Wednesday, June 3, 2015

R.I.P., Alameda Writers Group

R. I. P., AWG


The Alameda Writers Group, aka AWG, went dark this year after a long and productive run as one of the premier writers’ support groups in the Los Angeles area.

I was a member for many years, and only now that it’s gone do I fully appreciate the benefits I derived from AWG.

At the General Membership Meetings I heard speakers like acclaimed novelist Diana Wagman, as well as writers from TV series like “Rome” and “True Blood” and had a chance to tell them in person how much I enjoyed their work. Some speakers discussed their craft and others told encouraging stories about their long and winding roads to publication/production.

It was a priceless networking tool, and I owe many of my friendships—including those of ALL the Writers in Residence—to the AWG, either directly or indirectly.

The relationships I formed through AWG were instrumental in my producing a published novel, thanks to the critique groups I joined. In them, I experienced the “tough love” that only fellow writers can provide: honest but compassionate feedback on what worked in my writing, and what didn’t. I heeded their comments, went back to my novel-in-progress and reshaped it until it did (mostly) work.

One of my peak AWG experiences, in fact, came when I joined fellow novelist Heather Ames (whom I met in those critique groups, one of which she moderated) to address the membership and describe our paths to publication.

Why am I going on and on about a now-defunct organization? Partly it’s guilt. AWG began to founder, and I did nothing to prevent it, so this post is a big mea culpa. When new leadership made some missteps, and many of the members felt the organization began to drift off-course, all I did was gripe about how AWG had lost touch with fiction writers. Some of my colleagues did try to intervene, but they were rebuffed, and I used that as an excuse for inaction.

Membership dwindled. New leaders came on board and tried to redirect and re-energize the group, but the damage had been done. Finally, the meeting venue closed down for renovation, and it became obvious that it was time to turn off the lights. All good things must come to an end and all that.

But I think it’s important to recognize the value of AWG, and I know that if I ever find another group like it, I will try to do more to keep it going. Good old hindsight.

When I joined AWG, I’d left a career in the business world and had a vague notion that I would devote myself full-time to writing. However, I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to be a “real” writer. Over time, I began to believe that I did have the makings of novelist, if I was willing to work at my craft and be open to feedback, and the result of all that was, among other things, Mending Dreams. I wrote my novel, and I found a publisher, and I honestly don’t know if that would have happened if I hadn’t joined AWG all those years ago.

And so, with apologies to Lerner & Loewe, “don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot. . .” where writers of all kinds were welcomed, acknowledged, encouraged, and given a chance to improve their craft.

For that, AWG, I thank you.

11 comments:

  1. Fantastic post, Bonnie. I too have to say "Mea culpa" for I was a member of AWG for years before moving to Orange County. And I too saw it decline and did nothing but murmur and stop attending.
    I also enjoyed and profited from the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) of both Fiction and Novel Writing, although my forte was journalism. It was in a SIG that I announced my first published article in a local newspaper.
    I've written a few short stories, but I believe it was the camaraderie and encouragement from the fellow writers that kept me writing and selling.
    Thank you for giving the Alameda Writer's Group the praise it deserves.

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    1. I remember that publication announcement! And there is nothing more gratifying than sharing sucesses, large and small, with your fellow writers, because they understand how much it took to get there.

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  2. Hearing of the demise of AWG saddened me, but I was not surprised. When I joined over ten years ago, it became a lifeline for me. Like you, I met many other writers who helped me produce my first novel, and made some great friends in the process. But the group focused on screenwriting more than writing in general, a trend that grew over the years. Only two SIGs were devoted to fiction and the general SIGs that were supposed to apply to all writers had a decidedly script writing bent (one moderator scoffed at novel writing as being "too wordy" for him).

    Nevertheless, I took a position on the AWG Board, became the moderator of the Novel SIG for several years, submitted articles to the newsletter and made a presentation to the general membership explaining the advantages writing fiction - "win an Oscar for best adapted screenplay". Few listened, fewer cared. The two fiction SIGs fizzled out.

    I share your appreciation for the AWG's role in our writing careers, but I can say with certainty - don't feel guilty. It wouldn't have mattered if you had tried.

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    1. Thanks for the absolution, Miko. You sure tried harder than I did to keep AWG going.

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  3. AWG was a great launching pad for a few writers. Since I was a member of the Novel SIG for several years, I know the benefits it brought. And the friendships that came from that encounter make it even more satisfying. So adieu, AWG. Thanks for the great memories... and for the friends I made because of you.

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    1. The friendships will continue on as AWG's legacy, GB.

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  4. I've tended to think some groups/organizations I've been in (even friendships) will go on and on, will always be there. When they weren't, it's always been and shock, and definitely sad. So I certainly understand your feelings about AWG, Sounds like it was a great group.

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    1. "Was" is the operative word, MM, but you would have liked it a lot and fit right in.

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  5. It seems that I'm one of the few writers who didn't belong to AWG, but it has to be sad to see a great support group drift away.My condolences.

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    1. Yes it's sad. But thank goodness for our WinRs to keep the writing flame alive among us.

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  6. It saddened me to hear of AWG's demise. It was established by a dedicated group of people. Then it diminished somewhat, but grew again with efforts of a few. I was one of them. A great team of people. I still have a few of the short story publications that were published and sold and given away to our friends. Fantastic group. Yes, it began devoting its interest to screenwriting, but that is but one feature of a writing guild. The SIGs (better name than critique group) were instrumental in improving the writing of the members. I relocated to the Palm Springs area following my retirement from a career in a field other than writing. But, I maintained my membership for a period of time. I now belong to the Palm Springs Writers Guild. I assisted in the formation of this group which now has more than 150 members. I present a writing program at a Senior facility here in Cathedral City. Have been presenting it since 2014. Its title: Writing Great Stories. I've found that one must continue writing, no matter the age of the writer. Best to all writers I know and have known. It is an exciting field.

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