The First Piece

I seem to be facilitating a writer’s group at my workplace. I did this last year, and it was awesome. There were just three of us (including my boss, which might have been awkward but mostly wasn’t), and there was a high level of trust and skill in both the writing and the critiques.

We’re opening it up this year, and it becomes scary again. I have a long project, and quite frankly some of it is still pretty tender. And I have pages and pages I want feedback on. So I scaled it back. I’m going to include some of the smaller pieces I want to send out. Easier to digest. More polished. Less raw.

I like to think that I’m a big and tough Indy Clause and can take all criticism, but I can’t show the early stuff to people I don’t know yet in a writing context, people who I have to work with, etc.

In grad school my friend and I talked about how you would be really careful about the first piece you submitted in a workshop. It had to be strong, but not finished. It had to show who we were and not necessarily be experimental—that was for later in the semester.

What foot do you start on?


15 responses to “The First Piece

  1. Ugh, that last paragraph. So painfully true.

    I spent yesterday afternoon with my writing group. Last night I was telling a friend how much I enjoy this group — they’re smart as hell, they’re kind, they’re excellent writers who don’t always show up with a polished thing (one man came yesterday with a poem he wrote that morning!), and they love to brainstorm with you if you ask questions about your own work (how about this? can you do that?). And best of all, they are all over 60 and have learned to check their egos at the door. Of course they want to publish their work, but mostly they love writing and learning and puzzling and seeing how they can work a piece to the best of their ability.

    • And Sarah, here were yesterday’s side topics: Atheism. The varying/clashing rules in the Book of Mormon. Women’s roles in Mesopotamia. And my personal favorite … a living being’s metabolic rate in relation to time. Time is experienced slower, for example, for hummingbirds and flies and cats due to higher metabolism. This is why the fly always seems to escape our slapping at it, because our moving hand is in slow motion for the fly. And it’s why cats, with core body temps of 104, are so quick in pouncing.


  2. What foot do you start on?
    I start when I think I am finished. Once I read to the crazy bunch I meet with, the feedback tells me how much I have left to do. It’s very helpful.

    A side note.
    I am very intrigued by your memoir. To me memoirs are written as either cathartic regarding trauma or you did something awesome like save a planeload of people during an emergency landing while gliding in on a foamed runway of whipped cream at the parking lot of a Dairy Queen factory.

    As an interloper to your blog, and an outsider not knowing the real story, how about giving us lurkers a hint?

    • We are all interlopers. I tend not to talk about the actual content of the memoir because of the anonymous nature of the blog and because of the not-done-yet-edness of the memoir.

      (Full disclosure: Dr. Cougar is my sister and knows more about this memoir than many, thus her knowing tone.)

      I see memoir as including dramatic rescues and surviving the unsurvivable, but also being like a novel: an interesting situation fully explored.

      • I figured out the Dr. Cougar sibling thing. I just wonder, which one is the pretty one and which one is the smart one; my two daughter’s harangue over that all the time. Both are both.

        Regarding your memoir, I am even more intrigued. Damn, I have to wait.

      • The pretty one? Indy’s cat. she’s pretty (and I don’t have a cat, so we don’t have to fight over that one). We look so much alike that someone once saw us in a restaurant (dim light, granted) and asked if we were twins. I really liked that since I am also enough older that a former boyfriend thought Indy was my love child, passed off as my sister to hide my indiscretions.

        But, actually, I know nothing about the memoir. Haven’t read a word. I just know the characters, the setting, the events, but all from a cougar-eye view. Can’t wait to see how Indy casts it, but I am not allowed yet. Not for a long time.

        should be good though. she knows how to write, that one.

  3. I have never had a writer’s group but I have had a camera club. There were certainly photographs I never showed. In fact, I have many, many pictures that I will never show anyone.

    Sounds like you’re trusting your gut. That is always the right way to go.

  4. I’m much too intimidated to be in a writers group or show my work. I just keep working on it until I am satisfied and then send it out. (Some of it even gets published.) I suspect I would be dismissive about any critique I received from peers. That’s not pretty, but it is what it is.

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