Writers Without Borders (Or How Skype Broadened Our Horizons)

I belong to a writers group that meets monthly at my church. What makes my group unusual is that the attendees are in two different states…and two different countries. Cathy, Nicole and I–and sometimes Kyle–are physically at the church, while April in Florida and William and Beth in Canada attend via Skype.

It’s worked beautifully for the past several months. We read aloud from our works in progress. Nicole has a wonderful YA book in the works, keeping us wondering from month to month what the snarky stepfather character will do next. Cathy’s read from a couple of very different fiction projects. I’ve read from multiple projects and blogs. William reads from Heaven & Hell or his hilarious blogs. Or we do a joint reading from Same Time Tomorrow. (The pages we can read from, given that we meet at the church, is limited. It’s no Fifty Shades of Gray, but it doesn’t leave too much to the imagination. We’re looking for beta readers, so be forewarned!) Beth had been reading from her current novel prior to its publication, but Saturday we were treated to 50 Shades of Sparkles, which can be found at her Bent River Books blog. April reads her powerful poetry, and Kyle, when he’s with us, has a very imaginative fantasy in the works.

Mostly, we laugh. A lot. William doesn’t just read his material, he acts it out. And he’s very good at accents. Saturday, he read two pieces from opposite ends of the creative spectrum: a scene from his upcoming novel, A Cold Day in Hell, and a blog post featuring one of his most popular characters, RCMP Inspector Lars Ulrich (no, not Lars Ulrich from Metallica). The novel excerpt was so vividly written and so gruesome that he left us all speechless! Everyone just went silent. Speechless….

We’ve all received the benefit of each other’s comments and suggestions. Some of us have made some discoveries about ourselves as writers. Beth found that in spite of her love of paranormal romance, her real gift is in romantic comedy. After years of writing drama, I’ve found that, at this stage of my career (and my life) all I want to write is humor. William, well, he’s just confirmed what we knew all along–he’s such a versatile writer that he can do both drama and comedy with equal skill. In all my years in the business, he is the most talented first-time author I’ve ever encountered. He has such an eye for detail that I will  no longer put my own books out there without having him read them first!

Nicole is still young but also incredibly gifted. I have to say it–she reminds me a great deal of myself at her age in her absolute dedication to her goal. Storytelling is as necessary to her as things like food, water and air. 

Some of our characters have become as much a part of the group as we are: Lars the Mountie; Roger, the stepdad everyone loves to hate; the rowdy Cantwell brothers…they all attend the meetings as regularly as we do.

That’s why we laugh so much. In fact, one of the guys who happened to be in the church at the time of one of our meetings told us we were were laughing so loudly they could hear us down in the gym. “You’re having way too much fun up here!” he laughed.

We must be doing something right….


24 responses

  1. It's a whole lot of fun doing the writer's meetings, and it's a pleasure. It's really important for writers to have this kind of feedback, and even in a conference call setting, it really does work.

    Your Cantwell brothers are priceless, of course, and very much in their own voice.

    And yes… Roger is the sort of person I'd like to see take a long walk off a short plank.

  2. Norma thinks I should continue the short story I read this time around. I was thinking of making a story with Jacob…maybe a zombie since Fredward was an alien…??? Or, a mangy mutt that has fleas??? LOL

    I'm in the process of re-writing “The Bracelet”…except, it will no longer be a fantasy romance…this time it will be a romantic comedy, and it will no longer be called The Bracelet…in fact, there probably won't be any jewellery involved. However, it will have a ghost….that's all I'm going to say!!

    I love our group…I do have a lot of fun with it…and, I'm glad I seemingly amused everyone with my short story…!

  3. I was wondering how you all were doing your readers' group. A conference call seems kind of impersonal. Sounds like you've found the perfect way to pull it together.

  4. You got a lot of laughs, Beth! And you really should continue the story…maybe the way William does with Lars on his blog. Maybe you could even have them encounter some Walmartians.

  5. How cool! I will have to suggest this to our group, since I can't always make it (I'm a two hour drive away) PS: I can just imagine William acting his piece out! he regularly visits my blog and I always appreciate the humor in his.

  6. Oh, Norma, you give me far too much credit. There have been plenty of times when I've been so immersed in a story that I've forgotten to eat…or sleep… It's a good thing my heart and lungs are on autopilot or I'd forget those too!

    And btw, I'm still strongly considering changing the entire ending of my story, so even I don't know 100% what Roger's fate will be. Fun fun!

  7. Wow, Norma, you guys are doing everything right. Your post will inspire more of us to utilize Skype. Actually, until I read your post, I hadn't thought about this approach, but, you know, I think you're on to something!

  8. Oh this is so true. I have a group also. We Skype as much as possible. It's so helpful. I just love them. More than critique partners, they're my friends.

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