Writer elitism makes me uncomfortable, even when it comes with cake

Writer elitism makes me uncomfortable, even when it comes with cake

I used to be part of a local writing group. The company was excellent, the critique varied. We were all writing different things, and with different goals, and over time it naturally became less of a critique group and more of a support and writing-in-company group, which I think suited us better. Not all writers are compatible critiquers, and that was clearly the case with us. Some of the writers were teenagers, some in their retirement, many in-between. All of us loved the craft and were working to be better. Most of us had a goal of publication, and a lot of conversations revolved around that.

In general, it was a group where we lifted each other up. I think, having spawned from a writing challenge group, that made sense. We’d formed to cheer each other on and motivate each other, and that continued to be the goal.

I remember, after one session, talking to three other writers. We’d split off from the rest of the group. One of them said, ‘See you at Cake Club tomorrow?’

‘Of course!’

‘I’m looking forward to it!’

Now, this didn’t particularly strike me and, being the awkward autistic bean I am, I didn’t ask about it. But then one of them said, ‘Cake Club is our private group for people who are serious about publishing. Not for everyone.’

‘Okay,’ I said, disliking everything they’d said but figuring it was none of my business.

‘You should join us,’ another said, giving me a bright smile.

Now, I’m not great at reading expressions. I can’t usually tell whether a smile is genuine. ‘No thank you,’ I said, and that was that.

When I’d had time to reflect, I still didn’t know whether it was an earnest offer. Whether I happened to have been there when they discussed it and they felt obliged to invite me because of it. Or whether they’d asked because I was interned to a literary agent, which writers had tried (and failed) to pressure me into using to their advantage before.

Maybe they just thought I was ‘serious about publishing’. Whatever that meant, compared to the friends who were querying their novels or submitting the short stories but weren’t invited to Cake Club.

With that reflection, I was glad I’d said no. Genuine or not, the whole concept left a sour taste in my mouth. Not because there was another private writing group—that’s fine, people can hang out with whoever they want—but because of the caveat on it. The idea that somehow their publishing journeys were superior to everyone else’s.

Those same writers had been patting each other on the back for ‘destroying’ the manuscript of a teen writer who’d come to them for help. ‘We were vicious,’ one of them crowed. ‘He’s writing a completely different story now.’

I think they thought I’d approve. I didn’t. And I noticed that teenager, as grateful as he’d seemed at the time, stopped coming to the writing group.

Writers are a mixed bunch. Even within genres, we are writing wildly different things, with wildly different goals. But I still see elitism everywhere. People who look down on others’ methods, or goals, or styles, or genres. I don’t think that’s serving us as a community, and it’s not the same thing as expressing dislike for a bestselling novel. We don’t need to put other writers down to lift ourselves up. It’s not a seesaw.

Anyway, I don’t know those writers anymore, so I suppose I’ll never find out whether they thought I was ‘serious’ enough about publishing. Or whether I’m serious enough now, five books in to the dreaded self-publishing route.

I know I’m not going to be excluding anyone from my writing groups any time soon, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top