by Kemble Scott
I started my journey as an author by writing short stories about the weird events I'd seen after moving to San Francisco. I was living in the South of Market neighborhood, before the high-rise condos and beautiful ballpark. Dot-com was in its infancy. The streets were full of mischief, much of it x-rated.
Those tales would later inspire me to write my debut novel SoMa. But back then I really needed feedback to know if I was succeeding as a writer. I found a writing group and presented my stories.
One woman was so appalled, she created a scene by sticking her fingers in her ears whenever I read.
Nice, huh? That wasn't exactly constructive criticism. If I'd taken her response to heart I probably would have given up. I left that group and tried a couple others, until I found one that was a match for me.
It's a cruel fact that some people use writers groups as a platform for attacking the work of other writers. According to her son, author Anne Rice once attended a writing group in San Francisco. She was rebuked for wasting the group's time with her stories about vampires. Rice moved to New Orleans, where she apparently found a more supportive environment, and published Interview with the Vampire. She has millions of fans and has inspired countless writers.
So how do you find a writers group that will help, rather than hurt?
Try the San Francisco Writers Workshop. It's held each Tuesday night at 7 p.m. sharp in the basement of the Meridian Gallery near Union Square in San Francisco. Map.
The workshop is free and open to anyone. Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry – maybe even that book proposal you've been working on. Writers read their work aloud, up to six pages double-spaced, and get instant reaction from their fellow writers.