Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SUPPORT: What’s Your Definition?

Support (n.) encouragement, help, boost, assistance, backing, sustenance

All of the above definitions describe perfectly what I receive from my support group i.e. my critique partners in writing. We started out sixteen years ago with one published writer and three unpublished. Over the years we increased in number and now are an ensemble of eight with six published, one in the process of submitting and one professional cover artist/writer. At a recent writer’s meeting, six of us presented a panel discussion on how we draw support from each other in spite of writing in different genres.

We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. Our group is blessed with some who are excellent plotters and some who read for details. Characters are my strong point but I always need help plotting. Others have a talent for nailing my story’s sluggish pacing on the first read and offering suggestions to fix it. We have experts in grammar and punctuation, too, and I always need help with that. We are a blended circle of writers in the paranormal genre, historical eras and contemporaries, inspirational stories, romances both sweet and sexy, mysteries and suspense. We are diverse in age as well as talents. Over the years we’ve learned how to share what we do best in ways that benefit each other without being boring. Believe me, our critique sessions are never boring. They are lively, educational and productive. They are better than a dose of medicine for what ails me.

I remember watching my mama in the kitchen and being fascinated by the different ingredients she added to her cooking, tasting as she stirred, approving or disapproving the result. Even though what she made might be a dish she’d cooked many times, she always tried to improve the final creation. Mama loved experimenting and trying something new, adding a spice here or an herb there. Sometime it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Her only support group back then was the experience of other cooks and their recipes. I still have her wooden recipe box filled with her recipes written in pencil. The box is over one hundred years old now and I plan to pass it on to my children someday.

Mama’s audience was her family gathered around the dining room table at meal time. Her goal was to win their approval, the reason she spent hours in the kitchen striving to reach that goal. Writers’ goals are no different. They spend long hours writing and revising until their goal is in sight.

Writing is a lot like mama’s cooking. My support group gives me recipes to follow and tips to improve my stories, but I’m always the cook. It’s up to me to set the pot on the stove and light the fire. I have to begin to put the main dish together by tasting a little bit at a time. That new spice someone suggested might speed up the slow pacing I struggle with, but I have to be careful to add just the right amount of heat. Introducing a secondary character might enhance the story like an herb enriches an entrée. By revising and experimenting with the basic recipe and using advice from my support group, I’ll have a much tastier main dish to present when my novel is fully cooked. My creative main dish will make me proud when I know I’ve pleased my readers.

Here’s the tasty result of one of Mama’s creative cooking sessions!

Old-fashioned Peach Cobbler – serves 6

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

½ c. sugar
1 Tbls. cornstarch
14 tsp. cinnamon
4 c. sliced peaches (6 or 7)
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 Tbls. shortening
1 c. flour
1 Tbls. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ c. milk

Mix ½ c. sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in 2 qt. saucepan. Stir in peaches and lemon juice. Cool, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Pour into ungreased 2 qt. casserole and keep in hot oven while mixing topping.

Topping: Cut shortening into flour, 1 Tbls. sugar, baking powder and salt until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in milk. Drop 6 spoons full of dough onto hot peach mixture.

Bake until topping is golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Serve warm - with cream or ice cream if desired.

SUPPORT— What we also receive at the Insecure Writers Support Group on the first Wednesday of every month. Check out the other IWSG bloggers to learn more about writers and writing.

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