Posted in Revision, Solas Travel Writing Awards, Writers' Groups, Writing Partners

3 Reasons to Join Writing Groups

Without the persistent support and serious critique of writing groups and partners throughout my writing career, starting in the early 1990s, I likely would not be a published author or had the success I’ve had to date. Groups and partners are necessary to the revision process of writing.

Let’s look at three reasons for getting feedback from other writers so we can revise with input and confidence.

Three Purposes of Receiving Feedback from Fellow Writers

ONE. Writing partners and groups offer support to the fragile souls of writers. Positive feedback is just as important as negative, if not more so. Partners and groups answering , “What do you like or what works for you as the reader?” lets the writer know what already enhances their piece.

Examples of feedback:

  • “The author’s work is paced so that it heightens the tension.”
  • “The audience is kept informed of details that keep the reader from stopping to ask ‘huh?’”
  • “The essay on forgiveness is a difficult and humbling topic, one needed in our public and private lives today. I commend the author for tackling the topic.”

TWO. Members of a writing group give brutally honest responses to another’s writing product — called constructive feedback. This gives the author a chance to listen and determine if the review feels on target or is deemed unimportant to their work.

Examples of feedback:

  • “The dialogue on pages 3-4 is clunky and extraneous and could be deleted without loss to the story.”
  • “The use of the adjective ‘really’ adds no value to a sentence, is overused, so can be eliminated throughout the story.”
  • “The sequence of events feels out of order. Perhaps placing the second event as the fourth will improve the logical occurrences of the scene.”

THREE. When a writer hears group members express what they are curious about or what they want more of in the story, it opens up possibilities. This often lets the writer find new scene-worthy material.

Examples of feedback:

  • “When the writer mentions rubies being found, is there a chance of other jewels being discovered in the treasure hunt?”
  • “As the author describes Hemingway’s life, what role do his four wives play in his literary career? ”
  • “When the protagonist fades from the scene, what is her emotional state? What physical ways can you show that?”

Writing Success through Publications and Awards

My most recent achievement was winning a bronze Solas travel writing award in “Elders” category for my story, “From the Back of the Van,” when traveling in Chiapas, Mexico with two friends.

My travel writing group is the backbone of my success. We take classes together and review each others’ work, going on about three years now. The group expands and contracts over time, but there are eight to fifteen of us, Zooming from San Diego to New York and all in between.

What’s remarkable is that ten of us placed in the Solas awards this year; last year, six of us. Solid proof that writing partners and groups work.

The Travelers’ Tales editors and this year’s guest judge Scott Dominic Carpenter announced the winners of the Seventeenth Annual Solas Awards for Best Travel Story of the Year on March 15, 2023. Scores of entries in 21 categories kept the judges busy. As usual, not every story that deserved an award received one. Here’s the complete list of winners. 

Winning stories will be posted on the Great Stories page and as Editors’ Choice stories on, and may appear in future Travelers’ Tales books. (Taken from the 17th Solas Awards Announcement page)

Travel is the Subject of my Two Books

Travel writing was not just aspirational, but a driving feature of my life and my work. At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away was my coming-of-age, travel memoir that follows me from a girl of ten to a young woman of twenty-seven. Travel experiences helped me grow up with a nuanced view of the world and a telling tale to gain self-confidence and agency as a result of my travels.

Novel writing grew from a dream one morning of a woman in a salwar kameez. It became the inspiration for Song of Myself, an historical novel, set in 1906 about a young horsewoman that traveled to India to sell her uncle’s quarter horses to the British Indian army for breeding.

Both book themes assert the transformative nature of building agency during travel, especially for women.

You can purchase each at Amazon as a paperback or an eBook.

Posted in Submitting for Publication, Travel Writing, Writers' Groups

Progress of Writing

Two Steps Backward

Two steps back. I learned this week that submissions to two publications were rejected. That’s disappointing as a writer, but it is the nature, life, and supposed progress of writing.

One Step Forward

One step forward. Publishers of the Saturday Writers’ 2020 anthology, Decades in Writing, informed me that I can pre-order copies of the book for my purposes early at a reduced cost, as contributor. Now that’s progress to me.

Small Successes

Last February I placed second in a monthly writing contest that addressed the decade of 1900-1910. The first chapter of my novel, not yet published, Song of Herself, won as a stand-alone story entitled, “Tuck Tail or Sail.” You will find it on pages 99-104. My writing can be found in their 2011 anthology as well.

Saturday Writers Could be your Success Story

If you are a poetry writer or prose writer of personal narrative or fiction, consider Saturday Writers writing contests for a likely place to get published. Their logo states: Writers Encouraging Writers. It’s true.

Posted in Craft of writing, Writers' Groups, Writing, Writing Groups

Writers are often INFJs or INFPs, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Lauren Sapala, the author of The INFJ Writer in a recent blog post, writes there is no coincidence that many writers are INFJs or INFPs, which are terms for the personality types in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

The types are a four-part combination of four spectrums of likely thoughts, actions, behaviors that generate a personality type. These types are used to better understand ourselves and others, to improve communication between different types, and to work more effectively. But the types should not be used to label or box people into narrow definitions of self or others.  Continue reading “Writers are often INFJs or INFPs, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)”

Posted in Craft of writing, Writers' Groups, Writing, Writing Groups

Start your own Writing Group


I have been a member of multiple writing groups since the early 1990s. Each one differs with advantages and disadvantages. Each time someone joins or drops out, it changes the dynamics. If you know you have thin skin, be willing to grow thick skin; or forego this until you do. It is not for the faint of heart. Knowing what you want out of a writing group helps you start one that meets your needs and desires.4men1womanblog


  1. Do you need to learn to write first, before you start or participate in a writing group? If so, take a class or workshop, read and study the craft of writing, and/or just write.
  2. Do you want a group to edit your work only, analyze your work (plot, characters, and pacing), and/or to discuss the writing process? Are you willing to do the same?
  3. Can you find writers who offer you the same feedback for which you are looking?
  4. Do you work best in one-on-one pairs, small intimate groups of 3-4, or larger writing groups? I have found 8-12 is max for a dynamic group that allows time for all.
  5. How often do you need to meet in terms of your personal writing schedule? Can you draft enough writing to meet once a week, every other, or once a month?


