Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Confessions of a Groupie

By Victoria Chatham

OK, I admit it. I am a life-long groupie. Perhaps I should qualify that statement in that I believe we are all 'groupies' to one degree or another, as Webster's New World Dictionary classifies the word as 'a number of persons or things gathered closely together and forming a recognizable unit'.

This being so, the first group I was totally connected with was my family. Next, being an army brat, came my father's regiment.  As a teenager, unable to resist the lure of being paid to learn to drive rather than paying someone to teach me, I joined the army reserves as a trainee driver and for two years thoroughly enjoyed being part of that group. During those years I joined groups within the group; namely the rifle club, self- defense club and saddle club. On any given Sunday I could be involved in target practice, learning a judo hold or throw, or horseback riding.

Apart from the reserves, my spare teen time was spent with a youth club, an archery club, various jazz clubs, a swimming club and a badminton club. After I was married I belonged to the Young Wives Club. When that faltered, what was left of our group was amalgamated into the Mothers Union under the aegis of a terrifyingly efficient lady named Mabel.

When my firstborn began school I joined the Parent Teacher Association and was a member of that group until my last born left school. In between times my neighbours and I formed a playgroup for our children. As the children grew they joined groups, which meant that ultimately so did I as I joined the committees that helped run Brownies, Cub Scouts, Junior Red Cross, then Scouts and a roller skating club.

Once my children's interests and activities were accounted for, I took care of my own with the badminton club and Women's League of Health and Beauty, now known as The Fitness League. Started in 1930 by Mollie (Mary) Bagot Stack, a young widow in poor health with a child to raise, this part dance, part exercise routine performed to live music, grew enormously in popularity and became an international organization within twelve months of its inception.

To indulge my life-long love of horses and improve my riding, particularly dressage, I joined my local family horse-riding club. Along with that came more committee work, more organizing and ultimately less horse riding until I learnt to say 'NO'! However, a group with the same interests as mine has a powerful pull and I remained on the committee for several years.

After moving to Canada I found groups galore in Calgary. I volunteered my time with an art gallery group by putting my records management skills to good use in their archives. With two dogs to walk on a daily basis, I joined the society who made it their mission to keep the park clean and educate users. I belonged to two direct sales organizations and then found a writers group and indulged another life-long love, writing. An entry in a short story competition garnered a $100 prize. With encouragement from the judges I developed my entry into a full length romantic suspense novel which may yet see the light of day.

I'm a great believer in fate, that things happen for a reason. Someone told me the Calgary Association of Romance Writers of America (CaRWA) was holding an information evening at a local library. I pounced on that news like manna from heaven. A group focusing on writing romance? How could I resist? Entry to CaRWA required membership of Romance Writers of America, so I joined another group.

Each of these writing groups and their members helped me along my writing path, through conferences, workshops and regular monthly meetings. I’ve received answers to questions, however trivial I may have thought them, when I’ve needed them. There has been a collective shoulder to cry on when rejections arrived. They sympathized when members lost loved ones, struggled with health issues, looked forward to weddings or welcomed newborns with open arms.

They made suggestions for getting back on track if the daytime job took precedence for awhile. It is a joy to be part of these dynamic, professional, friendly groups. As time has gone on I have joined another group, Books We Love, as my writing and publishing career has expanded. Some writers can and do make it on their own, but I’m not one of them.

Will I continue to be a groupie? Oh, yes. Where else, other than within a writing group can one find companionship and the understanding of the quirks and quarks of a writer's life? For me, nothing quite compares to the experience and fun in learning and growing with a number of persons who gather closely together to form a recognizable unit.