Fifteen years ago, on a frigid January morning, I checked off my first New Year’s resolution for 2001: I joined Story Circle Network, a national organization dedicated solely to women with stories to tell. Soon after, I was assigned to an online writing group with eight other women from across the country.
Each month our facilitator gave us a topic prompt and we wrote short life stories that related, then posted them. After reading each member’s story we’d write positive, helpful feedback to the author. Our facilitator also provided highly supportive encouragement, not with writing skills, but with focus on the importance of telling of our stories. The Story Circle Network in cyberspace soon became a nurturing place for me where I shared vignettes from my life from my growing regular writing practice. I noticed my writing confidence rose as well as skills. Most importantly, though, I realized I’d entered a space that was the perfect environment for growth: safe, supportive, and with a community of women with whom I had much in common.
Then I joined a second circle with a slightly different focus and began writing monthly life stories there, too. In both circles we wrote a mix of stories: happy, sad, bright, dark, humorous, and serious. At the end of a year I had written twenty-four stories or vignettes, as I think of them now. Through the months my loose-leaf story notebook grew full and I bought another. And then another. And another.
It took some time to discover the powerful layers in women’s writing circles. A shy, introverted writer in 2001, I found at times that I could relate to a story written by another member, that we shared something in common, that her story about losing her dog strongly connected with feelings I’d experienced when my pet died. Other women began to connect with some of my stories and I discerned that as women, our stories are both unique yet have elements of rich connection with each other. Many of our stories were universal.
We can do so many things with our stories: start a blog and find others with common interests, make a book of stories or recipes or family traditions for our family and friends, seek publication in periodicals, write a book, and much more. What’s important, I feel, is that our stories remain long after we’re gone. Perhaps you are fortunate to have your grandmother’s stories. I wish I had both my grandmothers’ stories.
If you are a writer or interested in writing, I hope you belong to a writing group similar to those I was fortunate to discover. If the group or circle is positive and supportive, in time, several amazing things happen. If you belong to a group that is not supportive, hopefully you can find another that is. If not, you might consider starting such a writing group yourself.
I am extremely enthusiastic about the riches of women’s writing circles. So much begins right there. Thus, should you ever want to start a writing circle, wherever you live (thanks to the internet), I’d be happy to help in any way. Simply let me know.