stepping out of my comfort zone

I attended my first ever writers group meeting today.  I had no idea what to expect and the idea of meeting 20 – 30 strangers felt more than a bit daunting.

Add to that, the idea of driving into unknown parts of Philly, finding parking, and the shopping mall put me in a bit of a tizzy, and I wanted to retreat to the comfort of home more than once.

Instead, I persevered and wound my way through downtown Philly with the aid of my ‘trusty’ GPS.  I say ‘trusty’ because it has steered me wrong a time or two and seems to have an intermittent signal within a large city.

As an aside, I think its funny how many people refer to their gps as though it’s almost human.

“I don’t know how I ended up ‘there’; it’s where she told me to go.”

One kind of has to laugh about that.

I successfully found the shopping center and then had to tackle the prospect of finding parking.  This is always a challenge as I do not parallel park. I have never mastered the skill, which limits my options and often times creates an opportunity for some additional exercise.

I rushed down the stairway of the parking garage, seriously wishing I had opted for the elevator.  The eerie silence and unfamiliar surroundings made me uneasy and I practically flew down the three flights.

I popped out of the door and took note of my surroundings

  • cross streets – check
  • building across the street – check
  • location of door to get in – check

Feeling confident that I would be able to find my way back, I took a deep breath and scanned the busy streets to locate the shopping center.  I found a clue on the street sign, the arrow that pointed toward chestnut shopping brought instant relief and I was at the shopping center within a few minutes.

I stopped at the door and once again took note of my surroundings

  • cross streets – check
  • building across the street – check
  • the mall entrance – check

Phew!  Maybe this would turn out to be easy peasy.

I found the food court, but much to my chagrin I saw no evidence of a large group of writers.  I wandered from one end of the court to the other, trying not to look obviously lost and forlorn.  To have come this far and then to not find the group, that just didn’t seem possible.

I noticed a tall young woman carrying a cup of coffee whose expression was a mirror image of mine.  Our eyes connected and we approached each other with caution.

As it turned out, she was in the same boat as I was.  After a bit more wandering, she spotted a large group of people back in the corner of the food court.  We walked slowly toward the group.  I was glad to have someone with me; there would be at least some comfort if we were wrong together.

Success!  We were in the right place.

The heat that had filled my cheeks subsided immediately and was replaced by butterflies in my tummy as I settled into my chair.

The leader described the format of the meeting

3 hours!  I nearly croaked, I hadn’t anticipated that at all, and had only planned on an hour or two at the most.

The format is, introductions, followed by a ‘craft chat’, concluding with critiques.

The introductions were interesting, and the group was made up of people from many different backgrounds, ages, experience levels and motivations.  The one thing tying all together is a love of writing.  I feel like a whole new world is opening up.

The ‘craft chat’ varies from month to month – the topic this month was short stories and where and how to get them published.  The forum was various writers in the group sharing their experiences – successes and failures.  Others asked questions it was an open and interesting dialogue.

The cast of characters is interesting and it will be fun to watch the dynamics unfold.

The critique portion concludes the meeting.  4 or 5 submissions from members are sent to the group ahead of time and the work is critiqued according to the specific rules of feedback and conduct.  It sounds intimidating, but exciting at the same time.

I didn’t stay for the critique portion this time, but most definitely will next time.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even be brave enough to submit something for review.

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