Basic KWG requirements:
1. Everyone in the group must be a paid-up KWG member
2. Respect the KWG values of non-discrimination: no racist, violence-inciting, person-demeaning work.
3. Keep updated blurb on the KWG website briefly describing the group, stating whether the group is accepting new members and giving a contact person and email.
Choosing your focus:
Once you have met the simple KWG requirements, find a model that works for you. Some groups are open to all, including drop ins. Others have a selection process. Typically, groups are organized by genre (fiction, poetry, etc), but you can elect otherwise. For example, there have been successful groups set around writing prompts. Groups may be any size, based on how much time you want to give for each critique. Generally, it’s best to require that everyone in the group submit regularly. No need to be hard-line about this. Things come up; life happens. But to have someone just “listening in” usually doesn’t work. Everybody needs a turn at the hot seat.
Filling the seats:
You can announce your group on the KWG Group Facebook page and at meetings. You may also post a blog on the KWG website describing what you have in mind. You may also put a short notice with contact information on one of our email blasts.
Organizing the meetings:
In some groups, members read their work aloud and discussion follows. In others, copies are sent around before the meeting and members critique them at home and share critiques in the group. Some groups devote single sessions to one writer; others critique the work for everyone who submitted. In some, people actually write or edit during the meeting time. For example, one person brings in a writing prompt and everyone works on that.
Supporting each other:
You may set a standard for critiques and comments, like stating first what works. Some groups let the writer respond to each comment. Others suggest that the writer waits until all the commentary is in. Find a model that feels comfortable, productive and supportive to each writer. The point of a group is to support and nourish each writer to produce their best and feel good about the process. KWG once hosted a poetry group with an intriguing model: the group set a goal of submissions to literary magazines. Acceptances or rejections didn’t matter, which took the sting out of suggestions. At the end of the year, the group reached a 20% acceptance rate, which is amazing.
Finding a good, reliable location:
A public library may have free, quiet meeting rooms you can reserve. Coffee shops can work well, although there may be issues of privacy. You may want a policy on eating: someone having a meal can be distracting (and messy). If you are going to meet in someone’s home, don’t put a hospitality burden on that host/hostess, like assuming freshly baked cookies. Water, coffee or tea is plenty. You are there to work, not to test recipes.
You can set the frequency of meetings. Most groups meeting once or twice a month for 1 to 2 hours. Make sure the length and frequency is going to work long-term for everyone. Once set, keep the schedule! Require/demand that members make regular attendance a priority. Things fall apart if meeting location and time have to be constantly discussed and debated.
Having a leader:
Each group needs someone responsible for responding to requests to join, posting blurbs about the group on the KWG website, making space reservations if necessary and notifying members of changes. It’s best to rotate leadership so nobody gets overloaded. Other than that, most KWG groups run democratically, a meeting of equals, rather than as a class.
Getting down to business:
You may allow time for catching up on personal matters, but the most successful writing groups get to work quickly and stay on task.