The Writers' Support Group: A two-year exploration into holding space
Alt Title: Why Every Writer Needs a Support Group
Act 1: This is just temporary… right? RIGHT?!
At the beginning of the pandy, I started an online support group for writers with a totally unknown stranger living in San Miguel, Mexico, author Lainey Cameron. Two years later, the group is still going strong. We’ve made many new author buddies, hosted bestselling author guest speakers, learned a ton, offered group book giveaways, and hung out in real life.
I never saw this group coming, and it goes to show that some of the best endeavors aren’t planned.
This week, my co-host (the random stranger and now bestselling author) Lainey Cameron and I met and hung out for the first time IRL after Lainey’s flight from Mexico to D.C. was canceled and she was rerouted through Miami.
It was like we’d known each other for decades. Why? Because I’ve been seeing her online every week for two years. This is more than we all see many friends or family members that don’t live nearby.
Writer friends are the best friends! Charlotte Dune and I have hosted an online writer support community since the start of Covid, but until this week we hadn’t met in real life!
— Lainey Cameron
For those of you who don’t know me well, I’m Charlotte Dune and I write psychedelic fiction and also creative non-fiction. My two novels are Cactus Friends: A Psychedelic Love Story and Mushroom Honeymoon. I wear many hats: mom, property manager, video editor (though doing less and less of this, as it’s my least fav endeavor), and Airbnb Super Host. I’m also a former U.S. Diplomat, though many find this hard to believe, including me; it really feels like a distant past life.
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Lainey Cameron is the author of the feminist/women’s fiction novel The Exit Strategy and she’s a digital nomad and former tech exec. You’ll hear more from Lainey this month, as while she was in South Florida visiting me, I also interviewed her about what it’s like to be a Tik Tok creator about to turn 50. That interview is soon to come!
This week, Lainey and I also talked a lot about our weekly writers’ support group and the future of the group and how to improve the experience for members and what we loved most about the group, etc.
I will eventually send out a poll/questionnaire on these topics to current members.
Here is a Tik Tok Lainey shared of our visit!
The group began with an Instagram post I randomly saw where Lainey, who I wasn’t even following at the time, was talking about networking with authors and I asked if she knew of any online/zoom spaces where authors could connect during the pandy since in-person events weren’t happening. She didn’t. So we decided to start one, thinking IT WOULD ONLY LAST A FEW WEEKS OR MONTHS. Cause that’s mistakenly how long we thought the pandy itself would last…. OOPS.
Two years later, and while in-person events have resumed, we’ve maintained the group, and our membership (free) continues to grow.
At first, we didn’t have a name, then we became “Write on Weirdos,” then that sort of fell away as members came and went, and now The Writers’ Support Group (at least in my mind) has grown into the de facto name, though I hear others refer to it simply as “Writers’ Group” or the “Thursday Group.” I thought about changing it to Author Social, as it is very social, but I love the idea of writers supporting writers, so I think Support Group shall remain… Plus, it really supports the frustrations specific to publishing, of which there are MANY. Haha.
The zoom sessions always last 90 minutes and take place every Thursday at 8 pm EST/ET.
We talk about whatever subjects members bring up–from query struggles, to which audio transcribing AI software is the best, to the latest changes to KDP, or just about feeling burnt out, or about our character development problems, or research habits. It’s really everything writer-related.
Act 2: Support is Holding Space
Sometimes a member will arrive and say, “I just can’t figure out how to plan my book launch.” Then someone else in the group with that skill will pipe up, set aside time, and help them for free. It’s been a beautiful experience to facilitate these interactions and to engage in a writer group that is not focused on critiques.
The group also exposes members to new genres and styles of writing and to publishing opportunities. Because several members also host podcasts, we all cross-pollinate each other’s work and spread the success and love of members and their books and shows.
During the past two years, I’ve witnessed and held space for authors getting book deals, losing book deals, finding agents, losing agents, and launching debut books.
