Tracy Lee Karner

Girl Scouting lesson applies to writing, to everything

Tracy Lee Karner
Make new friends, keep the old; some are silver, some are…

The first Girl-Scouting Lesson I learned goes like this:
Make new friends, but keep the old.  Some are silver and others are gold. 
I’ve been asking my blogging friends questions all week: “Why am I blogging?”
Now I know that answer–to connect with people.
I can’t imagine remaining motivated or inspired (to write or to live) without my relationships, old and new because 
Everything I know I’ve learned from someone else. 
A new connection happened this week. I blogged (thinking aloud) “And what should I blog?”
The really neat thing about blogging is, it turns friendly eavesdropping readers into people who contribute to the conversation.
Rachael Hanel read my blog, and she commented with the best kind of answer, a question.  “Have you blogged about your path to publication?” (She has to be a teacher!)
So I checked out her blog
blog by Rachael Hannel

(because writers and teachers are among my favorite people) and I fell immediately into nostalgia. I discovered she lives in Mankato, a town connected to my childhood and where my son went to college. And she has a memoir about one of the subjects I continually explore–grief. And if she’s from small-town Waseca like it sounds like she is (I haven’t asked yet–I just disccovered her a few hours ago) then we know some of the same people for certain. And her memoir is forthcoming from University of Minnesota (my alma mater) Press (the publisher of my good friend Susan Thurston’s book Cooking Up the Good Life), and she writes a blog which I’m now following. (Check out Rachael Hanel’s blog here.)
There’s no way she knew anything about all these connections when she answered a question with a question on my blog.
I’m grateful to her for reaching out, because her question made me think which caused me to rearrange my blog. I now have started a chapter on the writing life. And I am inspired to be blogging again.
Rachael reminded me that a small gesture of generosity (just noticing someone) could mean a lot more to a person than we might think.
Tracy Lee Karner
You might open a window for thought.

And I wish her a great book launch next Spring. Maybe I’ll even be back in Minnesota visiting then. My roots are deep there. I am still very connected (naturally to my huge family) and also to the writing community. I appreciate all the people who supported my then and now–with encouragement, education, friendship, by example, and especially by supplying warmth to get through those long cold winters.
I can’t imagine becoming a writer without belonging to a community of writers. The list of writers (some famous, most non-famous) that I owe gratitude to is endless. Chuck, Anne and Ellen were my first writing group, the people who believed in me when I was a beginner. We met while taking a university workshop-style class from the poet Michael Dennis Browne and continued to workshop our new writing together, monthly for the next year. We encouraged each other to keep reading and writing.
Later I was invited to join Northfield Women Poets in Minnesota after I submitted some poems to the editor of a literary journal who was a member of that group. Beverly liked my writing, published my poems, and invited me into the group (after the other members saw my writing and agreed I would “fit” with them). We met almost weekly for years (they still meet as Penchant Poets). I have lived far away for nearly fifteen years, but still maintain regular contact.
The coming together of a group is as inexplicable as the coming together of a couple. And sometimes it doesn’t work out. I’ve become involved in half a dozen groups over the years. Always I established my first contact by meeting someone in a class or workshop. I’ve organized some groups; I’ve been invited into others. I’ve usually loved them but sometimes I haven’t. They all taught me something valuable, and it was always worth checking out whether we might “fit together.”
These days I’m not in a group and not looking for one. I’m working on my own (but have editors, of course). I wouldn’t be here, however, without the groups and the teachers who taught me everything I know.
Are you a member of a writing group, or any kind of support group? How did you find the group and how does it function? Or, if you have found help from a one-on-one relationship–a mentoring relationship or a friendship–what brought you together with that person? 

3 thoughts on “Girl Scouting lesson applies to writing, to everything”

  1. What a small world! I absolutely am a Waseca girl. Strange to think we probably have some connections there!
    What goes around comes around. I want people to read my blog, but that’s not going to happen without giving to the blogging community in return. This is my first attempt at serious blogging and trying to make connections, and I love what’s happening!
    I appreciate that you said you might like my book. You are probably the first person I do not know who has said that! I consider you my first “outside the circle” critic! It’s hard to know if you’re reaching your target audience when everyone in your audience knows you and probably just wants to say good things to your face.
    I’m in a writing group now but have left different ones in the past for different reasons. Finding a group who is the right fit can take time. Everybody approaches writing differently. Some really like the social aspects of getting together with writers, while others prefer to get down to business. That probably would be another blog topic I can put on my list!

    1. I agree–it’s important when searching for a group that, if you want one, it can take time to find one. It took me nearly 10 years, after I left my second group, to find my 3 really, really good group. I’m so glad I didn’t give up seeking, because it was SUCH a good group for me.

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