An Author’s Thoughts on Writing Groups by Kelly Byrd – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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An Author’s Thoughts on Writing Groups

Writing groups can feel like drinking from a fire hydrant if you’re not careful. I did my first group in early college, and it was incredibly overwhelming. When I was just starting out and terrified of anyone seeing anything I wrote, hearing opinions about it felt like walking naked down Front Street with no bush or shrub to duck behind for cover. To be frank, putting my work out there still feels that way in some aspects, but it has gotten easier the more groups I’ve done.

Writing groups are invaluable for getting multiple opinions and insights into your work all at once. This feedback is often extremely helpful in identifying issues and common places for improvement in your story, especially if you start to notice pain points brought up by everyone in the group. If you’ve been with the same writing group for a long time, and they know your specific voice and style, a writing group can be a great place for edits at any stage. And, as all writers know, edits are honestly the most important part of the process.

In my personal experience, it’s been important to find a writing group that understands my specific genre. I workshopped my first book, City of Lights, in a general group with all kinds of voices and styles. A common note I received was, “I don’t read fantasy.” Sometimes, receiving feedback like this is helpful because you can experience how people who don’t normally interact with your genre perceive your work. This can lead to a deeper understanding of structural issues. On the other hand, everyone’s audience is different, and you don’t want to fully alter what’s great about storytelling—your perspective—to satisfy one or two people. To get the best feedback, seek out a group that is open to your specific genre of work.

Writers are (generally) introverts who spend the majority of their time in dark rooms, pouring out their insides. We are a competitive and sometimes angry bunch. It’s always important to remember that not every single opinion is the right opinion about your work. This was a lesson I had to learn over years of practice. Just because Sally Joe in the group doesn’t like your pages doesn’t mean that they’re bad. They’re just not for Sally Joe.

As I’ve progressed in my work, I now tend to lean on individuals more than I do groups. I think groups are best for new ideas and workshopping something that you’re not sure about. Groups are a great way to get fledging ideas out of the nest and give them some structure. If you’ve completed a work and are moving into hard editing, I find that working with a few trusted advisors one-on-one is often the safest bet.

But, also remember: Writing is an art form. There’s no right or wrong way to go about getting the words on the page. The most important thing is to tell a story. So, find a group. Start getting yourself in front of people. Push that baby bird out of the nest. You won’t regret it.

Book Two of the Far from Home Trilogy

Catch up with Mary Jingo as she trains with her friends in the Great Big Ocean Sky-side city of Festdelm. She may have survived the danger in Luminos, the City of Lights, but new challenges await as she, Teeny, Van Clare, Corb, Mikeala, and WindRunner continue their fight to save the Everything. When a new Shadowlander comes to LeeChee, will Mary be able to trust him—even if he is one of her closest friends?

Join Mary Jingo and her motley crew as they travel to the far ends of the world on their quest to save the Everything.

As more of LeeChee falls under Thrall, Mary must choose wisely. Whom will she trust? What bonds will endure? And… how did a Yorkshire Terrier end up as a part of this crazy experience?

The answers, dear reader, await inside as we set sail on the Great Big Ocean Sky.

Enjoy an Excerpt

WindRunner shot into the air, following the great ‘Dragon through the sky. Peregrina’s wake was strong and fast, and WindRunner put himself in the center of her air stream. Mary looked around, sensing for the other Thoughtdragons that had attacked the Garnet Revenge, but did not feel them.

It doesn’t mean they aren’t nearby, WindRunner said.


Do not become overconfident with this power, Mary Jingo. The Thoughtdragons are dangerous. Older even than my Kin. While I face the same temptation as you—I am drawn to her great power—remember that Peregrina wanted to be found. Otherwise, we would not have been able to follow her.

That couldn’t be possible, Mary puzzled to herself. She had known where Peregrina was. Mary had made this decision to follow Peregrina, hadn’t she? A stab of doubt hit Mary in the chest. Had they walked into a trap?

Peace, Warrior, WindRunner said soothingly. Peregrina wanted us to follow her. I don’t think she will harm you. I think she wishes to speak with you. Or, that is what Mikeala said to me before we left the boat.

You had a private Mindspan with Mikeala?

Yes. She told me I should take you if you wished to go.

