Not everyone who thinks about or even starts to write a memoir succeeds in completing her book. One of the things that helps many who are successful to achieve publication is having someone to support them in completing the project. One great way to find that kind of support is to organize a group of other people in the process of creating memoirs. Here are some simple tips on how to do it.
- Find a place to meet. Some groups meet in the homes of one or more of the members on a rotating basis. But if you want a location other than member’s homes local libraries, senior centers, recreation centers, senior centers, bookstores and churches or synagogues may be willing to provide you with meeting space.
- Determine how often you’ll meet – weekly, bi-weekly, monthly. Set a schedule for meetings and stick to it. It makes it easier for members to plan for a regular time for each session.
- Decide on the size group you want. It should be large enough so that if a member or two misses the meeting there is still a group. But make sure that your group isn’t too large for everyone who wants to share what they are working on to have that opportunity. Somewhere between six and twelve is a good, workable size.
- Decide on the members for the group. If you know other people working on a memoir, great. Invite them. If not personal ads in local papers, posting on Craig’s List and posting flyers around town (coffee shops are a good spot).
- Decide on ground rules for your meetings. Decide on whether your group is a support group or a critique group. For many people without much writing experience a support group is best in helping them to complete their project. If you decide to go this way all the comments must be positive or offer suggestions. Examples include:
I liked the part when…
Tell us more about…
I didn’t understand the part…
Can you explain more…
6. Decide who will read from their work at group meetings. The common options are:
Completely voluntary. Members share stories only if / when they want to.
Draw lots among all those who want to read to determine the order of readers
Rotate among members with people scheduled for specific meetings.
Each offers advantages. Making reading voluntary removes anxiety among members, but there may be meetings where many of the members have nothing they want to read. Scheduling members to read is a prompt to make sure people are moving ahead with their projects, but members may feel some pressure as their scheduled date approaches.
7. Decide on a meeting format including time. Here’s a sample:
10 minutes to raise questions / discuss problems members have encountered
10/15 minutes to discuss a specific topic like: organizing stories, working with photographs or documents, interviewing to get more information, etc.
40/60 minutes for members to read and comment on what others have read
A strong writing group can give you the kind of support you need to help you to create the memoir you’re dreaming of.