My journey to becoming a member of the South Carolina Writers Association (formerly South Carolina Writers Workshop), was slightly complicated. The original goal was to find a writer’s refuge which was in the vicinity of my home in Chapin, SC. An on-line search took me down many retreat roads, but none came close to the growing goal of writing unity I was envisioning. The search did eventually lead me to the site advertising the 2012 South Carolina Writers Workshop (SCWW) Conference in Myrtle Beach.
Logical thinking further led me to search the SCWW website for a list of state chapters which included a local chapter just a couple of miles away. How had I missed this? Right here in my midst, at the local library. A place I had frequented at least a hundred times since moving to Chapin in 2001. Were they hiding from me or had I been hiding from them? No matter. I would take a step forward. I could not wait to attend the first meeting. Second and fourth Thursday of each month.
I sent an e-mail to founding Chapter Leader, Elaine Allcut, who politely confirmed her eagerness for my attendance and advised me on meeting protocol. Members were given a chance to read a sample of their writing, ranging from prose, poems, memoirs and more. Then the writing was critiqued by the other attending members. Oh dear. That sounded a bit frightening.
That was what I needed though. A room full of fellow writers and a little fear. A path to take the years of plotting, planning and writing to fruition. Feedback was my next step. Could I handle the criticism? Could I succeed at writing fiction? Only one way to find out.
I ran to my office and dusted off a copy of my very own novel’s first chapter. A copy needed for each member of the group of five or six. So many years have now passed, I can’t recall if I printed copies off my computer or made a made dash to the UPS store to make the copies. Anxious enthusiasm blurs the memory, as do time and age.
I was so enthused, I did not tell a single soul about attending this meeting. Actually, I was too frightened of failure to tell anyone. I read that first chapter over and over in the days ahead of the meeting, thinking (like all other writers) how wonderful or horrible it really was. Also, like all other writers, how personal and guarded it had become. Sharing it was akin to letting go of my child’s hand for the first time. Well, maybe that’s a bit much. Not that heart-rending. Still, baring a bit of my soul on pieces of paper I was about to share with strangers. Why had I thought this was a good idea?
Well, here I am, almost six years later – a grateful SCWA member, still attending the same chapter meetings (now first and third Mondays of the month) at the newly renovated library in Chapin, SC. Still struggling to let go into the world pieces of my soul. The faces of the members have changed slightly over the years. Some with a little age, some because they have been replaced by others. Some of our faces have even moved and created SCWA chapters of their own (i.e., Clemson and Newberry). We stay in touch through visits, e-mails, and internet messages. In all ways, our numbers have grown and strengthened.
An attachment has also developed because these are the faces of fellow writers. They are collaborators, empathizers, and friends. They are my chapter. From that first day, they allowed me to read, responded with kindness and provided some very valuable criticism.
We have travelled roads together, including the one leading to the Myrtle Beach Conference in 2012. That beacon of internet discovery that led me to my chapter and the best group of writers I know. It has been an honor to offer and receive so much from you!
The SCWA Pawleys Island Conference is coming up later this year in October. Maybe there is another writer out there preparing to travel a new road!
(Many thanks to the staff at the Chapin Branch Library, which is part of the Lexington County Public Library system.)
2012 SCWA Myrtle Beach Conference.
From left: Sue Cryer: Arlene Westermeyer (aka Millie West); and Elaine Allcut.
Sue Cryer is a member of The SCWA Board of Directors and works as a Freelance Writer in Chapin, SC. She is a former Newspaper Correspondent and Feature News Writer.