North Texas Daily

Local writers group strives for literary excellence

Local writers group strives for literary excellence

Local writers group strives for literary excellence
August 25
13:10 2017

A small group of writers sit around a table. All is silent with the exception of a page turn. Each writer is invested in the copy of writing laid before him or her, occasionally underlining or writing notes with a pen – all constructive feedback for the author.

Soon after, the room will be filled with friendly conversation and discussion of the writing, ranging in thoughts of what worked and tips on how it could be made even better.

From advice on how to better shape a narrative to issues of grammar and sentence structure, the Denton Writers’ Critique Group is designed to create community and help local writers hone their craft.

The Denton Writers’ Critique Group was founded in 2009 by Jack Pettie and Carmen Grant as a group of committed writers sharing the goals of sharpening their skills and eventual publication.

Originally named the North Branch Writers’ Critique Group, the group changed their name and moved locations from a local library to the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center in March 2016.

The move was beneficial for both the group and the arts center, as it provided the group with more space and the center with more programming to offer the community.

“They certainly diversify what’s going on up here,” said Dallas Guill, Greater Denton Arts Council membership associate. “They kind of fill that gap, because we didn’t have anything like going on [until recently]. Now that opportunity and resource is here.”

Feedback from other writers can certainly be beneficial in gaining important perspective on projects close the writer’s heart.

“I think every artistic endeavor begins as something in the intuition, and you are often trying to articulate that into something,” group vice president Benjamin Inn said. “A lot of times, maybe you get it close and you don’t necessarily know how right you got it or if you got it right. You might think ‘oh this is great,’ and then you take it to someone else, like a peer, and they will be like ‘you have some problems here and here.’”

Operating on the principle of giving critique but not criticism, Inn hopes members are able to learn from and continue to grow from feedback given, even when sharing something so personal can be nerve-wracking.

“Any creative endeavor is really intimate and sharing that with people can be really intimating,” Inn said. “When someone critiques [your writing], sometimes people feel attacked. We’re not trying to attack those people, we’re just trying to help them get better.”

Membership is free and open to all local writers, but the numbers of those in attendance at weekly meetings have fluctuated over the years due to many factors of life, such as jobs, families and children.

Even if the group does tend to fly under the radar, interest remains steady.

“We’re always getting new people who are just interested in critique and writing,” Inn said. “We have some folks who honestly never bring anything [for critique], they are just interested in the community and reading what other people are creating.”

While there are no strict guidelines for membership, an aspiration to improve and respect for all members and writing styles is a requirement.

“Just show up with an open heart, don’t be afraid to share with people and don’t be afraid to speak up during critique,” Inn said. “Come in with an attitude of ‘I’m here to get better,’ not necessarily to have a captive audience or to show people how awesome you are.”

A variety of genres are represented among the group, from romance to fantasy to horror.

Review and insight from writers of all genres can be useful in measuring the universal appeal of the work.

“You want your writing to appeal to a wide audience,” Inn said. “If you can appeal to people outside your genre, then that’s more readers, more money and more recognition.”

A writer of any experience, novice or veteran, can offer useful advice to their peers, regardless if it is their first or seventh meeting.

“I thought it was very valuable,” historical fiction writer Renee Scandalis said after attending her first meeting. “I thought it was very nice to hear some key terms from a writer’s perspective. It’s good to keep those things in mind.”

What ultimately bonds the group, apart from the love of creating and sharing, is the life-long friendships made from the community created.

“We get kind of tight as friends,” Inn said. “Sharing artistic things is sometimes really intimate, so you kind of get to know these people in ways you don’t usually get to know other people.”

Currently in the search of a new home, Inn hopes the group will continue to remain a steady presence in the writing community of Denton.

The group has been a way for many people to expand their literary knowledge, expand from other writers and even find a passion in writing. Above all, Inn wants the group to be a place for people to feel comfortable in sharing their thoughts and ideas.

“I would be happy if we just kind of stayed afloat,” Inn said. “I know that sounds kind of sad to just wish for status quo, but our status quo is really good. I think if we could just continue that, we’ll be in a really good place.”

Featured Image: The Denton Writers’ Critique Group was founded in 2009 by Jack Pettie and Carmen Grant. David Urbanik

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Dionecia Petit

Dionecia Petit

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