Over on Genreality, Lynn Viehl has a post about writer's groups and her experiences with them.
As I read, I tried to recall whether there were any writer's groups around here - I live in the country, on the coast, where retirees spend their kids' inheritance by buying over-priced near or above million dollar homes. Blech.
Anyway. I riffled around in the dungeons of my memory and came up with a weird recollection. I was editor of a country newspaper at the time. Most of my staff were the advertising side of the paper, with a sports journalist, a news journalist, a cadet and me.
Everyone was busy so I sent myself out to cover a kind of coastal writer's gathering. They got together once a year to chat, to read from their works and to discuss it. But promote it? Hell, they invited me!
A more recalcitrant bunch of writers I never want to meet.
I walked in with camera and notebook. Every head turned to glare at the interruption - not that they were doing much. I tried my most charming smile and announced who I was and what I'd be doing, but would keep my intrusion to a minimum. I didn't see any welcoming gestures. In fact, I heard some distinct sniffs.
Gamely, I did my job: taking photos, asking a few questions which mostly went unanswered or were dealt with in the vague way embarrassed people replied. People turned away from the camera, spoke in soft voices to each other, but not to me. Me, they mostly ignored.
It's the kind of job every journalist hates: talents who prove extremely difficult.
As I left, it occured to me that these writers, um poets actually, didn't want publicity. They were happy within their clique; content with the trust and accolades of their fellows - no critiqueing here. They published, yes, but self-published and only gave the booklets to their comrades or family. And that was enough for them.
Not for them them any popularity outside the clique - that would be bad - happy are these big fish in a small pond. And good luck to them, they got their wish: the story was so thin it went from a proposed page three to less than a quarter of page ten.
I suppose they're still at it. Retirees, taking the plunge to write some truly awful poetry and having polite friends applaud them (though probably for bravery rather than content).
In the end, Lynn is correct: the internet provides a much more useful medium for writing - the hows and whys and whats and whos. You can always find someone with whom you share skill level, genre and hopes.
I really, really hope that in my Autumn years, I shan't find myself in a group of people listening to bad poetry or works of fiction and have to applaud.
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple...