by Elizabyth Harrington
Recently I was asked by a new member of our Portland chapter to explain how a critique group can have so many members and still be of value to writers. The asker’s opinion was that a group of this size was too large to be an effective critique platform.
I replied that unlike most writers groups that consist of a critique group and nothing else, 9 Bridges gives writers a platform to connect and share. In addition to the standard critique groups (Portland has four separate groups meeting weekly), our community offers write-ins, workshops, social events, and promotes other events that members might find interesting (like writers conferences, book signings, workshops and presentations). We are also building a repository of information and resources that will soon be available on our website. Finally, writers develop contacts and relationships through our organization, some of which turn into long and lasting friendships.
I could almost hear the “aha moment” happen over the phone. Then came the excited reply: “You mean it’s an entire community of writers!”
While 9 Bridges may have had humble beginnings as a chapter of the Coffee House Writers Group, it quickly evolved to something much more dynamic and exciting: a community of like-minded people with members throughout the country.
Our workshop series came out of discussions on craft and the business of writing during critique meetings. In response to requests for some kind of community interaction between meetings, we created a Facebook community so writers from different critique groups could connect. And, as people moved around, we started new chapters and extended our community reach across state lines.
As our membership base grew, we attracted the attention of other organizations, many of which extended invitations to their events or offered special discounts to our members.Suddenly we realized we were no longer simply a single critique group; we had evolved into a community that shared information, events and experiences with one another. Our tiny family had become a large village.
The best thing about a community is that it is always evolving and changing. Every new chapter – every new member – has something new to teach us. Over the years I’ve been involved with this community, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch it expand and evolve. I am looking forward to many more years watching our humble group become a movement.