One of the biggest pieces of advice that authors receive is to join a writers group because they offer a fountain of information to writers new and old. They are, in short, the hub of the writing community. Whether you’re looking for a shoulder to cry on, resources on how to pitch an agent, or just need someone to bounce ideas off of, writing groups can serve as a must-have accessory. Although todays’ writing groups are quite hip, offering tips on e-book conversions and blog tours, they stem from a long line of communities that served as both a writing resource and a think tank.
According to Inked Voices, writing groups can be traced back to 400 BC, when Socrates and his students discussed morality and philosophy. Despite this long history, the bulk of writing groups that included authors whose names we will all recognize picked up speed in the 1900’s. In fact, J.R.R. Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote were all members of one at some point in time. So while there are several writing groups we could talk about, big or small, let’s highlight a few of the more interesting groups.
Also known as the Leather Apron Club, Junto was started by Benjamin Franklin as a way to discuss and debate subjects that included politics and morality. The group was fairly formal, with rules for debate and with topics prepared in advance, and was quite successful. In fact, Junto is responsible for the first subscription library in the United States and, later, the hiring of the first librarian (Franklin himself served as librarian, as well). Group members, who were avid readers themselves, loaned out their personal collections and later formalized the program by creating the Library Company of Philadelphia. Both Junto and Library Company of Philadelphia are active today, although the books are on display, rather than available for loan.
Bloomsbury Group (Early to Mid-1900’s)
Like Junto, Bloomsbury Group was comprised of members (including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and E.M. Forster) who shared similar ideals and philosophies, some of which made them quite controversial at the time. In addition to promoting women’s suffrage, members lived, worked, and married one another. Comprised of mostly upper-middle class members, they shunned the conventions of Victorian life and advocated for personal, not public, gain. The group puttered out after its founding members got older.
The Inklings (1930’s-1940’s)
Perhaps a purer form of writing group, The Inklings was formed specifically to discuss the merits of fiction, particularly narrative. The all-male members of this informal, conversational group included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and Lord David Cecil. With a focus on the unfinished works of its members, they were quite casual, meeting in classrooms at Magdalen College and at a local pub on a weekly basis. There are several groups today that are modeled after The Inklings.
Did we miss your favorite writers group? Let us know in the comments!