Don’t mess with Sarah
Or let this smile fool you.
The Casa Marina Writers Group is small, intense and demanding. Reading occasionally feels like a interview gone awry. When presenting an important chapter, we often take a deep breath before reading aloud.
Rules are hard wired. Come with copies, and if you’re late, you will likely receive a call within 10 minutes. asking for an explanation and ETA.
Work is discussed by all members and written commentary provided for and returned to author for consideration.
From time to time I consider leaving the group, but I know that my novel would not be what it is without the ongoing commentary of the group pointing out flaws in everything from meta issues – motivation, character – to concerns like time of day, consistency, historical & geographic accuracy. Not enough dialogue. Not believable. Too much description .. blah blah blah
The Casa Marina Writer’s Group of Key West is not an encouraging lovefest, dedicated to shoring up the fragile self-esteem of the writer. There’s the odd slammed door and storm out, occasional raised voices and certainly diatribes are common enough, but in the end, we are more passionate about improving our work than defending our ego. Although criticism can be hard to take, it might make the difference between producing a mediocre work and a really good piece.
The group also pinpoints *exactly* why something works. Did I mention that?
Another writer in the group also pondered decamping, but then said – I wouldn’t have turned my short story into a novel if it weren’t for this group, so I think I have to stay for now.
I recently read Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art, and loved it. He is even more brutal than we are about the work it takes to complete and refine a piece of writing. This is not a game. In his view it is nothing short of life and death.
The slog from writer of fragments to revised novel is a long and tough one and if you just want to put something out there, don’t join a group like Casa Marina of Key West.
I’m not saying there is no place for really really sweet writers groups. I belong to another that is extremely encouraging, and I get much from them as well.
There are days when you need someone to tell you that they love your dress but sometimes you really do want to know if it makes your ass look big. And our group will always let you know the harsh truth.
Paradoxically, it takes a healthy ego to hear that your wonderful piece is not up to par, the kind of ego that is able to discriminate between suggestions that should be kept and those that that should be tossed.
I think writing is the most difficult art form for a number of reasons. It is so much harder to sit in judgment of an art form when you don’t do it yourself. If you have never picked up a paintbrush you can stand back and marvel at the mysterious process that allowed the artist to complete a painting.
Because it is not in you bag of tricks, you may likewise feel less secure about critiquing the work. Not so with writing. The problem is that everyone does it – not well, but they do it anyhow. And so think that “if only I had the patience, time, money, space (fill in the blanks) I too would write a spellbinding tale – probably my life story (and likely better that the drivel out there).
In an era where any and all efforts are met with extravagant praise, our tiny group (of five) can feel like a private boys school with rotating headmasters. Does it work for everybody? No way. And some personalities simply do not mesh, but I know I never would have come as far as I have without them.
In my view the only thing worse that harsh criticism is false praise. And you never, ever have to worry about that with The Casa Marina Writers Group.