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Create a Salon–A Temporary Writing Group

On the second Sunday of September, I gathered with friend for a temporary writing group we call a salon. Whether you call it a share group, a gathering or a salon, an afternoon or evening with writers can be a stimulating experience. We have so few opportunities to meet with people with whom we share an understanding of an important subtext of our lives. No need at a salon to explain this compulsion we have to write. Everyone at this writing group is equally smitten. Wonderful.

It’s easy really to organize a Sunday writing group.

1) Decide on your context. Do you want to get a writing group together only for memoir writers, or are other writers welcome? Do you want to broaden the group to include poets and novelists? Is it necessary that people write with autobiographical material? You can also decide you would like to have a cultural, religious, ethnic or racial flavor.

2) Create objectives–what sorts of interactions would you like this writing group to engage in? For instance, you could opt for a writing group that merely shares and does not critique. Conversely, you might want a strong critical component at which people are invited to bring something they are working on and for which they would like critical input. Ought writers to bring copies to pass around for critique or will there be only listening and more informal appreciation?

3) Make a list of all the creatives you know whom you would like to invite to your writing group. Send an email to the list explaining your objectives and your context. Encourage them to add names to the list. Starting with 3-5 could be enough, but if your writing group is small, you might also want to invite people who are not writers to be part of the audience and of the critique group.

4. Think through details. Will people be bringing pot luck meals? How large a writing group can you accommodate? When do you start and when do you end? (Important for helping people to schedule.) Where will they park? Do you have enough chairs? Etc.

5. Introduce some time management into the writing group. At the event, ask how many people have brought something to share and divide the time available among those present who want to have the floor at some time. Have a time keeper, but I suggest you be flexible with silencing people unless there are many people sharing and there is a risk of running out of time.

6. Adjourn the writing group with a date, a time and a place for the next salon. The energy will probably be high so take advantage of that to keep a good thing going. We are meeting next in November and then in January. There doesn’t seem to be much risk of running out of steam at our gathering.

That’s pretty much it. Have fun and…

Remember: the work of writing a memoir is important work.

I would appreciate hearing if you have ever organized or participated in a temporary writing group, what I have called here a salon. Please leave your comments below.

Remember: the work of writing a memoir is important work.

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5 Responses to Create a Salon–A Temporary Writing Group

  1. cmadsen September 15, 2013 at 7:22 PM #

    What a great idea. Any writers in the Olympia, Wash. area? Any genre welcome!

  2. Denis Ledoux September 16, 2013 at 2:11 PM #

    To any folks out there who are thinking of joining Chris’ salon in Olympia: you should know she is really good writer. You will have a great group mate!

  3. Denis Ledoux October 3, 2013 at 3:13 PM #

    This was sent to me by Justine Kuntz, a certified Memoir Professional (with The Memoir Network) who teaches memoir writing.
    This past February, at church where I teach memoir writing in Boca Raton, FL we did a “Salon Stories” evening as a fundraiser for a homeless shelter we help support in Broward County. The publicity alerted people that this was “a chance to wear your vintage clothing to come hear stories of the past as lived and written by our own church members.” The vintage clothing, also worn by the readers, turned out to be a unique unexpected ice breaker at the reception afterward, as the guests mingled, comparing their vintage clothing, and relating some of their own stories that “need to be written.”
    The lovely dessert buffet, including fruit and cheeses, followed the stories, and everyone enjoyed the repast while socializing. The evening turned out to be quite elegant, and further energized the guests to write and the writers to continue writing. A “house manager” had reminded everyone to silence their cell phones, pagers, and other annoying technical devices, as we didn’t want them encroaching on our visit to the past. And our profit went to support a worthy cause.

  4. Denis Ledoux October 9, 2013 at 11:08 AM #

    Sent by Angi Collins in an e-mail:

    Hi Denis;

    I love this idea of hosting a salon! I’ve always been fascinated with the salons of the 20s (and envious), but never thought of starting one myself. I recently moved and have been thinking about starting a game night, but you have inspired me to think about something more…well, inspirational. 🙂

    Thanks!

    Angi

  5. Denis Ledoux October 9, 2013 at 11:09 AM #

    Angi,

    I hope you do create a salon of your own. Keep us posted on how it went for you.

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