I stumbled into my first Inland Northwest Writers’ Guild meeting on a December Wednesday several years ago. (My memory is not what it used to be, so I don’t remember precisely which year.) And I stumbled because the sidewalk was icy, okay? Don’t worry, this post contains no alcoholic beverages.
I was nervous as I climbed the stairs to what was, at the time, the third floor of Auntie’s Bookstore. A guild sounded so official. Probably these people were serious if not professional writers. Probably they’d all been published.
I felt like an impostor. I’d never even finished anything besides short stories and articles. Most of those had been for school. What was I doing here? I’d been a closet writer all my life. I was always “working on something,” or “had a great idea for a book,” but when people asked me what I wanted to do after college, I almost never had the guts to say I wanted to write. I’d usually come up with some kind of day job for myself. Besides, lots of my friends were working on their own novels. If so many people in a place as small as Deer Park were trying to get published, what chance did I really have? What separated me from every other schmuck with a novel or screen play in a desk drawer?
Yet, here I was. I’d straightened my hair, put on a skirt, tights, button-down shirt, blazer, and nice boots. I wanted to look professional. This seemed like a big deal. The truth of the matter was, I wasn’t finishing a novel on my own. I wasn’t sending things out to publishers. I felt lost about the whole thing. Maybe these people would have some answers for me.
The third floor of Auntie’s was packed with chairs. There was a stage with a podium at the front of the room. There was juice and cookies. This didn’t look so scary. This kind of looked like a church social. Everyone was dressed casual. Many of the people were older, but there were a few who were my age. Linda, an author and an Auntie’s employee, and Bonnie, an author with professional marketing experience, ran the meeting. I’d guess the audience was somewhere around thirty or forty people. Maybe more.
We all went around and introduced ourselves, then Linda asked if anyone had any news to report about being published, or getting a rejection letter.
I don’t remember whether anyone had any news at that meeting, but I remember the way Linda phrased it, “Any wonderful rejection letters.” I loved that. It made me realize we were all in the same boat. The published authors coming there to network, the newbies like me, none of us could control whether a publisher would accept our work. All we could do was send out our best product possible, do our research, and keep trying.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that many of the people who talk to me about wanting to write a book seem excited until I start talking about monthly meetings, weekly critique groups, rejection letters, and revisions. Then their eyes start to glaze over. Maybe for some people, it’s something they just like to daydream about and they don’t want reality getting in the way of that.
In reality, writing is work. It’s not something you always feel like doing or have energy for. It’s not always easy, but if you let that stop you, you’re a hobbyist, not a writer. Writers Guild is still held every month at Auntie’s Bookstore. There are still snacks most times. We meet on the second floor now, on one half of the mezzanine, but it isn’t crowded because we’ve got about half the group we had when I started. Bonnie has left to persue other interests (she really did have alot going on.) Linda is still there, still running the group, and I still see her every month when I show up. There are fewer of us now, but we are still here.