>I can’t get by without my Writing Friends

Rowena here
ROR photo — Margo Lanagan, Me, Richard Harland, Maxine McArthur, Trent Jamieson and Marianne de Pierres (Tansy Rayner Roberts and Dirk Flinthart absent)

Well, Dave’s done it again — tap danced while dealing out dollops of writing wisdom.

Unlike Dave, who did it all alone, I discovered writing friends early in my adventure. Marianne de Pierres (far right) and I met at the first Vision SF & F meeting. At that point I think I’d sold one children’s book and Marianne was recovering from a devastating critique from an appraiser who used a jack-hammer when a scalpel would have done. We had 9 children between us, 6 of them boys under 8. Aaargh!

But we were both passionate about the craft of writing. We attended workshops together, hung out at festivals and went to Cons. And we wrote in every spare moment, meeting at Scallywags (where our two youngest could play) while we critiqued each other’s work. But we wanted to push ourselves further.

In 2001 we established ROR (wRiters on the Rise), a group of writers dedicated to developing their craft. Together with Maxine, Tansy and Margo we circulated manuscripts a month beforehand, read everyone‘s books and wrote a report on them. Then we escaped from our families for a weekend and spent hours dissecting and rebuilding the books. We LOVED it. Only fellow writers could empathise.

Since then we’ve added three males to ROR, to leaven the mix and we’ve met every year or two. On a professional level we’ve had successes and disappointments. On a personal level we’ve supported each other through family illnesses and dramas. When one of us sells a series or wins an award, all of us cheer. The good thing about a diverse group like ROR is that we read and write across quite a few genres. So, when we put a manuscript in for feedback, if one person doesn’t get something and the rest do, then we can assume most people will.

What is really helpful for a writer to have, is a group of friends who love the genre and the craft, and eager to help the writer make their book the best it can possibly be.

Even with the internet, this is a lonely craft. On the whole, we work alone and it’s very hard to be subjective about the manuscript that we might have lavished a year of our lives on. A trusted critique circle is a rare and wonderful thing.

I’ve just booked for a weekend away next March with the ROR team. It means reading 7 manuscripts beforehand and writing reports, but it is worth it for the intellectual stimulation. I can’t wait.

Am madly scrambling to have my next book ready.