  1. Some groups have a leader that organizes and moderates the group time. Usually that is someone quite experienced and published. Members simply bring a copy of their manuscripts for each group member that cover 2-5 pages, perhaps a scene, or a short chapter.
  2. Everyone reads his or her own work aloud. If the writer wants to hear their work from another voice, then another member reads it.
  3. Reviewers then offer suggestions on editorial comments on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They provide what works in the piece and what does not work. They can also explain where they became confused or lost.
  4. Advantage: This particular way of running a group requires less time, by giving on-the-spot feedback comments.
  5. Disadvantage: Writing group members do not have in-depth time to review and reflect on the writing, so comments are usually limited to surface responses.
  6. Writing level: This specific approach is useful for experienced writers who do not need as much feedback and are skilled at writing and know what in a piece of work. They can offer feedback promptly.3women1guy


  1. There are groups that meet once a month or every other week to give them more time to write and more time for readers to review each other’s work before the meeting.
  2. In one case I have been part of a ‘leaderless’ meeting. We each took responsibility for different things that needed to be done.
  3. A group I belonged to years ago met once a month. Here is how it worked. For example, during the month of December each writer brings sufficient copies of their chapter to distribute to each person. During the coming weeks, we read and comment in writing on the manuscript. At the following meeting in January, we would take each manuscript and make our comments, explain why we made them and discuss issues of point of view (POV), pacing, character development, and other big picture issues. In that same month, we distribute next month’s work for review. We handed the manuscripts that we marked up to the writer for his or her revisions.
  4. Advantage: This gave us extensive feedback on a broader scale of what is happening in a novel or essay, and how to address the issues. We included edits, as well as the movement, rhythm, and pace of the story or article.
  5. Disadvantage: In this setting, we did not read our pages aloud, so we missed hearing our words, which often lets one hear awkward words or phrases, or missed words. During a month between meetings, so we could forget where we were in a story.
  6. Writing Level: This approach gives inexperienced writers and reviewers time between meetings to read, study, ponder, and decide how to reply to the writer. Inexperienced writers grow quickly into more experienced writers and reviewers.


  1. The next example comes from my friend and mentor, Sheila Bender. You can signup for her newsletter at WritingItReal and consider membership. The 3-step feedback process proves to be productive for most any writer and reviewer.

Step #1: Identify the “Velcro” words, phrases, or sentences that stick with you in some way, that resonate in a good way. The purpose of this step is to give the writer positive feedback on what is working.

Step #2: State the feelings that the writing creates in you from mad-sad-glad to anxious-afraid-relieved. This report tells the writer whether she has achieved what she set out to achieve. It lets her compare the reaction the reader has to what she hoped to create in the reader.

Step #3: Inform the writer what questions you have after you have read the scene or chapter. Tell him what left you wanting to know more. Share your curiosity about unanswered questions with him. This allows the writer to know if he needs to flesh out the scene more or if he has overwritten it and needs to pare it down.

2. Advantage: This example provides objective feedback that keeps comments less personal and more focused on the writing.

3. Disadvantage: It requires reviewers to think deeply about the story, which may require more time and effort.

4. Level of reviewer: Anyone reading a scene or chapter is able to offer their opinions on these 3 items. It empowers inexperienced reviewers that they have significant input into another’s writing.3guysblog


This example is taken from a workshop instructor, Karlene Koen. I took her course, That Damned Novel, through the Writers’ League of Texas summer retreat in 2014. Her process is similar to but slightly different from Sheila Bender’s approach. Answer the following three questions to provide feedback to a writer about his or her work:

  1. What did you like about the scene or story? (I would add, what did you not like about it and why? That’s the key, “why.”)
  2. What do you still want to know?
  3. Where did you get lost?

Answering these 3 questions has similar advantages and disadvantages to Bender’s approach and requires little experience as a reviewer. There many other versions and adaptations of writing groups, but this overview can get you started.

I can sum up my advice after twenty-five years of working in different types of writing support groups. Some have worked for a while, others have lasted years. But when one is still not viable, it is better to end the group than carry on in misery. If you are the only one unhappy, leave respectfully and gratefully for what it has given you. 

  1. You can mix and match the meeting and feedback approaches.
  2. Comments and recommendations always should be about helping each other grow as a writer.Constructive criticism is the goal.
  3. Writer, remind yourself often: Don’t take it personally.
  4. Reviewer, remind yourself often: Don’t make it personal.
  5. Feedback is about your writing, not you. It may feel personal in that someone is trying to help you specifically related to your writing.
  6. For the writer to defend or explain his or her work, wastes time and is not the point. It is best for the writer to listen and take notes. As creator of the work, a writer is free to disagree and can choose to use or not use comments offered. Own your work.
  7. Everyone in the group should be actively writing. Equity in giving and receiving feedback is crucial to the sustained health of the group.
  8. Groups often need a leader to organize and moderate the meeting. I have been part of a successful leaderless group, in which all members took responsibility for the meeting. You must decide on the right person for the leader.
  9. Help your fellow writers when they read your work.
    • Always double-space your work so others can edit between the lines.
    • Number the pages, so the group can reference page and paragraph when discussing it.
    • Put your name on the submission – it should be obvious why.

Now, what has been your experience with writing groups? What has worked? What has  not worked for you? Please share your experience with us.