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Author alienation. It's happened to most of us. We're hunched over our keyboard day after day, jabbing at the keys, penning our latest work. Whether concentrating on poetry, short stories, journals, prose, or perhaps crafting a 300 page masterpiece (the lead character of which you're certain will be the next bespectacled children's icon), the truth is that writing can be lonely at times. And it can also be difficult to stay focused and motivated--especially if you've just received your third rejection this week.

Sure, your family and friends may attempt to understand and relate to what your unique writing life is like, but the only people who truly know are those who walk to the mailbox in your shoes (with much anticipation!). In other words… another writer.

The good news is that by deciding to create your own writers group you can not only alleviate that alienation, you can also receive (and bestow) invaluable inspiration and encouragement from write-minded individuals such as yourself.

Okay, so now that you've decided to create a local writers group, how do you go about locating other writers?

--Start by contacting your local community education office (if you're lucky enough to have one) and request that they offer a writers group as part of their curriculum. If they agree, they will then list the potential writers group in their subsequent brochure and provide the space for meetings. (Members might be asked to pay a small fee to help with building upkeep.) Make sure that your name and phone number and/or e-mail address is listed on the bulletin as well, so those with questions can reach you.

--You could also approach the local librarian (when she is not harried and rushed!) and broach the subject with her. Let her know you'd like to get a writers group going in the community and ask for her valued input and advice. Librarians, as a general rule, know much about their town and will likely know if there are any other writers within it.

At the very least, request to leave a bulletin about your group on the library notice board. You're bound to get some nibbles from the library clientele; writers have been known to read a book or two! The librarian might even volunteer the use of the library for a meeting space. If not, it doesn't hurt to ask…

--Other ways to catch the attention of prospective members include displaying your bulletin upon the boards at the grocery store, beauty shop or, for that matter, the bait shop, if it’s a busy and well respected establishment. And if meeting at the library or local school is not an option, you might have your group meet in a park shelter outside (if the weather cooperates), or perhaps a fast food restaurant, or you might even be able to locate a suitable space at the local mall.

Once you have the members together (wherever you end up), what then?

Introduce yourselves, and then have each person write first orate and then write what his or her individual writing goals are. Also, have them pen what they hope to glean from the writers group, as well. This will help you "tailor-make" how your group runs to your own specifications. One person should be in charge of keeping these sheets--they can prove useful for keeping the group "on track" as the weeks roll by.

You must also decide the following at the first meeting:

How often should you meet? Bi-monthly works well, but it is up to the individual group. How are you going to run your group? Will the same person serve as moderator, or will the job rotate weekly or monthly? I recommend that there are at least several people in the group who are willing to take the reins. Everybody will likely have his or her own area of writing interest. You might end up with an entire group of poets, but I doubt it.

Some writers will eagerly show up at the first meeting with the first 50 pages of their novel in hand, while others will come sans anything (including a pen and paper!). These people need to get a feel for the group and get their comfort level up before they bare their written soul.

Do not allow the group to perpetually concentrate on one writer's work. This literally steals time and comments from other writers and will likely promote negative feelings within group members. Even if other more bashful members do not protest, try and insist that everyone submit their work to the group.

Although poetry is much shorter than short stories or novels, the content is extremely condensed and each word is vital to the outcome, so critiquing a poem can take just as long as going over ten pages of someone's novel-in-progress.

Do not allow personality conflicts to fester or the time to pass with idle chitchat. Make it clear that the group is meeting to discuss what each other has written not political views or the size of the hairball your cat coughed up this morning.

Each writers work should be photocopied and distributed to members beforehand so they can read it before the next meeting. This can save reams of time, allowing more writing to be reviewed and more writers the opportunity to be motivated and to continue on.

Keep in mind, however, that the valley between critiquing and criticizing runs vast and deep. Right at the get-go, discuss what types of comments are "okay" to say or write, and which are "off-limits." As time passes, you will get a feel for what each individual writer is after. Some demand that no punches be pulled, while others cower if you dare to lift your pinkie…

You will likely discover at least one person who seems to possess a kindred-writing spirit, but if you don't see this immediate, do not dismay. Writers groups often grow and evolve, and some members will probably elect to leave, while other "novel" authors will step in. Such changes can be a bit disconcerting, but they also keep things fresh.

If you are serious about forming a writers group you can make it happen. It takes some finagling and persistence, but the camaraderie, encouragement and inspiration you will receive are worth the effort. So, get your group together and write on!