In 1997, my friend Christine and I decided to form a writers' group of two. We were both fledgling writers who recognized our mutual need for support and encouragement. We met every other week at the Pie Tin, often at 7am but sometimes a little later in the morning. We would read each other's work, do free-writes together, share books, or try out writing prompts we'd found. We enrolled in a correspondence course in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa and read each other's pieces before sending them off.
After several years of meeting, Christine was writing a novel and I'd enrolled in an MFA program. We decided that we needed to expand our network, and we each invited another writer and so become a group of 4. When Arlyn and Joan joined us, we got more focused and formalized a very effective critique group protocol. Christine's commitment to her book-length project provided the motivation that I needed to step away from writing personal essays and start my own book.
To gain momentum on our book projects, Christine and I went away for 7 days in 2002 and stayed in a cabin at a rustic resort in Philo, CA. For the entire 7 days, we invoked a no-talking rule, except for during an evening check-in and our mid-day walk. We wanted to get lots of work done and we did! Christine finished the first draft of her novel that week and I transcribed about 10 audio-tapes for my book and completed an outline for the rest of my project.
Sometime after this, Christine moved to San Francisco and Joan had health issues that forced her to drop out of our group. Arlyn and I invited two more writing friends to the group, and I forged ahead on my book. Christine and I stayed in contact, talking occasionally on the phone or meeting for tea when she was in town. She had put her novel aside after taking a playwriting class and had begun work on a script. I was working on the third, then fourth, and finally the fifth revision of my book.
Then this summer a remarkable thing happened. The publication of my book, Between Two Women, coincided with the production of her play "Unforgettable." The weekend of my book launch at the Opera Hall, Christine's play was being produced at Black Bart Players Theater in Murphys. This was not a planned occurrence, though the simultaneity was undoubtedly inevitable.
Our writers' journeys are entwined in time and space. On one marvelous weekend, we shared the fear and elation of making our work public. We smiled with joy and a deep sense of accomplishment. Today we have a tea date to consider the next steps in our writing adventures.