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Friday Speak Out!: Climbing the Mountain: Start Your Own Writers’ Discussion Group: Tips from Electric Sheep


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by Myna Chang

Have you ever fallen so hard in love with a flash or short story that you couldn’t wait to talk about it--only to remember your book club exclusively discusses full-length novels and your writers’ critique group focuses solely on members’ WIPs?

Where can you go to gush about that phenomenal short story, or ask questions about the experimental flash piece you didn’t fully understand? A made-to-order discussion group might be the solution you’re looking for.

Talking through published pieces with other writers can promote deeper reading, which can enhance your own work. It’s also a wonderful way to maintain your enthusiasm and expand your community.

But how to get started? Here are a few tips I’ve gathered from hosting Electric Sheep, a speculative fiction discussion group that recently celebrated its first birthday.

First, consider your goals. Do you hope to discover fresh narrative styles, or new authors? Are you hoping to uncover additional layers of meaning, or explore other readers’ interpretations and perspectives? Electric Sheep’s primary goal is to celebrate scifi and fantasy short stories. Analyzing these pieces with other speculative writers often brings unexpected insight into the story, as well as the craft of writing.

Next, think about how to structure your activities. Maybe you want to participate asynchronously through a message board or chat group. Or perhaps you’d like to meet virtually. How will you decide which stories to discuss, and how will you assign organizational tasks? Electric Sheep meets weekly via Zoom. We keep our schedule and participation guidelines in a group spreadsheet in Google Docs. There are many ways to approach this, so envision a setup that will be convenient and enjoyable for you and your members.

Speaking of members, how do you find each other? If you’re a writer, you might already be part of online authors’ groups. Literary Twitter is overflowing with writers of every genre and skill level, making it easy to connect with others who share your interests. Don’t forget to check the bulletin board at your local library. Most of the people in my group met through an online workshop offered by a bookstore.

Finally, try to keep an open mind. Your new friends may have all sorts of suggestions that never occurred to you--be brave and experiment until you find the right combination of structure and procedures. The folks in Electric Sheep keep surprising me with their generosity and brilliant ideas. Our meetings are the highlight of my week.

I wish you good luck starting your group, and remember: have fun!

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Myna Chang (she/her) is the host of Electric Sheep. Her work has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton), Best Small Fictions, Fractured Lit, X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, and The Citron Review, among others. She has won the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the New Millennium Award in Flash Fiction, and she’s a huge fan of the WOW! Flash Fiction contest. She reads submissions for Uncharted Magazine and Janus Literary. Find her at MynaChang.com or on Twitter at @MynaChang.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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