something like an expose by Susan Jo Humphrey
A writing group can be the best–or the worst–way to develop your craft. My guest today, Susan Jo Humphrey, shares a few of the reasons why….
The late great poet-philosopher Groucho Marx once said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”
My concern about ‘writer’s groups’ was similar, but I joined anyway.
The idea of sharing a work in progress with strangers seemed … peculiar; it summoned up a slew of uncomfortable questions about human nature, plagiarism, and trust.
- What if someone steals my great idea?
- What if they all hate my ideas, humiliate me, and quash my motivation?
- What If I unconsciously steal one of their ideas; could I go to prison?
A writer’s group, in essence, is like group therapy, but much less entertaining. For me, it required acute listening skills (that I didn’t possess) and plenty of lying.
“Yes Ken, I really enjoined your new chapter. Is goat mishandling something you actually experienced or is that all made up?”
“Debbie, you really have created such memorable characters! I was wondering, why are they all named Blinky?”
No one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, but writer’s groups beg for honest feedback. As Shakespeare (or maybe it was Stormy Daniels) once said, “Aye, there’s the rub.”
I entered a well-established group but expected that few members would ever be published, including myself. Those who were published intimidated me. Take the ‘award-winning’ poet whose stuff was so deep, I never understood it and felt foolish trying to give feedback. Who was I to judge? My favorite poem begins with, ‘There once was a man from Nantucket…’
Or the gal who was writing a comedy vampire story (the main character was an acCOUNTant) that was truly awful and never funny; but nevertheless, brought in a new chapter we had to sit through every week.
And yet, I sat through it all because I’m addicted to praise. When it was my turn to read, I felt energized and confident that my novel could never be stolen since it was autobiographical. After reading my last chapter, I awaited the accolades… which is odd, because, for the most part, I only respected a few other members’ critiques. As I’d hoped, many of these would-be, but never-would-be-writers, gave me good reviews. The award-winning poet said, “I found your humor to be both insouciant, yet Swiftian as well. Bravo.”
That’s when the guilt set in.
- Had I been too dismissive of other people’s works?
- Was I too judgmental of their creative endeavors?
- What the hell does ‘insouciant’ mean?
Despite my current ambivalence towards writer’s groups, I recommend them to beginners who have a passion for writing. Talent and devotion are not synonymous; these groups are useful and have helped many wannabes like me understand that getting published is a secondary pursuit; what matters is discipline and a sense of accomplishment. And when you do get favorable feedback, wow, it is better than rubies!
Don’t be thin-skinned; bring a shield! Writer’s groups are akin to Chinese spy balloons floating high above the ether. At first, the journey seems light and airy with nary an obstacle in the way.
Inevitably though, someone will shoot you down; bring a parachute too.
“It was 1978. People didn’t have home computers, video players, or answering machines. We rented our telephones from local phone companies and hand-wrote letters. The terms ‘politically correct’ and ‘African-American’ had not been coined. ‘Eating disorders’ and ‘alternate lifestyles’ were not yet common household phrases. Only strippers wore thongs, which made perfect sense to me, as they only caused one to gyrate their hynie in a desperate attempt to dislodge the bothersome wedgie.”
So writes Sherri Van Ness, an unassuming girl from the burbs of Kansas who’s about to embark on the adventure of her life when she signs up to become a stewardess. But it’s much more turbulent than this doughy-eyed 19-year-old ever imagined as she tries to navigate past grouchy passengers, fly-by-night relationships and the unforgiving, relentless, humiliating, monthly weigh-ins. Some dreams come true. Others require a vomit bag.
That’s not to say Sherri doesn’t enjoy herself. Au contraire! There are friends to be made and men to be made and the maid who made up her room in New York is so nice!
Yes, the work is difficult at times and the money isn’t always good, but there are perks: free flights and an endless supply of tiny vodka bottles and salted peanuts (peanut allergies hadn’t been invented yet.)
Like Dorothy Gale sans Toto, Sherri leaves Kansas and finds herself amidst a cast of characters as strange to her as the Scarecrow and the Munchkins were to Dorothy. Her whirlwind journey takes her from innocent, insecure stewardess to mature and confident flight attendant. Or does she?
Book your flight now with this very enjoyable read, put your seat back in the upright position, and enjoy the ride!
About the Author
Susan Jo Humphrey, the daughter of a diplomat, was born in Izmir, Turkey where she lived for three years. She also lived in Korea and Thailand, before returning home to the US with her family as a teenager. She has traveled all over the United States, and has called several parts of this country ‘home.’ Her many airplane rides as a child convinced her she must one day become a stewardess. Suz was a flight attendant for thirteen of her twenty-five years with UAL. She began penning FlightLog with the help of the Naperville Writer’s Group, outside of Chicago. There, she published in their annual pamphlet, had a humor piece printed in an online magazine, and contributed many articles to local newspapers. At the time of publication, she is busy working on FlightLog II.
Away from the keyboard, Suz loves yoga, reading, cooking, listening to music and playing her guitar. She still enjoys mapping out travel to faraway places she’s never seen, as well as planning return trips to her favorite spots.
She currently lives in Southern California and has two grown children. Today, she’s in healthcare, where she’s worked since 2014. Suz was the ‘baby’ of her flight attendant classes – and the ‘senior’ student in her nursing classes. She’s eager to write that story as well: a novice baby-boomer RN begins her dream career as a travel nurse – just as a pandemic breaks out!
connect with the author: websiteFLIGHTLOG by Susan Humphrey Book Tour Giveaway
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