Friday, April 1, 2011

Developing Writers

I'm busy writing (hurray!), but I found this intriguing article today on Slate, which you can read here.

It compares Renaissance London to today's Topeka, Kansas, and thus shows us through the comparison how little we as a society tend to value writers. The article, written by Bill James, outlines four things we do for athletes that we do not do for writers:

First, we give them the opportunity to compete at a young age.

Second, we recognize and identify ability at a young age.

Third, we celebrate athletes' success constantly. We show up at their games and cheer. We give them trophies. When they get to be teenagers, if they're still good, we put their names in the newspaper once in a while.

Fourth, we pay them for potential, rather than simply paying them once they get to be among the best in the world.

While I can't agree with everything in the article, I do agree with his main point: instead of criticizing what we do to push athletics, let's just do the same thing for the artists and writers of our society, so that their skills are honed and encouraged as well.

I've been toying with getting my daughter art classes for a while now. I'm not toying with it any more. I think there's an art camp--and a theatre camp--she can join this summer, too. She's an artist with more talent at ten than I have at 41, and she can go a long way with the right encouragement and training.

And it's time to start a writer's group. Here. Now.

Wish me luck!


  1. I do, with your daughter's art classes and your writer's group. Kind regards, Carole.

  2. Your 41...hell you're just a kid yourself. But yes get that child into the arts. Sports *meh* Michelangelo...The Pieta. No comparisons.

  3. Perhaps the difference is in the massive subjectivity of writing and the very poor market for the finished product--as opposed to the widespread popular appeal of the very objective sport.

  4. Mother has a point, but I think you have excellent ideas, though. I've never regretted encouraging Stephanie's singing.

    A writer's group is a great idea. Local or on-line?

  5. Thanks for all your comments, as well as for no snarky ones telling me there wasn't a link (and there is now, if you'd like to check it out).

    I guess I'm hoping to make reading more popular, in much the same way J.K. Rowling did. I want people standing in line for the next installment of my series like I did for the Harry Potter series.

    The writer's group would be local, I think. Except for the few fellow writers with whom I already have rapport, I'd like to keep it face-to-face, probably because right now I'm mostly at home alone. We have local artists who offer classes, and I might start an adult writer's group AND develop a course for younger people. It would really have to be age-specific, though. Supposedly there might be a writer's group already here, but I haven't found it yet.

  6. Shakes this is serious question...I have heard people all over blogburbia talk of their writing groups...but what the hell is one, what do you do; tell each other how wonderful your crap is? Seriously there must be some here in Detroit but damned if I know what they are about, same with conferences. All I have ever heard about them was getting a week end drunk on and flirting with someone a wee bit more or less talented than yourself. To what purpose do these things exist?

  7. Good luck! And in answer to the walking man, writing groups can be pertty much what you want them to be, but ideally whatever the structure they should be supportive and friendly

  8. Each writers' group is slightly different. I've been to ones where people merely dredge up something they wrote several decades ago, and then everybody claps.

    I don't like those. Not helpful unless one only needs ego stroking.

    I have helped found (or founded on my own) three writing groups myself, and all three emphasize development and criticism. In two of them we actually had meetings where we would be given a prompt and would write under a time limit. Then the other half of the meeting people could read work they were currently suffering through, with the understanding that those who listened could ask questions, clarify, critique and suggest, within certain parameters (the standing rule is the the author of the piece is the only one allowed to "write" it... responders could not rewrite the piece to make it better).

    I had MANY writers who came to my meetings and found any criticism was too much. And they never came back.

    I have also been to MANY meetings where applause was the only response, and I never went back to those meetings. The philosophy behind the kind of writing group I love is that writers write in a vacuum for the most part, especially as they develop a work, and they need other people with brains and solid intuition and skill to help them if they fall into a rough spot or if they grow too close to their own work.

    The best group I've ever been with is the Seattle Playwrights' Cooperative. Brilliant people with lots of talent, willing to see what a writer is trying to accomplish and help him or her get there. I will miss them.

    I do actually have a lead here. River Writers meet every third Thursday of the month. I'll try them out in May, as I'll be out of town this month.

    I'm sure that's more than you wanted to know, but, oh, well...

  9. Good luck! And hooray that you're encouraging your daughter's interest in the arts! None of my kids are super interested in art, but they did take an art camp one summer and really enjoyed it.