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March 4th, 2008

Writers' groups

I'm occasionally possessed by this notion of networking local writing groups. It always starts with me hearing about how some author got an amazing advance from some small local publisher, and I think, Hmmmm...my work is nearly all situated in Southern California, maybe I should check out these local small presses. And then of course that leads to, Hmmmm...maybe if I join a local writing group, that'd be a good way to network and find out more about good regional publishing.

(You no doubt can see where this is going by now, but I'll continue anyway)

So I search out local writing groups. Sometimes I find them at book fairs, other times I locate them online. I sign up for their mailing lists or check out their websites. And I am invariably disappointed by what I find.

They're always collections of bored upper-class matrons who've decided to feel arty by scribbling little stories, or desperate (and desperately untalented) college professors who published one poem in a literary journal thirty years ago. I've checked out a number of these groups now, and I think I've yet to find one single member of any of them who has more than one published story, poem or novel. They hold monthly meetings with "guest speakers" whose bios always read like this: "Heather Wannabee has a Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing from Useless University, and had her first poem published in the school paper at the age of six. Heather's first book, 48 LAWS OF WRITING SUCCESS, was published in 1998 by Itsme Press, and she's now working on her first novel. Heather finds great inspiration for her work from her pure-bred Pekinese Maxie, and her quilting hobby." And that's the frigging GUEST SPEAKER.

I feel like a snob when I look at this stuff, but...c'mon. Can't they call themselves "Amateur Writing Groups"? Am I wrong to feel insulted when Betty Richbitch thinks she can call herself a writer because she's self-published three novels that her neighbor provided rave blurbs to? Or that Joe Collegeprofessor is going to curl his lip and sneer at me, "Oh, you write horrrrrrrrrror..."? (And why do so many of these guys claim to have been "nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry"? I swear ta gawd, I've seen that on like ten bios recently. I can only assume that must be the Pulitzer equivalent of the guy whose best bud recommended him for a Stoker now calling himself "Stoker nominated".)

I think I'll just stick to my little Dark Delicacies writing group. As for seeking out the local small publishers...hey, Leisure's lookin' better all the time.

Quote of the month

From an article on Margaret Seltzer, a rich white girl from Sherman Oaks who wrote a fake memoir, Love and Consequences, in which she claimed to be "Margaret B. Jones", an ethnically-mixed former member of the Bloods in South L.A.:

"She insisted to the [New York Times] that she wrote the book at a Starbucks coffeehouse in South L.A."

Oh. That makes it okay, then.




(And I love the fact that this book was given a very favorable review in the New York Times by Michiko Kakutani... meaning we have a reviewer once famously parodied as being a pseudonym giving kudos to a fake memoir.)