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.
21 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Local Writing Group”
I’m so sorry you had that experience! *hugs*
I’ll join you in that wish for greater understanding and acceptance. As writers, the only way we can truly write characters unlike ourselves (by any definition) is to develop our empathy for others.
I completely agree. And thank you! *hugs*
I’m sorry you felt that way. I’m a member of ORA, but I’ve only attended sporadically, and still don’t know everyone. I do know many authors are introverts and are not apt to reach out to people. I hope you’ll consider giving ORA another try.
Thank you Cara, I remember seeing you there a few times. It is hard putting yourself out there when you are used to working and being alone. Seeing the comments and support, I am considering giving ORA another chance.
I am not really new to the group, I joined 3 years ago but have not attended any meetings other than the convention and do not really know anyone. I generally keep to myself I am a bit of an introvert and went through a severe depression this past year, The convention was my first outing after I started treatment, I tell you this because if I was one of those that did not speak to you, I want you to know that it had nothing to do with you. I hate to hear that you felt ostracized, as writers and artists we should embrace differences in ourselves and others. I may not share the same beliefs that you do but this I know, the God I believe in made us all unique and we should love ourselves because God does not make mistakes. Hang in there and be yourself!!!
Karen, I’m glad to know you felt well enough to attend the convention as I know how much I benefited from the information presented. I hope I get the chance to meet you in person in the future. Thank you for your kind comment. ^_^
I always felt very awkward, especially at the conferences. Even after going for a few years. Although it might have been that I’m a huge weirdo, I attributed it to the fact that I’m a socially awkward penguin. Social groups are hard. ((hugs))
Social groups are hard! And Terri if you are a huge weirdo then so am I. XD
I hate to hear that you felt this way, particularly since I was the president of this group during the time you felt ostracized. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but there are many of us who welcome both you and your writing. As others have said, many of us are awkward introverts at heart, which all too often leads to misinterpretations and inadvertently hurt feelings. I wish you could see the concerned and supportive comments happening on the closed ORA Facebook page right now concerning your post. And we wish you would come back.
I really appreciate that. I do understand that the majority of us are introverts, but there is a difference between being introverted and shunning someone. To be frank, I felt shunned at times. People would not meet my eye or acknowledge my presence. I was only ever asked twice what I was working on over lunch while everyone else would talk at length about their projects. I get it. People are uncomfortable with what I write. To be honest, I am uncomfortable reading/hearing about heterosexual romance, but I know that people enjoy it and it is not my place to judge what others enjoy.
I do miss all of you. You are a great group of people and very talented writers. I just think there needs to be some growth happen. *hugs* Thank you for the comment and I hope to see you soon.
I welcome anyone who feels excluded or not represented by their preferred genre to contact a board member. We might not have a wide representation of GLBTQ authors, but if those we have do not feel like they have a home at ORA, we need to try to correct this.
As a board member AND as a GLBTQ ally, I am committed to doing anything in my power to make our members feel welcome while encouraging equality. Embracing diversity is incredibly important, both broadly and within the group.
I am very happy to know that Rosalie. I’m glad to know I do have allies in the community. Thank you for that. ^_^
Nooooooo! I hate this feeling right now knowing you think you are alone! I think you’re amazing! We need everyone and every genre to be better writers ourselves … And better people. Don’t give up on us! xoxoxo
Not giving up on anyone! <3
I hope you will come back. I have been coming to ORA for a little over two years, and no one has said anything about me being gay. Everyone has been perfectly nice to me. Although,I tend not to speak very much, there have been a few occasions where I have positively flamed during critique group. I tend to have a hard time remembering people’s names and faces, but if you return, I will certainly speak to you. I would also be delighted to read your gay romance, and you can read about my gay monks,
I would love to read about your gay monks. I’ve not been to a critique session in ages (mostly for the reasons stated above). I honestly had no idea anyone else wrote anything similar or was also part of the community. I apologize for that oversight on my part and I look forward to meeting you.
His writing is absolutely beautiful! You’ll be impressed ;D
I certainly hope I didn’t make you feel this way. I have many friends in the GLBTQ community and would never judge or condemn anybody. Perhaps it came from some of our older members who wanted our group to stay focused on traditional romance. But, no matter who made you feel this way, I hope you realize THEY are in the minority.
I am seeing that and it does make me feel better. Thank you for coming by and for your kind comment. ^_^
I haven’t attended many ORA meetings over the years, although I’ve been a member for a long time. There are so many new faces in the group, I no longer know most of them. Not a bad thing, though. Groups evolve.
I do have to admit that while I support the gay community, I’m not sure I could read a gay/lesbian book. Of course, since I’ve never read one, I could be wrong on that. I also don’t care for erotica, but I have read a few I did like.
I’ll be at the write-in. My name is Shirley. Would love to say hi and welcome you to the writing community.
Thank you Shirley, I look forward to meeting you.