Private Mindspans are rude when they are about someone else. The Father says so.

WindRunner laughed in her mind.

Suddenly, Peregrina stopped in midair and whipped around. WindRunner dove to keep from running straight into her serpentine length, ending their conversation. Peregrina beat her wings softly to stay stationary, and WindRunner flew around until he was face to face with the great Thoughtdragon.

Mary’s stomach sank. The last time she had been face to face in the air with someone like this, it had been the evil Mellie. She had won that battle, but only barely. She was not certain she could win a battle like that again. Peregrina was even more terrifying than Mellie. Her head was twice the size of WindRunner. The Thoughtdragon only needed to barely open her mouth to swallow them both whole.

WindRunner sent courage through their bond, but Mary felt his unease. He was being strong for her, just like she wanted to be strong for him. Peregrina spoke then to them both, her voice rich, gravelly, and musical, like a bass note dropped beneath a perfect melody.

“Well, you followed me out here, Shadowlander. What is it that you want?” She slithered her great head to the side as she said this, and Mary felt and smelled the Thoughtdragon’s untamed power. It blotted out her fear.

“I need your scales. Three of them. We need them in LeeChee. The Everything is shrinking, and I am fighting with the Resistors. We are trying to save it,” Mary said, breathing deeply. She spoke clearly and with confidence. “Please help us, great Peregrina.”

The ‘dragon shook her head and laughed.

“Save it? Save the Everything with my scales? Child, in your tiny mind, I might as well be the Everything. You cannot save the Everything with the Everything. And that world, that island, has been pitiful and beyond saving for many annuals now. Your Keeper is the size of a child. Don’t you see? It is lost. Go home to your dark, dark world and leave us in peace. Your People are causing the problem anyway.”

“My People?” Mary responded, trying to hide the hurt in her voice.

“Yes—you Shadowlanders. The Everything is created in the Shadowlands. It cycles up and up to places like LeeChee to be kept safe. Over time, it drifts back down to the Shadowlands and the cycle continues, with the ebb and flow of time. Do they not teach you anything in school down there?” Peregrina paused and turned her livid golden eyes to WindRunner.

“And you, the Lumon’s son. Bound by oath to protect a girl from the Shadowlands. Why have you done this?”

“She can save us,” WindRunner blasted back.

“Can she?” Peregrina replied with a grin on her giant mouth. “How? It is the greed of her People that has caused the blight in your lands. They don’t go outside anymore. They are trapped in their own heads, in their own tribes. They don’t listen to each other. They hardly interact with anyone who doesn’t think exactly how they do. How does one child heal rifts and tears that are hundreds of years old? This is why the Everything shrinks. Do you not know, WindRunner, son of Spearwing? Or are you all much too blind to see it?”

“Mellie is to blame for the Void. Mellie has been warping the Everything to her own purposes,” Mary said, yelling across the distance.

“Fool! Mellie was once like your precious Mikeala. As tall as a mountain and charged with keeping the Everything and the flow of the Cycles safe. She could no more turn the Everything into the Void than I can. It is against her nature. But to regain her former strength and form, she may have been tempted to help someone corrupt the Everything. The Void is powerful, even if it is unnatural. She may be helping the flow of the Void, but no, no. She did not create it.”

“Her scars,” Mary said to herself and WindRunner, thinking of the marks that marred the woman’s face. “Her scars are from the Void.”

“Yes,” Peregrina said. Her hearing must be excellent to perceive Mary over such a distance. “Yes. She has paid dearly in service to the Void.”

“You must help us,” Mary cried desperately. “Mikeala said you brought me out here to talk to me. Help me. I know you can.”

The giant Thoughtdragon swirled her body in the air in front of Mary. Small flames burst from her mouth when she laughed. Mary could feel their heat as they crackled in the air.

“Why would I help you? As I said, the greed of your people is what is causing LeeChee to die. It will grow dark and cold and fade, and me and my kind will visit it no more. And your land will suffer, Mary Jingo. As we have all suffered.”

“Please—you cannot let this happen.”

