Ever Decreasing Circles
Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the Relief Valve blog tour.
Giveaway: I’m offering a free signed paperback copy of 2013 Rainbow Award winning romantic comedy Slam! (I’m happy to ship internationally) to a randomly chosen commenter on the tour, plus a $10 Amazon gift certificate!
I’ll be making the draw around teatime on Monday 7th April, GMT. Good luck! :D
Writers’ circles, or writers’ groups. For the uninitiated, these are organizations where writers can go for mutual support, friendly criticism, and advice.
Well, that’s the theory, anyway. The trouble is, and despite all indications to the contrary, writers are people. Human beings, with their infinite capacity for clique-iness, spite, jealousy and petty bickering.
I was very lucky, when I joined my current writers’ circle, to find a group who really are supportive, broadminded and constructive.
A big part of the activities of a writers’ circle, for the uninitiated, is giving criticism on members’ writing. Some groups do it by handing out printed copies. But there are advantages to having the writer read their work out aloud. For one thing, it makes any impossibly long sentences or unintentional alliteration glaringly obvious. For another, it’s a lot harder to kid yourself that a piece is “good enough” to be submitted to a publisher if you find yourself shying away from taking it along to read out on manuscripts night.
The first time a writer—probably, at this point, not yet published—gets up and reads his or her work in front of a group of expectant strangers can be incredibly nerve-wracking.
Which is why it’s so important to find a group that’s right for you. All circles are not created equal; one writer I know reported having been asked to leave the first writers’ group she tried because her proudly read-out work included swear words!
Phil, in Relief Valve, has one or two preconceptions about writers’ circles:
“just a bunch of old women sitting around drinking tea and writing stories about their cats.”
“You don’t go to these things to write. You go there to talk crap about writing.” He smirked. “So like I said, you’ll be a natural.”
“What, at talking crap? Love you too, you bastard.” – Relief Valve
Unfortunately for Tom, when he attends a meeting of the Lea Valley Literati to try to find out if any of them are responsible for poisoning his sister, he finds they’re even worse!
Or as LVL member Hannah puts it:
“sometimes I think we get just a little bit pretentious here.”
She’s not wrong. Fortunately for me, the writers’ circle I attend is nothing at all like the ones described in the book.*
*Well, except the bit about the gavel. That’s totally true! ;)
Question: I’ve been lucky with my writers’ group. I wasn’t so lucky with a support group I attended in university that was supposed to help us reduce our stress levels around exam time—with a bunch of highly competitive personalities thrown together, it ended up having the opposite effect to that intended!
Do you have experience of any sort of support group? Were they, in fact, supportive—or totally counterproductive?
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy.
She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since plumber Tom Paretski and P.I. Phil Morrison became connected at the heart, if not always at Tom’s dodgy hip. Neither of their families has been shy about voicing their disapproval, which hasn’t helped Tom’s uneasy relationship with his prickly older sister, Cherry.
But when Cherry is poisoned at her own engagement party, the horror of her near death has Tom’s head spinning with possible culprits. Is it her fiancé Gregory, a cathedral canon with an unfortunate manner and an alarming taste for taxidermy? Someone from her old writers’ circle, which she left after a row? Or could the attack be connected to her work as a barrister?
Phil is just as desperate to solve the case before someone ends up dead—and he fears it could be Tom. At least one of their suspects has a dark secret to hide, which makes Tom’s sixth sense for finding things like a target painted on his back…
Warning: Contains a strong, silent, macho PI; a cheeky, chirpy, cat-owning plumber; and a gag gift from beyond the grave that’ll put the cat firmly among the pigeons.