Meeting of the Minds

The Writers In CAPS critique group met last night in the Barnes & Noble Cafe to pore over two pieces of fiction by Neil and Chance. CAPS has met twice a month for five years. Quite a feat! A few have come and gone, and we’ve added a few. We started as a group of all women and are currently mixed, half and half, which makes for a good balance in perspective.


“We are writers based in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. We write fiction and creative nonfiction. We are a highly motivated support group, naming ourselves Writers In CAPS. ‘CAPS’ is an acronym for Critiquing, Authoring, Publishing and Supporting.”

CAPS 2008


We are currently writing: two novels, one memoir, one collection of short stories, and short fiction. Currie, an award-winning songwriter, is working on her second novel. She’s a transplanted Canadian who uses a serviette when she has her latte and cookie. Neil is writing embellished boyhood stories based on some real-life incidences of a bunch of mischievous kids in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas in the 50’s and 60’s. Chance puts out some contest-winning short fiction, some springing from a recent trip to Vietnam and some coming from his experiences in Nashville with music, ethnic restaurants, and other cultures. I am trying to balance a memoir and a novel, both evolving out of the Mississippi Delta.

CAPS at Barnes & Noble


Last night’s work had a lot to do with a high school graduation that almost didn’t happen, a science test with a grade of “G,” a sushi restaurant, a homeless veteran who didn’t ask for a handout, and those annoying orange cones they use to mark lanes for church traffic on Franklin Road. (I was left with the impression there might be a few less of them one day real soon.)

When it is my turn, I find it amazingly helpful to have those six other eyes on my work. It’s helpful to discuss techniques that will take the writing to the next level. There’s nothing more valuable to a writer than a critique group.

I’m lucky. I have two — one here in town and one online (born out of the Mid-South Creative Nonfiction Conference) that focuses on creative nonfiction.


3 Comments on “Meeting of the Minds”

  1. sarahemc2 says:


    I would love it if you’d write something for us on how you all have created a successful writers circle that doesn’t fall into bickering and gossip. (I’m thinking that the last one I belonged two would have done better if we’d had an application process and a stronger genre focus… I left after it was decided that erotica counted as serious writing and we should be open to reviewing it. I am not.)

    Of course, we know how the online writing circle works… we all sit down at our computers and think “I can work on an essay, or I can write the girls…”

  2. kathyrhodes says:

    We have had our bickering and growing pains and other issues that have interrupted the process of the business we were supposed to be about. A few times, we have found it necessary to redefine goals and discuss our commitment or lack thereof. I think, first of all, that “by invitation only” is one of the keys to a successful writers’ group, or as you say, an application process. Also, one genre would work best. Ours is now limited to fiction and creative nonfiction–the telling of stories, and that seems to be okay. A SMALL group is best. Four, maybe five members. And a schedule must be set for meetings. We have 15 minutes of chatting and then get down to business. If the members are dedicated and serious writers, they will stay on task. If not, then there are problems, the main one being that some members may want a social hour and may take every opportunity to veer the others off track and soon find themselves not even writing at all. Then it becomes problematic if one resents another for being dedicated and serious and/or interprets suggestions/support/goals/growth as “being pushy.” All kinds of dynamics pop up in a writers’ circle! It is necessary for the members to be equally enthusiastic about their writing and commitment to the group and to submission and critique deadlines; this is the key. Ours has seen members come and go because of family issues, personal issues, work issues, the lack of desire or commitment to write, and the desire to take writing to a higher level than what the group could afford. Life is made up of change, and that follows a group over time. I know of one group, however, that has been together a long time and they have supported each other until every one of them has been published by a major house, and now, they do signings and panels at festivals together. That is awesome–they all had one goal in sight way off in the distance, they kept their eyes on it, stayed focused, stayed supportive, and made it, by golly.

  3. inktarsia says:

    Very inspiring to read the story of your group, and especially the group that saw each other through it all. It’s so important to recognize the shifting tectonics in a long-term group, and find a positive way to manage the change. Gets back to good communication and consensus of purpose, doesn’t it.

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