Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger and Writing Groups

J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher In The Rye, died today. He is famous not only for this hugely popular novel, but also for holing himself up in New Hampshire for more than 40 years and refusing to publish another word after 1965. The news stories of his passing all mention that he told a neighbor he had written more than a dozen novels, without any desire to publish them while he was alive.

If they get published now we'll have a chance to see if they are as good as Salinger's best work, or if his increasing isolation had taken the edge off his writing. Writing is a lonely profession, but many writers have found that it helps their work to get some feedback from other people. Whether it's a friend, a relative, an editor, or a writing group, writers usually need some kind of sounding board for their work, to see if they're communicating their message accurately. A writer like Salinger, who removed himself from the world and didn't let anyone see his work for so many years, could have lost his bearings in that cocoon he lived in. His writing could have deteriorated into incomprehensible drivel, or self-inflating pomposity, simply because he had nobody to say, "Listen, J.D., this passage really needs some editing."

It will be interesting to see what readers think of these novels when they get published. They may enhance Salinger's reputation, but they may also trash it.

If you want to look into a writing group, there are many options. Here's one I just found: Welcome to FindAWritingGroup.com.

It's a new site, but it promises to be a good resource for writers who want to find a writing group, whether one that meets online or in person.