Slice of Life: Writing Communities

Image via Julie Johnson
For most of my life, my writing has been for myself.  It was somehow therapeutic to scratch words with a pen onto a piece of paper.  My writing life has certainly ebbed and flowed --- mostly ebbed  --- across the years, but writing for myself was always enough.  I didn't have to worry about criticism.  Didn't have to worry about saying things in the wrong way.  Didn't have to worry about working and reworking my thoughts.  I just put words on a page, closed the book, and walked away.

A long series of events over the last ten years has slowly pushed me toward more public writing.  One factor in changing my course has been community.  Writing communities have pushed me to put more thought into my writing, to work toward creating stronger messages, to try writing in new ways, to be a bit braver when it comes to sharing the words on a page.  Today, for example, this post is part of the collaborative work of the Slice of Life community. Every Tuesday these writers link up at Two Writing Teachers with a small snippet of story to share.  Then participants comment and provide feedback on blogs that affirm, inspire and push the writing.  I also participate in Poetry Friday which is another virtual community that supports one another's love of the written words of poetry.

For the last two days, however, my writing community hasn't been virtual, it has been live and in person.  A few months ago, Julie Johnson began organizing a group of educators to work together with the Columbus Area Writing Project on a project around digital literacy.  I was honored to be asked to join, and absolutely thrilled when the group came together.  The group members are educators I respect, trust to push my thinking, and know well enough to feel comfortable handing my writing to them.  Our group consists of Tonya Buelow, Deb Frazier, Julie Johnson, Scott Jones, Deb Lairson, Mandy Robek, and myself.

Today was only our second day, and already I am loving this writing community.  Our day begins as part of a larger group as there are, I think, four different groups working on a writing project of one kind or another.  We then have time to write, a working lunch (we need to read the pieces that will receive feedback), and then an afternoon of feedback.  Our writing group does have a format, perhaps a protocol, it is following.  We read the piece.  One person provides feedback and cannot be interrupted.  The writer responds to the feedback and asks further questions.  Then the next person provides feedback.

To be honest, I've never been a huge fan of protocols.  No big surprise there for those who know me.  I get their purpose, but sometimes think they feel constricting and keep conversation from flowing.  There's something about learning in a group that is sitting around a table and having a natural conversation around something.  There's something about the way the conversation grows that pushes our thinking, but protocols sometimes take the naturalness away from this.

For some strange reason I can't explain, the boundaries of the protocol have made the conversation quite fun.  If you knew our group, you'd know we are all a bunch of talkers.  Watching us trying not to interrupt is hilarious.  At times, someone just loses their ability to be quiet and interjects accidentally --- that is even funnier.  Listening to the feedback, even when it is for someone else, has really helped me to think more about my writing.  The questions we have been asking each other have been hard, but the conversations have been comfortable.

Our writing group will be working together for the next two weeks.  After reading the beginnings of each person's piece, I am curious to see where we will go as we work together.  Most of all, I'm glad that in the middle of this hard work, I know we'll be able to laugh.  Writing communities have helped me to grow as a writer.  There's still much to learn and I'm glad to be working beside these writers in these next steps of my writing journey.

It's Tuesday!  Today I'm participating in the Slice of Challenge hosted each Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers.  Stop by today's round-up and join the fun!  


  1. I love how you describe the edge-of-your-seat, I-want-to-speak feeling during the protocols. Sounds like a great writing community. I love the National Writing Project--it changed my teaching life.

  2. Wow! What a powerful experience to have found a writing community. It sounds like the companionship and structure of the group is going to help everyone produce some amazing things. We can't wait to learn from what you discover.

  3. Wow! What a powerful experience to have found a writing community. It sounds like the companionship and structure of the group is going to help everyone produce some amazing things. We can't wait to learn from what you discover.

  4. Love the writing projects, where ever they are. Looking forward to writing in my community starting June 22.
    Love the listening you're practicing: "Teaching...can be likened to a conversation in which you listen to the speaker carefully before you reply." Marie Clay

  5. What a great group of teachers! I am also a big believer in the National Writing Project and a member of my local site, the Long Island Writing Project. We are gearing up for our Summer Invitational. I would love to know more about the work you are doing and look forward to reading more about it!

  6. It sounds like a great writing group. I am attending the Kenyon Writers Workshop for Teachers at the end of the month and have no idea what to expect.

  7. That's a group of teaching rock stars. Wow! Enjoy yourselves (and get lots of writing done)!

  8. I wrote about our day too - but in a short and condensed version. I think the protocol is intended to make us listen more which in turn helps us process more. While I can appreciate the fast paced conversations we've both been engaged with - sitting back might be hard but I think it's good for our souls. Can't wait to see where this takes us and honored to be at your side.

  9. So exciting. Wishing you more laughter, more inspiration, more support, more writing - as much as you can hold in a day.

  10. Sounds like you are totally enjoying this!!!! I can see where the "protocol" piece might be a struggle for you, lol... Enjoy!!!!!

  11. Now I know more of your secrets. :) I love our writing group and what everyone brings to it. I think we're finding our own ways around the protocol to get our extra messages in. I can't wait to see where all of this great thinking and writing takes us.

  12. Fun to compare your version of protocol to Mandy's!


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