Independent Writing from an Independent Mind

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Tag Archives: Bangkok Writers Guild

Why I recently left the Bangkok Writers Guild

It was with great sadness but also a bit of relief that last week I resigned from the Bangkok Writers Guild. I left because the group had recently seemed to have taken a sharp turn from being an opportunity for writers of various backgrounds to meet, socialize and help one another along. To me it seemed to have turned into something else. A writers’ seminar.

It was never my intention for the group to become a “writers’ seminar”, nor was it the intention of any of the other long time members of the group. It was only meant to be a time for writers to meet and share the joys and frustrations of writing as well as to help writers on an informal basis when people needed advice and expertise about getting writing work, editing, publishing, self-publishing, make friends with other writers, etc. I never, ever envisioned that this group would become some kind of workshop, doling out assignments to the members.

I was amazed at how fast this transformation took place. I missed one meeting last October when I was on a business trip to the Middle East and Europe. After I returned I attended the November meeting to see that this format was faît accompli, seemingly being “run” by a new member of the group I’d never even seen before.

 Anyway, I’m not in for it and I never was. If I wanted “assignments” I’d enrol in a course. When I need someone’s editorial advice, as I often do, then I seek it out. I have my own stable of contacts who help me as I help them when they ask.

 Had I known that the group would so quickly have morphed into this shape I would have never taken over the organization of it.

Part of the reason that I am of two minds about leaving the group is because writing is a big part of my life. I am a monthly columnist in a major business magazine. I publish two professional newsletters. Over the past years I have written features for magazines in Europe, Asia and North America. I maintain ten (yes, ten) blogs, both professionally and personally. And I have published two non-fiction books. On top of all of this I travel a substantial amount of time. The very last thing I want or need is for a new comers in the writers’ group to be giving me a reading and critique assignments. The whole point of the group has been missed. And to be quite honest I have too much on my slate to get into any kind of political struggle over the nature of the group. I chose to expend my energy on more positive activities.

My good friend, C.Y. Gopinath, who is an excellent writer, has taken over the helm of the group in the meantime. He volunteered himself right away. To me that is a very good thing because it was Gopi who founded the group in the first place.

It is sad that people would want to turn an opportunity for writers to network into a seminar – whether they want to run it or whether they want to be part of the critiquing. I don’t say this because a seminar is a bad thing. I say it because I recommend that anyone who would like to make such a group into a classroom for getting free critiquing will most likely not go anywhere with the craft anyway. I recommend them to actually start their own seminar or enroll in a school for that. I was involved because I believed that we writers all had something to offer one another and could work on building a support network. I guess with writers it wasn’t meant to be. And I also feel that this is why so many of them, including many of the better writers, remain unread!

In the meantime, I received one very nasty mail from a member who chose to use illogic and foul language because I resigned. The guy is a real winner in life for sure. He would epitomize what we call back home a “nine month abortion”. Over the few years I was involved in the group we had many people come and go. In fact, Gopi himself was originally running the group and resigned. Nobody used foul language or chased up after him. D.F. Thompson was the second person to run the group before I took over and he also resigned. I am sure no one came at him with foul language either. And I have a right to resign if I feel that the group has moved in different directions or if I do not have enough time to carry out my responsibilities. So this complaint will remain to me like water off a duck’s back.

I do have a message for any of the writers who feel like I do concerning the direction of the Bangkok Writers Guild: Any of you who would like to meet socially in the format that I originally proposed let me know. I am still keen for this. But a seminar format with reading assignments? Not interested in the very least.

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Why it is good for authors to meet up…

I have been involved with an authors’ meet up for some time now.  It is a very off and on thing and as all groups go it has some falling outs with the members, mainly over structure of the group and what we are to do.  Personally, it is very hard for writers to put much structure into any such group unless they are all of the same genre, mindset and caliber.  Our group, the Bangkok Writers Guild, is a very informal group made up of mainly expatriates.  Some of us are very satisfied where we are in our status whereas others want to hit it big – have a blockbuster to make their name, so to speak.  Personally, I don’t feel the need to do this because the books that I have written are unique in their own right.  You won’t find many books debunking the Vatican Islam Conspiracy, nor will you find many books on bawdy Southern humor either.

That being said, if you plan to join such a group as ours I think you will find a great camaraderie with your fellow authors.  There is much to be learned from them and there is much to teach them as well.  For instance, unless you are in a major city full of authors and author wannabes, like New York City, per se, then your group will most likely be a rag tag group like ours.  But this is great!  We have writers in our group who are non-published, self-published, vanity published and traditionally published.  The whole gamut is run in our own membership.  So if one of us wants help with marketing, typesetting, illustrations, cover design, getting an agent, editing, finding a POD publisher, getting blurbs and book reviews – you name it – it is all right here in our group.  For an author there is no better master mind group than a group of other authors.  I have personally found a wealth of experience in our own people.

If you are not in a group already and you are serious about learning the business of being an author, whether you plan to self publish or land a contract with a publishing house, I recommend finding a group to build a nest in.  Participate in the discussions.  Learn what you can and impart your own knowledge as well.  And if there isn’t a group around you then try to put your best foot forward and start one yourself.  Use the leverage of others’ knowledge and experience to make you better at the business of writing.  Open your mind to it and you will see there’s lots of help out there for you.

I would love to hear from other writers’ experiences in writers’ groups. Do you have any experiences you would like to share?