Thank Heavens for Critique Groups and Literary Friends
Contributor

I have a friend who lives in West Virginia, in a New Englandish town that is picture postcard perfect save for the squeal of heavily loaded coal trains twisting through town, and the neon-orange acid mine run-off that fills the ditches on either side of country roads. 

The mines themselves are long defunct, so the region bleeds its smartest children. 

 

My friend's life is complicated--for a time, she was married to her sister's ex-husband, so her niece and nephew were also her step-children. This tends to be what happens when you live in a town of 3,000 people--when the college is in session--where families still run large--my friend was the youngest of thirteen--and where there isn't much to do on Sundays after church except have go to the beauty parlor (women), polish up the car and the fire engine (men) and have affairs (pretty much everybody.) 

 

Another friend, who is a newcomer to the same town, has had a hard time making friends. Well, think about it. If Mama has thirteen siblings, figure Child has at least 132 cousins,  first, second and third, not to mention four or five brother and sisters of their own. And since families tend to spin the generations quickly there, the youngest aunt and uncle might be near enough in age to be playmates, too. Who has room to make new friends? This friend's children used to come home overjoyed if a native invited them to play. Where you are makes a difference in how you make friends. 

 

People in Los Angeles, at least in the wealthier areas, have often moved to the area to reinvent themselves. They will not be eager to let you get to know them deeply. You might uncover the playground nerd they know they once were. 

 

New Yorkers, overwhelmed by the crowd on the streets, may seem cold and distant--until you make any kind of human contact. Then, they will warm up instantly. 

 

Those in the community where I now live are more like West Virginians. They come from large families. Lots of cousins, aunts and uncles. Their best friend since kindergarten's grandmother was best friends in kindergarten with their grandmother. They may have never left this community where they know everyone, so they have no notion what it is to be an outsider. Every year, the news does stories on how rough it is for newcomers here. Nothing seems to change much. 

 

Add to that the logistics of daily life--nobody having any time anymore, everybody struggling to make ends meet. Homework. Sports. Music lessons. Middle class parents who feel they must schedule their children every moment--like the best friend of one of my children who could only meet at a classical children's concert, after church, the music lesson and the swim lesson. Mix in a school magnet program and religious elementary schools, making sure the children don't attend class with their neighbors. Sometimes, I go to the zoo and wistfully watch the snow monkeys at the zoo, their children scampering around their mothers, who sit in a circle, gossip and eat one another's lice. (And no, I'm not wistful about the lice.) 

 

 

But--there are my writer friends. Huge sigh of relief. My critique group, sane, eager to both give and get productive criticism. 

I have said this before and I will say it again--I am so grateful to work with these sane, adult, people who are rapidly becoming dear friends, folk who limit their drama to their work. And believe me, their work is incredibly good. 

 

There are also two local writers, Sue and Lorie, with whom I exchange work, so that what I first run by my critique group can get another polish. 

 

There is my dear online friend, Cece, who provides such wisdom and humor and support, and when she is writing, the delight of reading her brilliant pieces, or when she is composing, hearing her delicious songs. 

 

There are my friends, Marylee and Marylou, who have both been such strong backers of my work. There's Elisabeth and Bryna, who check in now and then, and a small, helpful crowd from She Writes. 

We're also blessed with a local community 

of agents, editors and writers who have begun to gather monthly to celebrate and commiserate and possibly tweet about the word in the world. Gratitude and cheers to you, Dawn, for making it happen.

 

So--hip hip hooray for creative friendship, Critique Groups et. all. Oh, you sane, lovely, funny, interesting people. You can be a part of my circle any time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let's be friends

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