Friday, March 28, 2014

Everything I Learned about Critique Groups, I Learned from Alaska

I got hit with a sobering and depressing reality check just the other day. I lived in Anchorage for three years. It seemed like a goodly amount of time if not NEARLY long enough. And to this moment it looms in my memory and my heart as if I left yesterday. But I didn’t. I’ve been back in Minnesota for five years.

Five years! Sob.

So much has happened in that time, but one thing hasn’t changed. I feel as close to my friends there as I ever have. They might not know it, but they are never ever far from my heart. Ever. I wondered why this is, and the answer came to me without me even trying. The people of Alaska are as big of heart, as varied in riches and gifts, and as unforgettable as Alaska is herself.

Things (all things—tasks, working, shopping, playing) move just a little more slowly in Alaska than they do Outside. I don’t mean things are “slow” (as in short bus slow), but there’s an ease born of a “Hey, what’s the rush? Where are you going to go?” attitude you won’t find in states where you could, potentially, get out in a hurry. This applies to friendships as well. There is/was SO much time to cultivate closeness. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Alaska Chapter of Romance Writers of America - early years

And my friendships spilled over into my then baby seedling of a career so that my writing became my joy because my friends were with me. And they (my friends) also became my critique partners, and I hung on their words and advice, even when I crossed my arms and pretended I didn’t want to hear them . And the more I got to know these friends’ secrets and true selves, the more their experiences and insights shaped my own. We were a band of sisters made up from many stripes and backgrounds and beliefs, but I had the time and space to learn from them all, and love our differences.

Let this sound like a mere exercise in being maudlin, I promise there’s a reason for my schmaltzy words. When I had to leave Alaska it took a big chunk out of my heart. Let’s don’t even talk about missing the land itself—that’s another blog topic entirely. It was the people I couldn’t stand leaving behind. But here’s the thing—I took them all with me. I didn’t realize it for a long time, but I eventually figured it out. I learned so much about working together and taking time to appreciate everything about a group of friends, that I can’t thank Alaska enough for giving me the opportunity.

I have a new critique group here in Minnesota. There are only four of us and still, it was very hard to start this group—it felt awkward and disloyal and not close for a long time. But I went back to the memories of Alaska and remembered all the big-hearted things I learned in the big-hearted place I still love: patience, admiration for differences, listening, taking time—lots of time—and seeing other peoples’ strengths. I learned to love my new critique group because I still love the first one. Everything I learned about how to make this work, I learned from Alaska.

See, she has a big, sharing heart that way!
So, salute to all my old CPs (AKA Best of Friends) still slogging away up North. Here’s wishing everyone a chance to fall in love with the people of Alaska just as I did!

--- Liz Selvig


Morgan O'Reilly said...

No fair making me cry!!
You're still very much missed up here. Come back soon!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Awww, Lizbeth! Right back at ya, we miss you too. But I agree people in Alaska are big-hearted in a way you don't always see in other places.