Writing Circles

IMG_20160107_112507235 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.

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About Mary Jo Doig

Mary Jo Doig was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from the State University at Oneonta in New York’s Catskill Mountains with a degree in Secondary English Education/Educational Psychology. There she fell in love with rural life, remained, and eventually transitioned from city girl to country woman when she married a dairy farmer and raised their three children on their small family farm. A life-long lover of reading and writing, Mary Jo has for nearly twenty years been a member of the Story Circle Network. There she has been an editor, a women’s writing circle facilitator, a book reviewer, and life-writing enthusiast, working extensively with women writing their life-stories while writing her own memoir. Presently, she is a three-time Program Chair for SCNs national Stories from the Heart conference and a board member. She also facilitates Older Women’s Legacy workshops and a women’s life-writing circle in her area communities. Her stories have appeared in Kitchen Table Stories anthology, Story Circle Annual Anthologies, and most recently her story “I Can’t Breathe” was published in the Anthology, Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories. Her work also appears in varied blogs and periodicals, on her blog Musings from a Patchwork Quilt Life (https://maryjod.wordpress.com), Facebook, and Twitter. Her son and two daughters grown, Mary Jo presently treasures her country life in Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley. She loves cooking (and eating!) healthy food, reading, writing, quilting, hiking, and spending quality time with her rescue cats, Button and Xena, and beagle, Addie, who each dream of being only children. Her first book, Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss, will be published in October, 2018 by She Writes Press.
This entry was posted in Mystery, The Writing Life, Womens' Writing Circles. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Writing Circles

  1. Happy anniversary, Mary Jo. This prompts me to figure out my own SCN anniversary – my research task for the day. I strongly agree with your statement “as women, our stories are both unique yet have elements of rich connection with each other. Many of our stories were universal.” and with the layering of stories through ongoing sharing in a circle. An incredible resource!

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  2. Linda Hoye says:

    What a lovely post, Mary Jo, and a testimony to the riches we mine when we tell our stories. I’m glad you joined SCN all those years ago; I’m pleased I followed suit a few years later; and I’m blessed that our paths crossed. Hugs.

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  3. Love your writing, Mary Jo. Your voice is strong. I feel as if we are sitting across from each other in your living room, sharing a cup of tea. Wonderful!

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