For over a decade, all my writing (both published and unpublished) was carried out in academia. I hadn’t written a word of fiction. In 2013, I took on a contract job. After about a year and a half, the work ran out, but the contract was still in force, so they continued to pay me to literally sit at a desk for eight hours a day. I know, right? Great work if you can get it (no one but me thought there was anything wrong with this). If you’ve been around me more than a few minutes, you’ll understand that I cannot sit still for long, so I asked my supervisor if I could bring my personal laptop to help pass the time. My request was granted with no questions asked.
I have always been a voracious reader and have almost exclusively read Christian fiction since it became a genre back in—what? The 80s or 90s? Contemporary and historical romance were and still are my favorites. I had an idea rolling around in my head for a fictional story involving an undercover intelligence operative and a senator’s daughter in Washington, DC, so I began getting it down on paper, so to speak. It would never see the light of day, but it would keep my brain engaged. The more I wrote, the more ideas percolated.
I secured a full-time position at another company several months later. My boss took me to lunch the first day and when we were trading tidbits about our families, he uttered words that would change my life: “My wife is an author. She runs a writers’ group here in central Iowa.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
I joined the Des Moines (Iowa) Writers’ Workshop and squeezed every drop of inspiration from their various offerings. A six-week class on Monday evenings called “Starting Block” gave me the tools to actually write a book, not just word-barf. When they formed critique groups, I joined one.
This was the first time I would share any of my written words with another human being, and let me tell you, it was scary. When you write, a part of your heart drips into every sentence, and that makes you vulnerable. I crafted my first submission, attached the file, and froze. The cursor hovered over the upload button. I let go of the mouse and laid my hand in my lap. After a couple more tries, I did the deed, and immediately regretted it. What am I doing? What if they laugh at me? What if I’m a terrible writer? What if they kick me out? But I didn’t recall the post.
I attended the first critique group meeting with trepidation and came away with encouraging feedback and great suggestions. More importantly, I met people whose life experiences were very different from mine, and I introduced them to the genre of Inspirational (Christian) Romance. Not a single person there had ever heard of it. On the flip side, I learned about things such as werewolf fiction. At first, it was a bit horrifying, but in this particular instance, the writing was so good, and I have continued to learn from this author.
In 2015, our group settled into a permanent arrangement with five members. We met monthly and bonded over not just our writing, but our personal lives. When I released my first indie book, they attended the launch party. When I received my first publishing contract, they celebrated with me. They gave input on covers and expressed delight when I shared the finished products. We sneaked Christmas treats into our meeting room at the library to herald the season together. One of our members won several writing contests and got a novella published. We helped another author in the group craft a book chronicling the history of the baking department of the venerable Iowa State Fair and rejoiced when that book went out into the world.
And then was the pandemic.
We continued meeting by Zoom, but to say the least, it wasn’t the same. Now, three years later, two group members have moved on. The remaining three of us live in different states and continue monthly remote meetings. But it’s not quite the same.
I’m convinced that I wouldn’t have seven books out (and another three that are being re-released later this year and next) without my writing posse. Without the nurturing and support they lavished on me, I probably would not still be writing. They are woven into the fabric of my writing career in a way that will never happen again. I treasure their friendships and the memories of our time together.
The value of a support network, group, or posse—whatever you wish to call it—has countless benefits in our lives, whether or not you’re a writer. We all need encouragement on this rugged trek to our Heavenly home.
Do you have a posse among your neighborhood, town, church, or workplace? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you don’t, I encourage you to find one or make one. It might very well change your life.