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By Jean Perry, SOLA LitMingle Coordinator

*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was accidentally emailed before Christmas, but was not scheduled to post on the blog until today. So just in case you missed it or were looking for it on Kite Tales… Here it is again!

Left to right: Karen English, Marjorie Smith, Jean Perry at Meeting #1

The idea for a South LA LitMingle was born where so many great ideas in Los Angeles are born: in traffic. When construction projects increased traffic congestion, my drive-time from South LA to Hollywood, as the then-Hollywood LitMingle Coordinator, went from thirty-five minutes to one hour. Returning time wasn’t much shorter. If it was too much of a commute for the coordinator, what about potential attendees coming from the same area? The answer seemed reasonable: set up a South LA Mingle.

I was surprised to find the shorter commute didn’t exactly bring in the minglers. Where did all the people go? My first meeting consisted of two friends plus me. The second meeting was me with a woman who wandered by during the last fifteen minutes. My third meeting is coming up on January 25th. One writer is interested in writing about her family, another about a trip to West Africa, another about a childhood experience. None have shown up more than once.

Coordinating a brand new LitMingle isn’t the same as taking over an established one. While I may have great content planned, like using The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson to construct a chart from my now-completed manuscript and discuss the process with other writers, I have to actually find those other writers. A LitMingle’s birth is followed by marketing it to potential minglers, something I’m learning about by trial and error. “It’s hard to get new things started,” senior librarian Zada Mozer whispered after one lonely meeting.

Here’s what I’ve done so far to build the group:

  • Put up flyers at my meeting site: the Baldwin Hills Library.
  • Put up flyers in nearby libraries, one close to USC.
  • Posted the flyer on my Facebook page.
  • Posted the meeting time and place on SCBWI’s LitMingle page.

I also manned a table in the library lobby, where most men and women, but particularly women, looked like the walking-exhausted. When I asked, “Would you like to join a writers’ group?” most just shook their heads. They went inside the reading room and emerged with two or three children.

Then I understood. With dinner, and baths, and unfinished homework ahead of them, I’d asked the wrong question. Better, I think is “Do you have a story to tell? The names can be changed.”

In the future, I will lead with that. But if you have other good ideas, please share them with me in the comments below!

And if you’d like to join me at the SOLA LitMingle:

When: The last Thursday of every month (except December, July, and August) from 6:30 PM to 7:45 PM

Where: Baldwin Hills Library meeting room, 2906 South La Brea Avenue, LA CA 90016

Updates: Visit the LitMingle Calendar or email me to be added to the SOLA emailing list.

Upcoming Topics Include:

  • Developing strong characters
  • Story structure for picture books and novel
  • Our favorite children’s writers and why we love them.

 

For more fantastic content, community, events, and other professional development opportunities, become a member today! Not sure if there is a chapter in your area? Check here.

 

Jean Perry is a retired elementary school teacher and newspaper reporter. Find out more on her website: http://www.jeanperrywrites.com

 

Images provided by fotolia by Adobe – © matiasdelcarmine, and Jean Perry

 

 

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