A Writing Circle Book Club

September 4, 2019 at 4:56 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Years ago, I read a book about a writer’s circle. I was intrigued by it and I wrote a review: https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/the-writing-circle/. I believe at the time I joined a Facebook group of writers I knew and we cheered each other on with word count posts and other such encouragements from the depths of cyberspace. I thanked them in the acknowledgements of one of my novels. They were great, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate their friendship and efforts — but it wasn’t a true writer’s group. Or at least not the one I imagine in my head.

I have never sat in a group with prepared writing and exchanged critiques that wasn’t an awkward pairing off in an English course over the literary merits of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Until this month.

Well, it’s just two of us. And we’ve only met once. It’s almost a bit more like a book club of people who write, maybe. But it spurred me on creatively and I’m very excited about it.

For our first meeting, we read Lost Among the Living as homework. The idea is to implement the concept Stephen King talks about in On Writing about having tools in your tool box. I write The Bookshop Hotel series, small town cozy with occasional mysterious interludes (also occasional funny and possibly more than occasional angst). My friend wants to write thrillers. Simone St. James writes somewhere in between, and creatively speaking, she added a few more tools to both our boxes.

Simone St. James nails plot points and pacing, something I tend to grasp and flail at. I typically tell people my books naturally flow like a French film where nothing much happens until my editors say, “Hey, you need a plot point here.” Even my grandmother keeps telling me to put a rat in the store or kill someone off. I have obediently placed “easter egg” mice throughout the story. I enjoyed Lost Among the Living more than I expected to, having chosen in for the purpose of reading it with others and gotten it for next to nothing, rather than for myself alone. It’s not something I would have picked up full price at Barnes & Noble prior to reading one of her titles. As soon as I was through, however, I ordered another of her books on Amazon to be delivered to my kindle. I plan to read it as soon as a cool front comes in. I think her books may best be devoured in front of the fire place.

In the meantime, I am halfway through writing the next two books in my series. If all goes well, I will be sending an anthology of shorts and a full length novel to my publisher in the next three months. I look forward to more “writing circle” meetings and what I can learn and share in them.

If you are a writer, what have been your favorite “tool box” books? (Top of my list is Madeleine L’engle’s Crosswick Journals.)

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The Writing Circle

December 11, 2015 at 6:26 am (Reviews) (, )

Title: The Writing Circle pcwritingcircle_paper_a.png

Author: Corinne Demas

Publisher: Voice

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Literary Fiction

Length: 305 pages

I loved this book.  It has a slow, steady pace, but one worth indulging in.  Demas has the writing style I was going for when I first tackled the genre with The Bookshop Hotel series.  However, in her prolific career, she has mastered the craft in a way that proves I have so much to learn.

The Writing Circle is a much darker story than it appears to be at first glance, or even in the first half of the story itself.  It chronicles the lives of Nancy, Bernard, Virginia, Adam, Chris, and Gillian as they discuss and critique their craft.  Nancy is a novelist who writes and edits a medical journal by day. Bernard, a biographer. Virginia and Chris are both published fiction writers as well.  Adam is the youngest, an aspiring writer; and Gillian is the most renown of the group, a poet short-listed for a Pulitzer.

A lot of reviews on Goodreads complain about the number of characters and many readers say it was hard to keep track.  I didn’t find this a problem at all.  If anything, I marveled at Demas’ ability to write a third person limited omniscient viewpoint with so many distinct voices.  She has nailed the ability to travel seamlessly from one character to the next without head hopping, while restricting the inner monologue and recollections to only that which carries the narrative of the specific story she is trying to tell.  The book is brilliant.  I hope my third book displays at least half as much talent and craftsmanship.

I look forward to reading more of Demas’ work.  She has a lot to choose from.

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