Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded…*

Thursday morning, I did something I haven’t done in years. I joined a writing group. This is a dangerous thing, what with my capstone project starting over again in a month. I joined a writing group. I haven’t met these people yet. My first meeting is tonight. In all likelihood, I could run screaming into the night five minutes in.

The last time I joined a critique group, it did not go well. Being the only published novelist in the group, I got to present a short story first. I got some good feedback going around the room and then…

One lady did not like the story that eventually became “Annie,” not because of the subject matter or that the original looked like two stories welded together. No, she didn’t like it because the character of Anne Ripley drove a Miata, and according to her, “That’s a man’s car.” She couldn’t get past that. Never mind that 90% of the Miatas I’d seen on the road when I wrote that were driven by women.

The other problem, the problem that actually kept me from returning more often, was that it was in West Chester, north of Cincinnati. Back in 1991, when I was in my mid-twenties and subsisted largely on Coca-Cola and lots and lots of black coffee, West Chester to me seemed like a trip to a corner store. Well, I’d also driven from rural Holmes County to suburban Cleveland daily for the six months prior to coming to Cincinnati, and for six months of my first year here, I worked in Dayton. Pushing forty, however, and working downtown, however, my world had shrunk, and West Chester is a real pain in the ass to get to, being half way to Dayton, after working all day on the banks of the muddy Ohio.  After missing a couple of meetings, I gave up.

But MySpace was new back then. And Facebook was still a high-tech means for Mark Zuckerberg to get laid at Harvard. AOL was in its waning days, and everyone just blogged. So having social media like Facebook and Meetup and LinkedIn might have helped keeping all the writers in touch. (I might have suggested meeting at the Barnes & Noble in Kenwood instead of West Chester might have helped.)

This new group is also in West Chester, but I need to suck it up and make the trip. If I can hit a couple of programmers groups twice a month up by King’s Island, I can drive to West Chester one Monday a month.

I decided I need to start meeting with writers again. My production was severely hampered first by my aborted standup career, then by my return to college. Now that I’m on a two class per semester schedule from here on out, I can comfortably fit a writing routine back into my schedule. But I need someone to bounce things off of, to tell me my stuff is crap when it’s, well, crap. And I need to be with other writers. My wife is not a writer. My stepson is a musician and has little interest in science fiction or crime. The last thing Nita wants to hear me talk about is Nick Kepler’s latest predicament or some new alien race I came up with the annoy an already annoying human race. Part of the reason I don’t write as much as I used to is that I write in a vacuum. That needs to stop.

*Apologies to John Scalzi