The Writing Group Book:
Creating and Sustaining a Successful Writing Group

edited by Lisa Rosenthal

Chicago Review Press, 2003. ISBN 1556524986.
Reviewed by Melanie Alberts
Posted on 02/12/2004

Nonfiction: Creative Life

Editor Lisa Rosenthal is an editor, writer, and founding member of a successful playwriting group, The Playwright's Collective. She has pulled together an astonishing amount of information and viewpoints on how to make any type of writing group succeed. From playwrights to poets to fantasy writers and those who write for children, the thirty-four essays in this volume cover the nuts and bolts of beginning a group, maintaining it, troubleshooting difficulties and ultimately, marketing the members' polished work.

As a Story Circle Network Board member, I was delighted to see a chapter devoted to women's story circles with mention of our organization. As the member of an online critique group for children's writers, I found the chapters devoted to the particular challenges of meeting in cyberspace to be right on target. One such essay written by Mary Pat Mahoney should be attached to every on-line group's introductory e-mail. Her "Top Ten On-Line Tips" include sensible advice such as rereading before hitting the send button and communicating frequently with other members.

There are a few essays that fall outside the norm. A writing and poetry therapist tells of her experiences facilitating a client-based group and another focuses on the challenges expatriate groups face. Some writers chose to muse on writing in general. All the essays are quite brief and most conclude with a list of the author's "Favorite Resources", highlighting not only books but websites, magazines, conferences and even favorite writing exercises. I would have preferred to see the resources collected as an appendix. After nine recommendations of Anne Lamott's classic Bird by Bird, I thought, "Okay, okay, it's a great book!" An appendix also would allow writers to list their own works without an appearance of blatant marketing.

The Writing Group Book closes with 82 tips that essentially touch on and add to the best information gleaned from the essays. To read this collection is to have access to a wonderfully supportive and creative think-tank. To put it to use is to have a successful and stimulating writing group which will improve any writer's craft.

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