Northern Virginia writers meet to hone their skills and provide feedback on works in progress, with the dream of one day becoming published authors. –Laura Fox
On Wednesday nights at 7 p.m., in Room 2208 at Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School, adults of various ages, backgrounds and professions sit in a circle ready to take on critiques of their work. This is a meeting of the Arlington Writers Group, “a community of people who have a like-minded affliction for writing,” says Lori Sullivan, a federal employee who is completing her first novel, “Familiar Spirits,” and is looking for an agent.
Michael Klein, the AWG leader and an original member of the group that started in 2006, estimates the group has met more than 900 times and attributes its success to the fact that anyone can join. “The majority are not professional writers. There is camaraderie of those who are there that there is this dream,” says Klein, a vice president of communications at a trade association who is working on an historical fiction novel. The dream is for these 50 members, who range from novelists, memoirists, poets and writers of history, songs, children’s books and screenplays, to become published writers.
Northern Virginia Writer Groups
Northern Virginia has a variety of writing groups for aspiring or published writers. Members of the Arlington Writers Group suggest looking at the groups’ websites to see if the organizations meet your needs and attending a few meetings to see if you feel comfortable with the format and discussions.
Arlington Writers Groups meetup.com/writers-499
The Northern Virginia Writers Club northernvirginiawriters.org
The Virginia Writers Club virginiawritersclub.org/nv
Northern Virginia Writers Guild
During the meetings AWG members partake in individual and group writing exercises, discussions about writing and critiques of works in progress submitted by members, and meetings also host guest speakers. “The critique process is an opportunity to get a good discussion going. We want to give honest feedback in a way that is not hurtful,” says Klein.
Civil litigation attorney Jeff Miller was an aspiring novelist when he joined AWG in 2007, and he says “for two hours a week I got to be in a place where I felt like a writer.” Miller can now call himself a published author. His first novel, “The Bubble Gum Thief,” a dark FBI thriller, was published in December 2012 by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery imprint of Amazon. Miller found the AWG critiques of his novel helped him get to where he is with his writing. “Sometimes when people are in a conversation about your work, it sparks an idea. There is back-and-forth, and you benefit from the collective creativity that you get from group settings.”
Erica Rivers, a new AWG member, says participating in the group motivates her to continue writing. She is using her experience as an international flight attendant for the backdrop of her novel about a love triangle between two flight attendants. Stuck on bringing depth to the characters, Rivers says the feedback from the group, which questioned her setting, environment and era of the novel, helped her move forward with writing the humorous love affair.
As a professional writer and published author, Thierry Sagnier, an AWG member since 2012, looks for specific feedback from the group. “I want to know if my characters come alive, if the dialogue is good and if the scenes transport you to the places I am writing about,” he says. Born in France, Sagnier is working on a trilogy about a French family who comes to the United States, based on his life experiences.
The bottom line, writing is lonely work. “When you are a writer, you’re by yourself sitting at a computer or over a writing pad, and you are alone with your thoughts. The need to have interaction with people and bounce ideas off them is what the writers group is for,” Klein says.
Published works by AWG Members
“Try Try Again”
by Terence Kuch, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
“The Bubble Gum Thief”
by Jeff Miller, Thomas & Mercer
by Thierry Sagnier, Avon Books
“Theft of Swords”
by Michael J. Sullivan, Orbit
“I, a patient, a poem” by Liliana Dossola, published in “Lombardi Voices,” a publication of the Arts and Humanities program of Georgetown Univ. Medical Center, Summer 2013