Meg Waite Clayton: Building The "Wednesday Sisters"-ship

Guest blog by Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters
Meg can be found online at megwaiteclayton.com

The history of my writing starts with a brown paper lunch bag. Like Linda does in my novel, The Wednesday Sisters, my first writing teacher dumped a collection of "interesting things" onto a table and told us to write about anything that spilled. She swore we wouldn't have to read. Then she called time after five minutes, and called on me to read first.

Which is the good news: If she hadn't, I'd have ducked out before she could call on me second. It had taken all the nerve I had just to get to that class, to admit that, yes, I dreamed of writing novels. I thought writers leaped tall buildings in single literary bounds, and that's not me.

Nashville FourI began writing in earnest, and eventually settled in with the Nashville Four, an odd quartet drawn from a larger library writers' group. We had little in common at first beyond a respect for each others' writing and a drive to write, and we counted among us only a single travel piece published in a small distribution magazine. Also: two abandoned legal and business careers, one pension-gathering stint teaching English, and one chicken farm.

Now (years later), we can claim seven books published or being written under contract with major publishers. Seven! It still delights me to say that! Was there something in the coffee where we used to meet in Nashville? Maybe, but I'm pretty sure what saved us was our absurd ability to believe in ourselves long beyond the time any rational being would. We supported each other by meeting weekly to critique each others' work, yes, but also by answering the phone, providing shoulders to sob on, and popping champagne.

Or not popping champagne, as the case may be.

When I moved from Nashville, we'd all published articles, essays, stories and poems, but we had yet to sell a book. Ever the optimist, I distributed bottles of champagne to be opened when the first of us did finally sell one, so we could celebrate together emotionally if not geographically.

Just days after we moved, I learned that my first novel would be published. Champagne! I promptly mailed replacement bottles so that when Brenda Rickman Vantrease sold her first novel a few months later, we could pop champagne again. And I was delighted to receive the replacement magnum Brenda sent, to mark her two-book The Illuminator deal.

We shared that magnum with California writing friends to celebrate the sale of The Wednesday Sisters, a novel about five women who connect over books and--in a nod to the Nashville Four--bond in a deeper way after they form a writing group. I learned then, after a failed attempt to get Fed Ex to ship champagne, that the rest of the Nashville Four don't share my keenness for it. (Like I said: little in common other than a respect for each others' writing and a drive to write.) So when Leslie Lytle sold her first book, Execution's Doorstep, we settled for a long-distance clinking of our personal favorite beverages in our cups. We enjoyed a reunion in Nashville that summer, too, to celebrate all our successes.

Unlike the Nashville Four, my California writing friends by and large like champagne. We hike together, share meals, talk about writing and publishing, and gather to write at coffee shops. When I finish a first draft of my new novel, though, I'll still turn to the Nashville Four for critique. We work long-distance these days, emailing manuscripts and sharing thoughts over the phone, and sorely missing our weekly coffee. The trust we've built up over the years, we find, is a hard thing to replace, and the friendship we formed over our writing is a rare and incredible gift.

Thanks for the interesting blog - just the idea of your long-time group makes me want to get your book and read it (sorry to say I wasn't aware of it before, but it sounds like my cup of tea.
# Posted By Beth Cummings | 5/6/09 11:17 AM
Meg: Thanks for sharing both groups with us. The only thing better than having a success, is being able to share it with the people who helped make it possible. Congratulations on the success of The Wednesday Sisters!
Marsha Toy Engstrom
The Book Club Cheerleader
# Posted By BookClubCheerleader | 5/21/09 2:19 PM
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