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What do you need to be a better writer? A writing group!

The thick dictionary I keep near my desk (The American Heritage 3rd ed.—black covers, gold writing, hefty) defines a “group” as: “An assemblage of persons or objects gathered together or located together; an aggregation.” Another definition is: “A number of individuals or things considered together because of similarities.”

When I talk about my writing group, I suppose I’m using the word in this second sense, but that hardly does justice to the assemblage of persons that has been my writing lifeline for many years. Without them, I might have given up writing entirely. From them I’ve gotten sage career guidance, expert editing advice, and necessary marketing know how. They’ve given me support when rejections rolled in and celebrated with me with every acceptance or good review. We strive to be kind and generous and honest with each other.

Want to know what you should do to get your book published—traditionally or indie? Get some writing buddies you trust. Ask them to read your manuscript. Listen when they tell you what they think. If you are lucky, they will point out the good parts of the story. You need to hear what works. But if you are really lucky, they will tell you where your story is weak. Trust me, there are weaknesses in your story—you need to know what they are. Good writing buddies will tell you. I’m blessed that my writing buddies tell me.

Here they are:
Pat Bridgman has published short stories in Highlights and Cricket. She spends many hours preparing for her roles as a historical re-enactor. Among the characters she inhabits to remarkable effect are Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. Pat made her television debut playing a woman hanged as a witch during the infamous Salem Witch Trials.

Pat Lowery Collins is author, artist, teacher. Her imagination takes her from a nineteenth century shipbuilding community in Essex in her novel Daughter of Winter to an eighteenth century orphanage for girls in Venice in her novel Hidden Voices, to a tropical island in the Caribbean in her novel The Fattening Hut, to seances and out of body experiences in her novel Just Imagine, and the quiet of a New England wood in her forth coming picture book, The Deer Watch. For a full list of her many accomplishments (including her painting awards) go to her website. Pat has been on the faculty of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Lesley in Writing for Young People for many years.

Chris Doyle was a teacher in elementary schools so he knows what’s going on in the minds of nine and ten year old boys. He uses that knowledge to help him craft the protagonists in his middle grade novels—boys who have to face difficult challenges but keep a quirky sense of humor. Chris has indie published two novels and is tackling several other projects while pursuing a new career in web design.

Chris Brodien-Jones writes fantasy/adventure novels for middle grade readers including The Owl Keeper, a dystopian story set in the future; The Scorpions of Zahir, a fantasy-adventure set in Morocco, coming out in Summer 2012; and The Glass Puzzle, a middle-grade adventure set in Tenby, Wales. Chris is particularly adept at crafting creepy villains—scravens, scorpions, other worldly beings that mysteriously appear and wreak havoc in her protagonists’ lives.

Donna McArdle has written several middle grade novels and picture books. Donna has great rapport with the struggles young girls face in their effort to be heard in their families and has created many memorable characters, including a girl who loves chickens. She is a writing coach in an elementary school and gives seminars to teachers about teaching writing. She has a BFA in creative writing from Kirkland/Hamilton College and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has published poetry in Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Coe Review, and Cutbank. She also self-published Essex County Harvest, a book that follows the growing season for a year and includes short features on several local farms and farm stands.

Valerie McCaffrey is another multi-talented artist, teacher, writer. She is a poet and essayist, mining many themes including painting and family and loss. She is hard at work on a book about teaching painting—a combination “how-to” and memoir. Her writing is always honest and frequently laugh-out loud funny.

Lennie Strohmeier is an award winning artist, watercolor instructor, illustrator and picture book author. She illustrated the picture book Hurricane (written by Corinne Demas) and wrote Mingo (illustrated by Bill Farnsworth) about a young girl’s tender relationship with the man her father owned as a slave, a story that surprisingly takes place in colonial era Massachusetts.

Linda Teitel is our newest member. She is the author of the early chapter book Angus MacMouse Brings Down the House. You can find her blog Mouse Squeaks here

Those are my writing buddies, now go and find your own. An excellent resource to make your hunt easier is the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

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