An Open Letter to My Local Writing Group
I want to preface this by saying; I bear no ill will, animosity or hard feelings toward anyone. I am simply sad and disappointed. I had hoped we might learn from each other. Yet, I guess my hopes were naïve.
Writing can be so lonesome. You sit at your desk, hour after hour, day after day and stare at a screen or a piece of paper. Some days it feels as though no one could possibly understand the difficulties that come with writing. This is why I was relieved, and a bit apprehensive, about joining the group. I tried out the group write-in first and found it amazing to be surrounded by fellow writers. It was an epiphany. I did not have to do this alone. There were others locally I could get together with for coffee and lunch and moan about my current manuscript and they would understand and possibly offer advice. I started coming to the monthly meetings. I met amazing people and made friends.
Then I got up the courage to bring a chapter for critique one weekend. I should have known beforehand that no one wanted me there. Whenever we’d introduce ourselves and state what we write, the disapproving and at times disgusted looks when I said I write gay romance had me wondering why I bothered. But I wanted help, I wanted to be a better writer. I should have known that a critique was asking too much. Out of a full room, 2 people commented. Did I have a right to be disappointed? Perhaps. I tried to console myself that maybe it was good enough that no one else had any advice for me. I knew it was a lie.
After that fewer and fewer people would speak to me. I finally quit going. What was the point of a writers group when everyone but a handful of people pretended I didn’t exist?
That was months ago. In September I went to the convention put on by the group. It was fabulous. Except for the fact that I felt as though no one really wanted to talk to me. A select few did but for the most part I was either ignored or conversations were ended quickly. At the time I’d put it down to limited time for breaks. Now, I’m not so certain.
I’d affixed a sticker to my badge stating that my preferred pronoun is ‘they’ as I am nonbinary (neither male or female) and being referred to as ‘she’ is disorienting for me. Now, I can’t help but wonder if that sticker was the reason for the abruptly/awkwardly ended conversations.
I had been contemplating returning to the group as I learned a lot about the craft and did enjoy the atmosphere. I won’t be returning.
It has become clear to me that persons such as myself are not welcome and not just because I write about something other than male/female romance. I understand that many of the members find anything other than heterosexual relationships to be offensive and ‘sinful.’ I never sought to make anyone uncomfortable either with my writing, comments or my own orientation and gender identity. I had hoped that being a group of writers I’d find people more open and accepting of others, people willing to learn and grow, people who understand that inclusiveness and diversity are the cornerstones of literature. Perhaps in the future it will be.
For now, I will wish you all the best and sincerely hope you learn to be more accepting and inclusive in both your writing and your personal lives. I’m sorry I cannot include you in mine.