kelly. I brought in Karlyn. I can’t remember who invited Christopher, but I’m glad they did. Bryan joined this summer. We call ourselves the Black Sheep after the pizza joint and not the farm animal most associated with misfits (though that would be apt).
While I learned most of what I know about fiction writing from Dale Gregory Anderson & Robert Voedish at the Loft, everything I know about being an actual writer I’m learning from my writing group. This goes beyond the obvious butt in chair aspect of being writer. This is the actual mechanics of it — working with editors and publishers, agents and reviewers, cover art and advances, and a magical thing called “earning out.”
Oh yes, I realize I’m fortunate to have a writing group filled with writers at various stages in their career, and I thank my lucky stars I can learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before me.
Learning all that practical crap is invaluable, I won’t deny it, but it’s not even close to being the best thing about the Black Sheep. The best thing is having a small community of stellar individuals to turn to for support and encouragement.
I suspect most writing groups are like this. At least I hope they are. Writing is tough and scary. I was going to tack on ‘especially when you’re unpublished’ but that’s a lie. Writing is tough and scary no matter where you are in your career, and it’s nice to have people who believe in you, the imaginary people in your head, and your ability to put their story on paper. I’m pretty certain that without the Black Sheep, I’d have wholly abandoned writing fiction in any serious way. Instead I’d spend my time dabbling in it whenever the mood struck me, my computer filling up with abandoned stories never to see the light of day. But seeing these people live the writing every single day is inspiring. It makes me strive to be worthy of their company by doing the hard work.
None of this would have happened if it weren’t for the Loft. I can get a little misty-eyed and schmoopy when I think about that place. It’s hard to explain exactly what the Loft has done not just for my writing, but for my actual life. I’m not exaggerating even a little when I say at least 65% of the most-important, non-family people in my life I met through the Loft.
Just yesterday I had lunch with my Fabulous Friend Jodie. She became my friend even after I rolled my eyes when she said Shakespeare was her favorite writer while introducing herself to the beginning fiction class we took at the Loft in September 2003.
Before we finished our pad thai I told her about writing this post. “What should I write about?” I asked her.
“You should totally write about that time someone filled the back of Ruby [my 1999 Chevy S-10 truck] with popcorn while you were at Grumpy’s after class.”
I probably should have written about that, because that was hilarious.