“How dare you!” Peregrina boomed. Her jaws opened wide. “How dare you accuse me of letting anything happen. It breaks my very being to know that LeeChee will fall into darkness and the Void, but I cannot intervene. Your People, you Shadowlanders, with your pride and your lack of imagination, your desperation for profit. You will kill LeeChee. I allowed you to follow me here because I wanted to see your face before I send you back to that darkened world of the Shadowlands. You don’t belong in LeeChee, Mary Jingo. You will only make things worse.”

Peregrina dove towards Mary and WindRunner, spinning her long body in the air and flapping her wings hard. WindRunner, always ready for attack, spun out of the way, as Mary gripped the handholds. She cast for Peregrina’s power, but found herself blocked from it.

WindRunner. She has shielded me. I cannot channel or control.

Sensing Mary’s fear, WindRunner burst through the air, the giant ‘dragon following swiftly behind. Peregrina was bigger, which WindRunner used to his advantage, banking and turning quickly through the air, making it hard for the Thoughtdragon to follow. Mary found herself dizzy and out of sorts, casting about for ideas. WindRunner blasted a mighty caw at the Thoughtdragon and watched as a jet of light shot from his beak and hit Peregrina squarely between the eyes. She roared angrily, then continued her wild pursuit.

About the Author:Stories have crept around the halls of Kelly Byrd’s mind since she was a little girl. Not even the combined will of her two loyal pups, her devoted husband, and all her house plants could keep her from putting this story into the world. You’ll find this happy crew in Nashville. Tennessee.

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City of Lights by Kelly Byrd – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kelly Byrd will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What happens when oh so ordinary Mary Jingo, follows her instincts (and her nose) and ends up in a magical land Far From Home?

In City of Lights, author Kelly Byrd introduces readers to Mary, who is one week away from finishing fifth grade. Mary’s mind is on starting middle school in the fall and finally getting her own phone. But then this ordinary girl notices glimmers of light and meets a strange little man who conjures the best smell she has ever smelled. Before she even stops to consider what she’s doing, she agrees to accompany the man to the land of LeeChee, where our Mary Jingo from the Shadowlands in seen as warrior and a great hope.

Now this very ordinary girl must find a way to help save LeeChee from Thrall and restore the Everything—a magical life- and joy-giving force that somehow connects Mary’s world to LeeChee. How can she face the Void, the foul-smelling Shoeboxians, or the evil Mellie? And how can she do all of the Far From Home?

Enjoy an Exclusive Excerpt

It wasn’t quite a dragon. The winged figure circled them once, and stirred up such a strong wind that Mary had to raise her arm to cover her eyes. The giant creature landed soundlessly on the grass on the other side of the split-rail fence. Its eyes pierced Mary with such intensity that she wondered if she would shrink and shrink until she could hide under a rock on the ground. Its body was almost ten feet long and almost as tall. The wingspan was three times that, and its beak was huge and curved. The unusual animal stood on four legs, that ended in long sharp talons, each one a pale shade of gold.

On first glance, Mary thought it was covered in scales, but the creature was actually fitted from talon to tail in a thick black armor. Unlike any other bird she had seen, it had a long tail that whipped back and forth as the creature stood quietly in front of them.

It smelled like a rainstorm and lightning, and Mary could tell that this being was powerful beyond anyone she had ever met. The creature’s eyes were so intelligent that Mary was certain it had something to say.

Bobble, Mikeala, and Van Clare led Mary over to the entrance of the fence towards the giant creature and Van Clare quietly said, “Listen, Mary. Do you have Thunderbirds in the Shadowlands?”

“What are ‘the Shadowlands?’” Mary asked.

“Never mind,” Van Clare said, shaking her head slightly. “Do you have creatures like these where you come from.”

Mary shook her head.

“I know you are afraid, Mary Jingo,” Van Clare said, turning towards Mary. She looked down at her. “I was afraid, too, the first time I met a Thunderbird. Fear isn’t a bad thing. It lets you know that danger may be near. But these creatures have been allied with our People for hundreds of years. If you are kind to WindRunner, he will be kind to you. Do you understand?”

Mary nodded quickly, and wondered of all things, what had happened to her fuzzy pink slippers. She had not seen them in a while.

About the Author Kelly Byrd is a middle-grade author by choice, a writer by discipline, home-grown chef, and amateur gardener. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and two cute-as-buttons rescue pups. The Far From Home series is about growing up, finding your voice, and rescuing the Everything.

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