As the leadership of the Utah Valley Writers, we strive to meet our members’ creative needs, whether that be writing craft, business instruction, or connecting with other like-minded individuals. That’s why we periodically ask for feedback from our members. What do you want from your writing group?
Last fall, we sent out a survey, and have formed this year’s programs based on its results. I want to share with you what we learned and how we’re meeting those needs.
Sample questions we asked (I’ve condensed them from the original):
1. What topics would you like to learn about in field trips and demonstrations?
We gave some possible topics and opened it up for suggestions, as well. About 45% were interested in a fencing demonstration, and getting booked by the police. 35% were interested in going to the shooting range or the horse stables. The range of suggested topics was fairly broad without much overlap.
2. What kind of mini presentations would you like from your fellow members?
Again, we had possible topics and the option to write in suggestions. Most were interested in Scrivener, space science, abnormal psychology, and self-publishing. From the suggestions, we noticed an interest in technology and history. The other common thread was writing craft such as character development, plotting, and adding tension.
3. What are your areas of expertise you are willing to share with our group?
The answers to this question were really cool. We have a lot of experts in our group. (Though some neglected to give us their name, so we have no idea who they are.)
After looking through the responses, we brainstormed the best way to address these needs and came up with several experts we knew, whether member or not. With that, we immediately began planning the program schedule for 2017. You can see some of it in our calendar as we confirm with the presenters.
We felt it was important to continue the tradition of bringing industry professionals, but we wanted to be more selective of which authors to invite. We considered authors who are well-established, and who have impressed us in the past with their speaking skills. Our first author was Hugo award winner, Mary Robinette Kowal. If you missed her presentation, I’m sorry because it was fantastic. We plotted a story together using her method and a couple random nouns (eternal mongoose). We sent out her worksheet to our members. If you didn’t get it for whatever reason, let us know. We are also excited to host Jennifer Nielsen and Jennifer Moore this year.
For the other months, we have added member presentations, fieldtrips, and extraneous activities. The sword demonstration in January was super cool. We learned about the history as well as the swordplay and we came away with resources for further research. Next month, we will be taking a fieldtrip to the police station for a booking and session with the K9 unit. We also have a short story contest coming up in March, a speed dating manuscript activity to help members find matching critique partners (details forthcoming), and a trip to the shooting range with an impressive array of fire arms tentatively planned when the weather warms up.
Critiques are fundamental to improving our writing skills. The quality of a critique is just as important as the critique itself. So, we have a standard and instruct members on how to give and receive critique. This happens as a mini presentation a few times a year. We have at least one full critique session every month. There are also smaller groups who meet between meetings. Please contact us if you are interested in joining an additional critique group.
What are your thoughts? What would you like Utah Valley Writers to do for you? Comment below or email us at uvchapterinfo at gmail.
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