Updated: Aug 5, 2022
Writing can be lonely work and whether you realize it or not, you need feedback from other writers. This can be very difficult because writing is a very personal process, but it is important to get feedback from people who understand what it is like to sit in a room alone and write. It is with this in mind that I started The Amateur Writers Group of Basel.
A bit about me
When I lived in New York I joined a local writer’s group, The Amateur Writers of Long Island to get help with my longstanding writer’s block. We met every two weeks in a bookstore and shared our works in progress. After a while, I started bringing my own work in and not only was their criticism helpful, but I found their support allowed me to change how I felt about being a writer. It was also fun, these were interesting people with active minds and fertile imaginations, who enjoyed sitting across from likeminded others. Being in the group was such an enjoyable experience that I eventually took over as organizer and ran it for seven years. It was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.
The Amateur Writers Group of Basel
After moving to Basel I started The Amateur Writers Group of Basel. This group is held in English and supports people to do the type of writing that they’ve always wanted to. We always meet in person, because over ten years of experience has taught me that sitting across from another human being is special; the sound of their voice, their facial expressions, everything that makes a human an individual, is there for you to experience. And the feedback people give in person is immediate – they’re reacting to something they’ve just read.
How it works
Sometimes when people come to the group they don’t bring any writing, instead they watch and participate in critiques. This helps them get over any fear or resistance they may have to letting strangers into their innermost thoughts. Watching how people’s work can be read and critiqued, positively and supportively, can move them towards bringing in their own work. For the other participants, critiquing is also a skill; the more you do it, the better you can help shape someone else’s work, and then shape your own.
Presenting your work
Authors are welcome to read their work aloud, and here’s where some of the magic happens. When most people write, they ‘listen’ to the words in their head. When you read a piece out loud, you get to see people’s reactions, in real time. People will laugh, smile, sometimes frown. It’s like the difference between watching a movie or play in public as compared to seeing one at home. You can also ask someone to read your work for you. I personally love having someone else read my writing, it really helps me hear it through a different ‘voice’.
Don't worry about grammar so much, it's really not a big deal. The majority of writers I’ve worked with write well enough that any grammatical mistakes can easily be fixed by an editor. And if you’re looking to get published, you’re going to be working with an editor. How you go about getting published is also something we talk about in the group.
When we critique a piece of work we use the feedback sandwich: positive criticism first, then negative (if there’s any to give), followed by positive. No one’s looking to slam anyone else, or show how smart they are. What they are looking to do is help you get your best writing done.
We try to balance the time every member has to read and how much is devoted to critiquing their writing. But, sometimes we devote more time to discuss a particular writer’s work. It really depends on where they are in their writing career or their work in progress.
What to bring
What kind of writing can you bring to a meeting? Any kind you want, in any form: novels, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, ballads, plays, screenplays, journal entries, blogs, absolute nonsense. You also don’t necessarily need to bring in anything at all. Instead, you can talk about ideas you’ve been considering and together we can hash out different approaches and strategies. If you’re blocked or are having difficulty, you can talk about that, and I keep a few tricks up my sleeve to help you work through it.
If you're bringing a work to read, please print some copies for the other members to read (one for each person is not necessary, we can easily share). Know that other members may make comments on the copies of your work, but that all copies are returned to the writer.
What we look for
When work is brought in, these are the types of things we look for:
Consistency. Does the writing make sense from beginning to end? Has the author gotten what they wanted to say onto paper or screen?
Does it make sense? After the piece is read, does the author find they need to explain anything? If something is missing or unclear, that’s an opportunity to add that info into the piece.
The magic of relationships
Another place where the magic happens is through relationships. Writer’s groups are filled with people who want to help each other, and part of the way we do that is by actively getting to know each other over time. This adds context to a person’s work, and is just plain fun. You’d be surprised how much you have in common with other writers, how the private struggles and obsessions that can come with writing are common with people in your writing ‘tribe’.
Should I join?
If you are interested in writing, then yes you should join a writer’s group, any writer's group. Through years of experience, and hours and hours of work, I’ve found that it’s really helpful to work with a bunch of likeminded people who want to help others and themselves in the process. All the details for The Amateur Writers Group of Basel.
Amateur Writers of Basel
Our next meeting is Sunday, June 12, 2022 at 12:00.
We'll be at Foyer Public, of the Theater Basel.
Located: Theaterstrasse 9, 4051 Basel
You'll need to join Meetup (if you're not already a member). Membership is free, as are the Amateur Writers' meetings.
You can signup here: https://www.meetup.com/home/
I want to wish you all the luck to do the writing you’ve always wanted to do and hope to see you at one of our next meetings.
Steve Sanderson writes fiction and nonfiction. He is very dedicated to giving back to the writing community. He grew up in Queens, New York where he worked in film as a camera assistant, then switched careers to work as a Technical Writer for two decades.
He's a book obsessive, loves running, satire, and walking everywhere. He has no sense of direction, and gets lost in most places except for cities which somehow make sense.