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7 Reasons Why You Should Be in a Writing Group: Guest Post by Bruce Niedt

Categories: Guest Posts, How to Write Poetry, Writing Poetry, Poets Helping Poets.

Please welcome our very own Bruce W. Niedt as a guest blogger today. Bruce is a beneficent bureaucrat and New Jersey native whose poetry has appeared in dozens of online and print journals, including Writers’ Journal, The Lyric, US 1 Worksheets, Mad Poets Review, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Schuyllkill Valley Journal, Tilt-a-Whirl, and The Wolf (UK). His awards include the ByLine Short Fiction and Poetry Prize, first prize for poetry at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and a Pushcart Prize nomination. His latest chapbook is Breathing Out, available from Finishing Line Press via Amazon.com. As many of you probably already know, Bruce is also an active member of the Poetic Asides community.

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Since I rediscovered my love of writing poetry about 12 years ago, I’ve been in a number of poetry groups. Some are poetry “circles” or “communities” whose primary focus is more sharing than critique. They have their benefits, but it wasn’t until I joined a writing and critique group that I really began to grow as a poet. Currently I’m a member of the Quick and Dirty Poets, a small but active group in southern New Jersey. We hold monthly meetings to share news and critique each others’ work, publish an annual journal (Up and Under: The QND Review), and host monthly readings at a local coffee shop.

Why should you join a poetry writing group? I can think of at least seven reasons:

  1. Evaluation: A good writing group offers frank and constructive critique within a positive framework. Our group critiques one poem from each member at every meeting.
  2. Inspiration: Group members can be a source for ideas, or offer writing assignments and prompts. Friendly competition with others can motivate and inspire you to become a better writer.
  3. Education: You can learn a lot from other poets–whom they have read, how they write, and what they write about. One of our group members is an excellent formal poet and editor of a formal poetry journal. She is often our “go-to” person for questions and advice on writing in form.
  4. Information: Getting tips and information from fellow members on publications, contests, conferences, workshops, and academic programs is one of the most valuable perks of a writing group.
  5. Publication: I’m lucky to be in a group that includes two poetry journal editors and a chapbook publisher. But any poetry writing group can encourage working toward publication with advice from more experienced and successful members. Some groups, including mine, even publish their own journal or anthology.
  6. Promotion: A writing group can help you promote your work. Our group’s monthly reading series exposes the community to accomplished local and regional poets, but we also use it as a venue to read our own work and offer an open mic to other attendees. The readings are also an opportunity to promote the featured poet’s publications as well as our own books and journals.
  7. Socialization: One of the most rewarding benefits is the joy of sharing, collaborating, and forming friendships with fellow poets. Our merry band has attended conferences and festivals together, but we’ve also socialized outside the poetic milieu at parties, barbecues and camp outs. They say writing is a solitary art, but there’s nothing like hanging out with your artistic buddies.

How do you find a poetry writing group? Contact your local library or bookstore–many of them host such activities. Check out the arts section of your local newspaper for announcements on readings and meetings. Your local college or university may have writing programs open to the public. And of course there’s always the Internet. Or start your own group–all you need is two or more interested poetic friends and a place to meet.

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If you’re interested in contributing a guest post for Poetic Asides, click here to see how to get the ball rolling.

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Want to learn even more about finding the right writing community?
Check out this digital excerpt from the Writer’s Market Companion, by Joe Feiertag and Mary Carmen Cupito. Find out about various organizations and critique groups available to writers and choose the best place for your needs.

Click to continue.

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About Robert Lee Brewer

Senior Content Editor, Writer's Digest Community.

16 Responses to 7 Reasons Why You Should Be in a Writing Group: Guest Post by Bruce Niedt

  1. AnonAuthor says:

    A writing group is a mixed bag, depending on the dynamics of the individual members. I had a terrible experience in one group because everyone was getting envious/jealous of other people’s success. The group ended up splitting apart. Sad. I was reminded of this when I saw this new movie on Video on Demand last night. It’s about a writers group that implodes when one member becomes too successful. It rang too close to the truth for me. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1B9PRLHq-s

  2. Marie Elena says:

    Excellent. I especially appreciate the tone of "let’s be honest and thorough with one another." I’m part of a critique group for my children’s Short stories/poety/NF, and that’s what I MOST appreciate about our group: we are honest, and can take it. Thank you, Bruce, for bringing up many points I’d have never thought of.

  3. ann says:

    Nice to hear from Jersey poet. I’ve enjoyed your work.

  4. Bruce Niedt says:

    I don’t think having a name matters that much if your primary purpose is to meet privately for critique and such. But if you’re doing things as a group – going to or hosting public readings, publishing a journal or anthology, etc. – then you need an identity, and that’s where a name is fairly essential.

  5. Okay, here’s an odd question. How much of importance do you think the NAME of the writing group plays?

    I’ve been in a writers group for almost ten years now. We have never established a name. I’ve been calling us The Wilder Writers Collective. Another member calls us the CWG.

    How would having a bona fide name help us? Or doesn’t it matter?

  6. Bruce Niedt says:

    That’s a good point, Jim – I’m fortunate to be in a group that hasn’t lost sight of their mission of critique but still remains friends, though we have our testy moments, LOL. As I said, there is certainly room in the world for groups that stress camaraderie over critique, and they have helped me, especially with building my self-confidence as a poet. But that type of group also tends to attract the poet who’s threatened by any kind of criticism, who is only there to read his/her poetry and be told how beautiful it is.

  7. PKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik says:

    Nice piece Bruce….you make a compelling case for in- person groups to one who has never been a poetic " groupie"… Seriously, a thoughtful and of course well- crafted piece.

  8. Jim F says:

    I think it’s important groups to stay rigorous. Sometimes the urge for comraderie overtakes the mission of serious critical attention. It’s OK to be friends but one should be among strangers with hard eyes when workshop proper begins.

    Here are some ‘workshop characters’ you may have encountered…
    http://ursprache.blogspot.com/2010/04/dysfunctional-workshop.html

  9. Colette ;D says:

    Thanks Bruce. Great advice. Wish I lived in a bigger city with more opportunity for such gatherings. Maybe it’s worth a drive… ;D

  10. It’s removed. Not sure what was up with that.

  11. Bruce Niedt says:

    Robert, can we somehow remove the above offensive post?

  12. de jackson says:

    Excellent thoughts, Bruce. I love my group, though sometimes we’re a little too good at numbers 2 and 7, and not strong enough on 1 and 5. ; ) Gotta mind our "tions."

  13. I’ll agree with both Nancys. ;)

    I’ve always enjoyed your take on things Bruce, and appreciate your insight. Thanks for sharing the piece. Good work!

  14. Nancy Posey says:

    It’s great to have a word from Bruce. He walks the walk. He’s right, too. Poetry doesn’t have to be a lonely business.

  15. Nancy Posey says:

    It’s great to have a word from Bruce. He walks the walk. He’s right, too. Poetry doesn’t have to be a lonely business.

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