Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Author Lois Roelofs: Importance Of A Writing Group

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Lois Roelofs here today as she makes a stop on her WOW Blog Tour for her nursing memoir, CARING LESSONS: A NURSING PROFESSOR’S JOURNEY OF FAITH AND LIFE . She’s here to talk about the importance of a writing group.

Lois’ memoir traces more than 30 years of a nurse, mother, wife, and student. This book will appeal to nurses as it covers the decades it took for nurses to change their perception from "doctor's helper" to a valued member of a medical team. Even those not involved in the medical profession will enjoy this book from a woman's point of view with Lois facing many obstacles as she strove to go back to school and eventually attain her doctoral degree. 

Thanks to Lois and the good folks at WOW, I have one copy of CARING LESSONS to giveaway to a lucky visitor who comments on this post by 8 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, March 21. If the winner has a US or Canadian address, they’ll win a print copy, while an international winner will receive an eBook. Be sure to leave your email address with your comment, if it’s not included in your profile.

Now Lois is going to explain the importance of a writing group.

I like groups. As a mom, nurse, and teacher, I’ve always belonged to groups of some kind and valued the idea that more heads were better than one when the group had a shared purpose.

So after I retired from teaching nursing and started writing a memoir about my career, I looked for other writers interested in forming a writers’ group. I found them in classes I took at the Newberry Library in Chicago and at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

I’m not usually gushy, but our group of four has been my lifeline in getting my memoir, CARING LESSONS, finished. They’ve been instrumental to my progress in five major ways:     

LoisBookCover1.  Accountability. Every week I can submit up to 10 pages for critique. Even in the driest weeks, this chance to get feedback motivates me to produce at least a page or two. Just like Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, if we start with “short assignments,” they’ll eventually “yield a bounty” of material. 

2.  Camaraderie. We start our meetings chatting about anything related to our lives. Living in Chicago, we have a continual array of cultural events—plays, dances, movies, concerts, and operas—plus the ever-grabbing topics of books, politics, religion, and kids.        

3.  Feedback/Critique/Affirmation. As a nurse, I’m especially grateful for the English, literature, and journalism backgrounds of the other group members. I can count on help with everything from grammar and sentence structure to story arc and character development to my use of nursing jargon when it has run amuck. I also value the group’s diversity of gender, ethnicity, religion, and life experiences. I know of no other venue where I could get such a variety of informed, supportive, “free” feedback on what’s working in a piece as well as what’s not. 

4.  Continuing Education. We conclude our meetings with a study of craft, either a book on writing or the craft in novels, short stories, or essays. For example, we’ve read John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. We’ve also completed writing prompts, working twice through Anne Bernays’ and Pamela Painter’s What If: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writing. And we’ve attended writing workshops together at the Newberry Library and at the Off Campus Writer’s Workshop in Winnetka, IL. 

5.  Inspiration. Along with finishing my book, without our writing group, I never would have accepted NaNoWriMo’s challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Awaiting revisions, The Essence of Sophie sits proudly on my desk.

What would you look for in a writing group of your own?  

Lois, thanks for guest blogging and sharing this look at writing groups. They do have so much to offer.

Lois longed to fly the friendly skies but in 1968 minister’s daughters did not become stewardesses. They chose practical careers like teaching or nursing. For the entire first year of nursing school, Lois made weekly calls home to beg her parents to let her come home. Then her instructors decided she had a “bad attitude”. Despite her lukewarm feelings about a nursing career Lois set out to prove those cranky old instructors wrong. 
Lois’s attitude, as well as her feelings about nursing,WOWblogExcellence changed radically during her over 30 year career. She retired in the year 2000 as professor emerita from Trinity Christian College with Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in nursing. But even that wasn’t enough classroom time for Lois. She recently completed three years of the University of Chicago Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults. She now spends her days writing and being a happy grandma. 

For more on Lois and her writing, visit her website at http://loisroelofs.com/ . You can also read excerpts of CARING LESSONS at http://loisroelofs.com/excerpts-3/ . In addition, you can find Lois and this tour on Twitter with the hashtag #CaringLessons. 

Here’s a brief synopsis of CARING LESSONS: Lois Roelofs describes herself as a rebellious minister’s daughter, a reluctant nurse, a restless mom, and a perpetual student who eventually became a fun-loving teacher of mental health nursing. During her forty-year nursing career, she cared for patients and taught nursing students in primarily mental health and medical-surgical settings. As a caregiver, she learned the value of caring for herself and did so by changing jobs to suit her interests, going back to school more than once to feed her crave for learning, and seeking professional help when personal and family crises invaded her life.

You will be amused, saddened, and inspired as you read this intimate and introspective memoir. Plus you will learn the importance of faith, family, and friendship—whatever your profession—and come away with a new appreciation of caring for yourself as well as caring for others. 

CARING LESSONS would be the ideal gift for a nurse celebrating a flurry of nursing holidays in May such as:
* National RN Day (May 6)
* Florence Nightingale’s Birthday (Mary 12)
* National Nurses Week (May 6 to May 12)
* Nursing Month (May)
* Nursing School Graduations (May)
In addition, mental health nursing and personal mental health issues are also a sub-plot of this memoir and May is Mental Health Month. 

Have you worked in the health care profession or know someone who does? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of CARING LESSONS


  1. I agree that writing groups are invaluable. It's a tough business and having a group of people/friends who help you to improve your writing and offer encouragement are wonderful.

  2. Lois, thanks again for guest blogging. I enjoyed your take on writing groups. Wishing you much success with your writing.

  3. I love writer's groups. I have made many friends and received invaluable help from them. Thanks for the review and advice.

  4. I like the idea of swapping just 10 pages a week. As the reader, you won't feel overwhelmed and as the writer is enough to get solid feedback - and not get overwhelmed either.

  5. I enjoyed learning about the author, her career and background.Caring lessons sounds inspiring and memorable.The 5 points are wonderful. Best wishes. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  6. What a fascinating feature today. This book would be a very special memoir. By striving and having strength of character you can achieve and succeed. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.