Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let Me Present North 24th -- My Writing Group

On a gorgeous Sunday night a few weeks ago, I went out to dinner with nine women who have become some of my closest companions.

We were there to celebrate our individual accomplishments and the fact that we have been writing as a group for almost nine years. It’s been amazing to watch one another evolve from fledgling to accomplished writers. When we started, some of us had never published, some were traditional reporters, some focused on lifestyle tidbits for magazines. Now there are four books to our credit, four more on the way, and articles spread everywhere from More Magazine to to San Francisco Magazine to the New York Times. It’s an amazing, supportive group of writers.

We weren’t meeting at Foreign Cinema, a hip restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District that projects old movies on a wall in its garden, just to chat. We jammed into the crowded restaurant and ordered up a round of mojitos and wine to celebrate Allison Hoover Bartlett, who had just sold her book on a rare book thief and the book dealer who pursues him to Riverhead. (See the pictures here.)

Just 18 months earlier, the story had been a gleam in her eye. Then it was an article for San Francisco Magazine. Our group, called North 24th (since so many members live north of 24th Street in San Francisco), helped Allison shape her book proposal. Her agent did such an amazing job of drumming up interest in New York that her proposal sold in just a few days.

But there was more to celebrate! Three members of our group have books coming out in the next few months. The next up is Julia Flynn Siler, whose book The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty, will be released next week. (More on that tomorrow) Susan Freinkel’s book, American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree, will be published by the University of California Press in November. And Leslie Crawford and her son Sam are the authors of City Walks with Kids: San Francisco: 50 Adventures on Foot, which will be published by Chronicle Books in the fall.

Our doctor in the house, Katherine Neilan, is working on a medical memoir, and our local humorist, Jill Storey, always has us laughing, like in this piece about memory in the Washington Post. Katherine Ellison has published three books, including The Mommy Brain, and Sharon Neuschatz always shares her mindfulness with us.

Since writing is such an isolated profession, a writing group like North 24th is like a lifeline, a support system that sustains and encourages you. When the doubts descend as they always do, it’s helpful to have a set of colleagues who can remind you that setback and rejection are part of the process, and do not define you as a person or a writer.

And when that “yes” comes over e-mail, that writing group is there to celebrate. I know there are thousands of groups like North 24th around the country, and to them and my own friends I say “bottoms up!”

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