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The Writing Group Book: Creating and Sustaining a Successful Writing Group
ISBN 1-55652-498-6
Edited by: Lisa Rosenthal
Review by: Rachael Hanel

5/15/04

Writers know how important it is to have a support network of trusted readers and advisors who give advice and encouragement on the writing process. Many of us have found a few confidantes and we cherish their comments and even their criticisms. Formal or informal, the writing group is an integral part of many writers’ work.

But like an entity unto itself, the writing group must be nourished and fed, must be given attention and cared for. Lisa Rosenthal and her merry band of contributors have devised a guide for writing groups that touches upon almost any issue that may arise.

The Writing Group Book would be useful to groups in any stage of their formation, whether just starting out or well established. The book is organized well and flows easily. It’s divided into four areas. Part I is titled “Starting a Writing Group,” for those beginners out there. Part II is about organizing and maintaining a group once it has started. Part III is about the “make or break” time of any association – what makes a writing group flourish or what makes it fizzle. This is the section to go to for help in dealing with a problem member or dealing with jealously. Part IV allows writers to move ahead, to break out of a comfortable rhythm of familiar faces and get works published. For those not interested in being published, the final section also deals with organizing public readings or just plain having fun.

Editor Rosenthal keeps the motivation coming. Every few pages, a breakout box highlights an affirmation related to writing or success. The boxes provide insight and wisdom in a Chinese fortune-cookie sort of way.

Writers who have experience with writing groups write the individual chapters. It’s nice to see such a diverse group of people weigh in on the topic. Not only are there novelists, screenwriters, essayists, poets and children’s writers, but also people from around the world – everywhere from the United States to Norway to Israel to France. The chapters are short; this makes it easy for the reader to jump around at will. This book is one that doesn’t have to be read from front-to-back.

Every writer includes a list of books and Web sites that he or she finds useful. It’s like having 34 close writing friends let you in on their secrets. Some chapters include writing exercises, others include tips to ensure your group operates at its highest function, such as “Top Ten On-line Tips” or how to share goals and motivations.

Rosenthal includes an appendix of resources to further guide writing group members. These tips include how to put your writing group on the map, how to create success or how to take your work public.

The Writing Group Book covers such a wide time frame and would be a suitable companion throughout the writing process.


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