7 Reasons Why You Should Be in a Writing Group: Guest Post by Bruce Niedt

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Please welcome our very own Bruce W. Niedt as a guest blogger today. Bruce is a beneficent bureaucrat and New Jersey native whose poetry has appeared in dozens of online and print journals, including Writers' Journal, The Lyric, US 1 Worksheets, Mad Poets Review, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Schuyllkill Valley Journal, Tilt-a-Whirl, and The Wolf (UK). His awards include the ByLine Short Fiction and Poetry Prize, first prize for poetry at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and a Pushcart Prize nomination. His latest chapbook is Breathing Out, available from Finishing Line Press via Amazon.com. As many of you probably already know, Bruce is also an active member of the Poetic Asides community.

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Since I rediscovered my love of writing poetry about 12 years ago, I've been in a number of poetry groups. Some are poetry "circles" or "communities" whose primary focus is more sharing than critique. They have their benefits, but it wasn't until I joined a writing and critique group that I really began to grow as a poet. Currently I'm a member of the Quick and Dirty Poets, a small but active group in southern New Jersey. We hold monthly meetings to share news and critique each others' work, publish an annual journal (Up and Under: The QND Review), and host monthly readings at a local coffee shop.

Why should you join a poetry writing group? I can think of at least seven reasons:

  1. Evaluation: A good writing group offers frank and constructive critique within a positive framework. Our group critiques one poem from each member at every meeting.
  2. Inspiration: Group members can be a source for ideas, or offer writing assignments and prompts. Friendly competition with others can motivate and inspire you to become a better writer.
  3. Education: You can learn a lot from other poets--whom they have read, how they write, and what they write about. One of our group members is an excellent formal poet and editor of a formal poetry journal. She is often our "go-to" person for questions and advice on writing in form.
  4. Information: Getting tips and information from fellow members on publications, contests, conferences, workshops, and academic programs is one of the most valuable perks of a writing group.
  5. Publication: I'm lucky to be in a group that includes two poetry journal editors and a chapbook publisher. But any poetry writing group can encourage working toward publication with advice from more experienced and successful members. Some groups, including mine, even publish their own journal or anthology.
  6. Promotion: A writing group can help you promote your work. Our group's monthly reading series exposes the community to accomplished local and regional poets, but we also use it as a venue to read our own work and offer an open mic to other attendees. The readings are also an opportunity to promote the featured poet's publications as well as our own books and journals.
  7. Socialization: One of the most rewarding benefits is the joy of sharing, collaborating, and forming friendships with fellow poets. Our merry band has attended conferences and festivals together, but we've also socialized outside the poetic milieu at parties, barbecues and camp outs. They say writing is a solitary art, but there's nothing like hanging out with your artistic buddies.

How do you find a poetry writing group? Contact your local library or bookstore--many of them host such activities. Check out the arts section of your local newspaper for announcements on readings and meetings. Your local college or university may have writing programs open to the public. And of course there's always the Internet. Or start your own group--all you need is two or more interested poetic friends and a place to meet.

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Want to learn even more about finding the right writing community?
Check out this digital excerpt from the Writer's Market Companion, by Joe Feiertag and Mary Carmen Cupito. Find out about various organizations and critique groups available to writers and choose the best place for your needs.

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