Being in a Writing Group

For almost a year, I’ve been president of a writer’s club. It’s been easy because the other board members have been an invaluable help. I’ve also been part of a critique group for several years. I encourage writers to get involved in a writer’s club and a critique group to connect with the writing community in their area and help improve their writing.

Of course, the wrong personalities can make joining a club or group a negative experience. I found these types of organizations few and easy to quit. The biggest challenge is finding a writers’ club or critique group to join.

Most communities do not have a club or group for writers. There are online ones, which I joined, too. However, the online life seems too impersonal and distant. I found meeting and interacting with people is better for my writing.

If there is no club or group, a writer could form a critique group which are small, informal, and focused on critiquing. Plus, there are lots of guidelines on how to do conduct this group. A club can be more complicated and formal with bylaws.

To start a critique group, a writer could go to the local library. Many writers come to the library seeking a group to join and libraries generally support writers. Another place to go is the English Department of a community college.

I recently went to a small writer’s conference where I met three students from the local community college. With no creative writing classes offered, they formed their own critique group with help from an English teacher. It quickly became several critique groups.

I have another year left as president. The club has been a great way to make connections with the writing community. Also, my critique group has been a great way to improve my writing. Writers should meet other writers.

Finding a Web Designer

Anyone reading this blog will notice changes to the format. Some of you may say, “About time.”

When I set up this website over a year ago, I had a hard time finding a web designer. I needed a one time service since I would do the follow up posting and maintenance. I guess the web designers I contacted wanted more long-term work and declined. So, I did my own webpage.

I should have kept trying to find a web designer. I also should have gone a simpler route. Instead, I wanted flexibility to design a unique website and I had to learn a lot about WordPress. The last time I created a webpage, html was popular.

Eventually, I got my website up and running and have posted for over a year. Yet, I knew I was missing a lot on the webpage. I decided to do an update.

However, I would have to start over learning WordPress after forgetting what I learned before. Starting over was not appealing. This time, however, I went a different route to find a web designer.

At first, I tried the method I used before without luck. So, I decided to look at the web designs of other bloggers and who they used.

Anne R. Allen is a popular and famous blogger who posts about writing and blogging. She uses Bakerview Consulting who I contacted. This web designer not only was a great help, but was inexpensive.

Anyone having trouble with their blog and unable to find a web designer could use my method. Go to a blog you like and see who they use as a web designer. It worked for me.

Should a writer read only in the genre they write in?

I’ve read about and talked to many writers who read mostly in the genre they write in. Actually, most people read primarily in one genre where they find the reading comfortable and enjoyable. They know what to expect.

People should read what they want (although I would challenge them to read different types of stories). I try to read in different genres. I enjoy the diversity of style and form found in stories written for audiences with opposite tastes than mine. Such as romance, horror, and other genres I normally do not seek out and read (nothing racist, dehumanizing, overly violent, etc.). I may not write in these other genres, but I think it helps with my writing.

I feel more capable at providing contrasting viewpoints to my plots and characters. To me, I add depth and strength to what I write after reading a novel outside the genre I’m writing in. As an example, if I’m writing a science fiction story, I read a romance book. How many people know that romance books have happy endings?

This can also be a good technique for grant writers. Sometimes, it’s good to stop writing the proposal and read a horror book. After all, I feel I’m in a horror show when trying to complete a long, detailed grant request.

A creative writer or grant writer should experience reading outside their comfort zone to add variety to what they are trying to write. Sometimes this change can mean publication or funding for a nonprofit.

Grant Reporting (part 2)

This deserves another blog post to emphasize the need for grant reporting. I’ve discovered many nonprofits overlook or ignore this important part of the grant writing process.

Nonprofits fail to report on grant money they receive mostly because of disorganization. An easy solution is to use either an Excel spreadsheet or Word document as record keeping tools. Other software programs will cost money and must be learned. It’s best to keep things simple. Even simpler is to get a journal or ledger book and write down the grant information.

Most foundations provide a letter of acceptance and send the check about a month or so later. Guidelines, instructions, and the deadline for reporting on grant money usually comes with the check. This is when nonprofits fail.

They do not have a process, procedure, or place to record the reporting requirements and when they are due. Happy with the money, the rest is forgotten.

Reports are usually due six months to a year later. Yet, a nonprofit might realize a report is due when they apply for another grant and must report on the previous funding first.

I’m asked, “What’s the harm? The report gets done.” The problem is the report, at this time, is usually late. Foundations do not like a late report or no report.

There are some foundations who do not provide guidelines or even a deadline for a report. However, a report is still due.

Of course, some foundations are familiar with the nonprofit enough, or the relationship is strong enough, that late or nonreporting is overlooked. Nonprofits should not take that chance. Eventually, someone in the foundation stops overlooking the lack of reports.

Nonprofits need to always report on grant money received. After all, foundations want to know what happened to the money they gave out.