Writing life is a wild horse I’m happy to ride with a supportive crew by my side.
I try to read at least one book by each person in the group. It takes time, but this exposes me to different genres, shows me each member’s strengths, and has greatly expanded my network of author friends. I encourage all members to read each other’s books and review them and share them with friends.
Here is one member’s book I honestly reviewed recently on my Substack.
Support is the core theme.
The Mushy, Squishy, Tear-Filled Middle
The support can be just listening and holding space for a struggling writer or celebrating the book release or awards won by another, or even gently challenging a member’s self-reported, low self-esteem, encouraging them to believe in themselves.
Several of the members have provided me with invaluable writer life-balance and parenting advice. I’m very grateful for their help, especially the wisdom of writer/mom wisdom of Jean Grant, who I discovered I had a lot in common with in particular via the group.
Members also freelance for other members and swap skills like website building, illustration, or audiobook production and editing.
The support group is cross-genre and contains self-published, indie-published, and traditionally published authors, as well as folks working on unpublished books. While we skew middle-aged, white, and female, the demographic of myself and my co-host, Lainey Cameron, our membership overall is a mix of races, sexualities, and genders, though I’d love for it to be EVEN MORE DIVERSE.
If you have strategies for this and for increasing inclusivity, please share!
Now and then, complicated issues pop up, and conflicts arise in the group, and managing those dynamics has also taught me a lot.
We went from having NO PLAN, and not having any name, to crafting clear guidelines and language regarding inclusivity and “carefrontations” in the group. Learned the word carefrontation from writer and yogi, Lauren Aune, who wrote a guest post about her creative life here. Because members participated in this growth process, everyone involved learned a little something.
While it’s hard to include writers in Europe, because of the time difference, we’ve got members from all over the US, Canada, and Mexico, and even one in Australia who attends when she can. Our list of members has grown to 100, and while mostly a core group of 10-20 attend, the others read the weekly notes and resources I send out and also use our Dropbox folder of writer resources, which frankly is juicy because we all contribute knowledge, info, and course material we gleaned from paid workshops and other writer events, as well as from our own minds.
Members come and go, depending on their schedules and needs, but some folks come almost every week and many have been with us since the very beginning.
Act 3: The Future of the Group and Archives
If you’d like to join us, reach out or comment on this post. We’re here for you.
And for those already in the group, I’m considering moving our weekly notes and member news over to Substack instead of sending them via Mailerlite, as I just like the writing and design interface on Substack WAY better. Though we will continue to keep the zoom link private. Plus, having them on Substack would make the archives easier to navigate, organize, search, and navigate. Let me know what you think about this idea in the comments.
I’ve also been loving the Substack mobile app in general as a reading and podcast/social tool. I moved my IG, FB, and Twitter to a folder on the second app page of my phone and put the Substack app on my home screen, front and center. This helps convert my random social media doom-scroll time into the time I spend reading long-form or short writing and thinking about my special interests. It’s a great place to network with other writers too—clearly one of my favorite activities.
Members, let me know what you think about this idea by email or in the comments, about having notes on Substack and maintaining the archives and emails this way. My only concern is that it might go to your email updates folder instead of your inbox, though I have successfully trained Gmail to show my favorite Substacks in my primary inbox. And I also think my MailerLite emails don’t always make it to the right box anyway…
The Writers Support Group notes would likely be a subset of my current Substack, The Lagoon so that folks could just subscribe to the WSG notes and resources if that’s what they were primarily interested in.
For now, we’re keeping the group free. I consider it an act of service to my community. Take what you need and leave the rest.
That’s all for now.
I’ll be hosting solo tonight. Lainey is at the WFWA “Business of Writing” conference in Alexandria, VA.
See you at 8 PM, or maybe one day soon.
I want to join on Thursday evenings. Please.
It’s an amazing, supportive community and I always come away with a smile on my face! Thanks so much to you both for starting it and keeping it going! Paulette