One of Your Most Valuable Writing Tools by Sandra Hunter – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sandra will be awarding a Losing Touch mini book necklace and mini book charm to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

ONE OF YOUR MOST VALUABLE WRITING TOOLS

The trick for the writer is to find a combination of good friend and clear-eyed critic.

Where I am now

Last Thanksgiving, a highlight was a thread of funny, warm, emails from my writing group. They included descriptions of a walk with friends, drinking mint mocha, a dry rub recipe for turkey. We discovered, awestruck, that one of us owns a porringer. One had a houseful of guests but stopped to send hugs. We congratulated one whose new daily writing habit had reached the 100-day mark. We were jubilant to find out that one had work accepted for publication.

Many different stories from many different places, but one thing remained constant: each of us sent love and gratitude that we knew one another and, as one put it, that we filled each other with generosity.

Where I was

Rewind.

Until 2011, I did my writing in a guilt-ridden, hidden rush. I’m a mother and part-time professor, so any writing time is shoved into the parking zone: between 10pm and 6am.

Of course, I’d read about writers’ groups and retreats. But I was skeptical about spending the money. How beneficial were they?

Enter: A Room of Her Own

New Year 2011: a friend casually mentioned the A Room of Her Own> women writers’ retreat. Initially, I was appalled. It was in New Mexico? In August? But I read the description on the AROHO website and looked at previous participants’ reviews. They seemed well, quite sane really.

Into the wilds of New Mexico

Night one of the retreat, melting in a room with no air-conditioning, I was scared that I’d made a huge mistake.

But in the morning, I listened to the conversations in the breakfast line: What are you reading? What are you writing? How’s your blog? I’ll link to you on mine. Oh X just published a memoir, you should talk to her. Y runs workshops for abused kids, too: I’ll introduce you.

And that’s when I knew it wasn’t a mistake: these were my people. Okay, some of them weren’t exactly my people, but from among them I found my current group of nine stunningly supportive and talented women writers.

Why we need support

Writing is a weird, solitary activity. That’s why we need other writers who understand what we do and why we do it.

Alone, you are one writer with some connections. Add yourself to a group and there are immediately more opportunities. The more writers you connect with the greater the arsenal for publishing, blogging, reviewing, teaching, work-shopping, oh — and reading. When any of my writing group suggests a book, I’ll look it up. I wouldn’t necessarily do that with other friends.

Online vs. In-flesh

Online groups are enormously successful, such as the excellent SheWrites that offers a broad spectrum of opportunities.

But, for me, nothing beats an actual group of writer friends who may take forever to agree on a meeting date, but bring wine and cookies, and then sit down and share work. There’s nothing like laughing so hard that you’re holding each other up in the kitchen, like being moved to tears by a piece that reaches into the place you’d forgotten was sore, like being transported by watching someone read their poem, like having people who really listen to your work.

What good writing friends do:

• love you into facing yet another blank page
• don’t take I didn’t have time for an answer
• make you sit down and rewrite even if you’re still smarting over numerous rejections
• encourage you to keep submitting

How do you create your own Circle of Love?

Check out the retreats listed at Poets & Writers. Some are juried (manuscript submission required), while others are open (just sign up). They range in genre and length.

For example, Clarion at UC San Diego runs a 6 week summer fantasy/sci-fi workshop. For memoir writers, Wild Mountain runs a weekend retreat in Washington State.

Costs

If you think of the retreat as a vacation, you may end up resenting what you spend.

This isn’t a “break”: it’s a deliberate choice to expand the quality and productivity of your writing life for years to come.

The short and the long of it

The weekend option may be a good start for those who are shyer or more socially resistant. You can spend just enough time with people to see if you want more.

However, for your money’s worth, take the plunge into the longer retreat. You’ll have the chance to make more sustainable connections. After two weeks of sharing meals, morning yoga, and participating in evening readings you’ll know, with absolute clarity, the names you want to add to your Circle of Love list. And, of course, the ones you don’t.

And finally

Do a little digging. Spend the money. It’s an invaluable long-term investment for your success as a writer. You take risks in your writing: take a risk on behalf of it. The dividends are endless.

MEDIA KIT losing final frontAfter Indian Independence Arjun brings his family to London, but hopes of a better life rapidly dissipate. His wife Sunila spends all day longing for a nice tea service, his son suddenly hates anything Indian, and his daughter, well, that’s a whole other problem. As he struggles to enforce the values he grew up with, his family eagerly embraces the new. But when Arjun’s right leg suddenly fails him, his sense of imbalance is more than external. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he is forced to question his youthful impatience and careless cruelty to his family, until he learns, ultimately, to love them despite — or because of — their flaws. In a series of tender and touching glimpses into the shared life of a married couple, Sandra Hunter creates strikingly sympathetic characters — ones that remind us of our own shortfalls, successes, hypocrisies, and humanity.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Sometimes she goes to stand at the bottom of the garden, pretending to tidy up the compost heap, and allows the forbidden thought to come: divorce.

She can only whisper it. It’s a bad word. Bad people do it. But in the Woman’s Own magazine at the doctor’s office, she read that Elizabeth Taylor had done it. She’d done it so many times that it was just part of her normal routine. Get up, put on face cream, divorce Richard. How daring it sounds, so chic. Sunila practices. Get up, put on Johnson’s Baby Lotion, divorce Arjun. I’ll just divorce him and he can take his disapproving face and jump in the lake.

About the Author:MEDIA KIT hat shot3Sandra Hunter’s fiction has been published in a number of literary magazines and received awards including the 2014 H.E. Francis Fiction Award, 2012 Cobalt Fiction Prize, 2011 Arthur Edelstein Short Fiction Prize and three Pushcart Prize nominations. Her debut novel, Losing Touch, was released in July (OneWorld Publications). She lives in Simi Valley, CA, with her husband and daughter, and is always on the look out for the perfect gluten-free cupcake.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

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Comments

  1. Thank you for hosting

  2. I think there is also something to be said for the idea that you are putting yourself and your writing as a priority when you allocate the time and money to attend writing retreats. Other professions network – and writing is communicating at it’s heart. It’s a no-brainer that we should develop ‘circles’

  3. Sounds like I need to immerse myself in a group of writer friends! You seem to have a lot of happy memories to share from them!

    • Hey Andra.
      You’re right on both counts! All writers could use a supportive group, and I do have many happy memories.
      Aside from the memories, though, are the concrete benefits such as your group introducing you to a literary magazine you hadn’t considered submitting to, offering valuable feedback on something in progress, passing your name on to an editor who’s looking for new work, sending you a link to a contest or conference that might interest you, and so on.
      And, yes, I’m looking forward to creating more fond memories!

      • Sounds like a good plan…so where do I start looking for groups like that??? lol

        • A good place to start is by checking out the conferences. You can find listings at Poets & Writers.
          You can also check out SheWrites for online groups.
          Both conferences and online groups are useful, but I’d encourage you to try the in person conferences. You can start with a relatively small conference so that it’s not overwhelming! I’d really recommend the A Room of Her Own retreat (http://aroomofherownfoundation.org/retreat/) because it’s all-women and, somehow, less competitive.
          Keep me posted!

  4. I like the excerpt

  5. SHELLEY S says:

    GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR BOOK AND TOUR! THANKS FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

  6. Sandra,
    Would you like to do a guest post over at Lilac Reviews on a different topic?

  7. helpful post

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