Announcing: The expansion of the Grand River Writing Tribe

In 2016, I launched the Grand River Writing Tribe, a collection of West Michigan-based writers who were focused on publication and willing to put in the work that a deeply engaged writers’ group entailed.

The Tribe grew. People got published. Their craft improved. We hit our membership cap. Yet more and more people said: “I want in! I want to join a writers’ group, too!”

It turns out, a lot of people want to join a group, but they don’t know how to find them and they aren’t sure they’re ready to start one. For a long while, not a week went by where I didn’t receive (either personally, or through Caffeinated Press, or through Write616) some inquiry about open groups.

So the Tribe talked about it and we agreed: Expansion is in order. Not just for the heck of it, but because:

  • The region boasts many groups, most of which are disconnected from each other and therefore reducing natural opportunities for peer networking and info-sharing.
  • We’ve got a ton of first-class writers and poets in the area whose need for community is real yet largely unmet.
  • People who are “looking for group” are, in many ways, out of luck given the lack of a directory or clearinghouse of opportunity — driven in part by over-reliance on a byzantine network of Facebook pages.
  • Many groups operate by email, which means that new participants have no insight into the group’s history.

Thus: We’re re-casting the Tribe into a sort-of Tribal Confederation, where many different (autonomous!) writers’ groups may congregate using shared infrastructure to promote discoverability and ease of use.

The New GRWT

The “new” GRWT isn’t just a single group. It’s an umbrella for — potentially — many groups, from all walks of life, who journey partly on their own and partly as members of a larger local literary community.

We think the benefits are many:

  1. The GRWT site runs on NodeBB, a popular forum system, that’s managed on everyone’s behalf at no cost or obligation to participants. With NodeBB, each writers’ group obtains its own set of permissions (so no one else can peek in!) while sharing some space in common with all other groups plus the public. NodeBB supports granular user-defined settings for notifications, email and related matters, thus allowing each user to customize his or her own experience.
  2. Public-facing forums let people sign up to signal interest in joining a group.
  3. Some public-facing content helps to expose new opportunities, events or activities of particular interest to writers and poets in the region — without having to go spelunking in 87 different Facebook groups and 23 different general-purpose event sites.
  4. Periodic newsletters from the GRWT to all registered account holders will promote the craft of writing plus expose a curated list of events and opportunities.

Getting Started with the Tribe

Eager to get going? Visit the GRWT website. The home page includes introductory information.

Writers Looking for a Group:

  • Register an account on the GRWT site, then visit the Looking for Group category within General Discussion. A note about registration — because our domain is very new (June 2019!), some email providers route the account-confirmation email to your Spam or Junk folder. In some rare cases, the provider refuses to deliver it at all. If you can’t see a registration-confirmation note after a few minutes, don’t worry. We’ll swing by once a day to manually verify legit-looking email addresses.
  • Read the How to Join a Writers’ Group post for information, then post an introductory thread.
  • GRWT moderators will actively work to pair you with a group, although in some cases, it may take weeks or months to align the right people in the right cohort under the right circumstances.

Groups Looking for a Home:

Writers Willing to Start a Group:

  • To ensure that new groups within GRWT are positioned to succeed, we’ll meet personally with potential group leaders to set up a game plan and offer resources to promote effective facilitation.
  • Need a place to meet? If your group consists of eight or fewer members, you’re welcome to make free use of the conference room at Caffeinated Press, located at the intersection of Kalamazoo Avenue and 32nd Street in south Grand Rapids.
  • Write616 hosts a five-hour training course for people willing to lead new groups. The next training is scheduled for Sunday, July 14, from 2p to 7p. Registration is $50 and supports Write616.

There and Back Again: A Reflection

Flight DL300 touched down in Grand Rapids last night around 8:40 p.m. I got off the plane — it took off from Atlanta; I started in Orlando — then trekked home to greet the feline overlords and head to bed. The great thing about that ATL-GRR segment was the tranquility: I enjoyed an exit-row seat with no one next to me on the two-person side of the MD-88 aircraft. Plenty of space! But also room to unfold my Surface to take some notes. Some of which, are presented below in the form of a reflection.


NAHQ Board Meeting. This year, our board of directors convened for a destination meeting. We settled on Orlando, FL so we could partake in a “behind the magic” tour offered by the Disney Institute. Interesting experience: It’s a mix of a bus tour and a walking tour of parts of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It started at Textile Services, which is basically the commercial laundry for Disney Resorts. Huge. Efficient. And lots of the folks on the floor who saw us on the catwalk waved and smiled, which I guess is the Disney way. Then we went to Epcot and got to go “behind the scenes” at the places where cast members get their costumes and have their break rooms and such. Then off to the Magic Kingdom, which included a brief tour of Main Street inside the park as well as a chance to walk through parts of the Utilador — the “secret tunnel” under the Magic Kingdom that’s actually neither secret nor a tunnel. (You can’t dig into Florida swampland, so the 1.5-mile “tunnel” was actually built on a normal foundation and then it was buried, with the park built atop it.) All the while, our host kept inserting comments about Disney culture and process improvement, to help tour guests better understand the specific mechanisms of Disney’s commitment to operational excellence and guest satisfaction.

We stayed two nights at Boardwalk Inn, which — I must admit — was a great location.

Apart from the Disney Institute tour, we enjoyed 1.5 days of board meetings. These conversations have really solidified; Day One was mostly strategy, with the final half day focused on operations (budget, consent agenda). I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ve settled on a really solid framework for setting program/service strategy for the next few years.

NaNoWriMo. As I mentioned in my last post, I ended the year with a moral victory but not a word-count victory. I am, however, eager to translate my experiences from this November into a more nuanced master plot-and-conflict timeline that I can weave into a better version of the original story.

Grand River Writing Tribe. As part of my general commitment to “rite moar gooder” I’m launching a writing group for authors serious about publication. Read more, and apply, on the Tribe’s temporary landing page.

Kent County Republicans.  By virtue of having stood for county-level office, I was automatically extended the privilege of serving as a member of the Executive Committee for the next two years. So that’s fun. I also got to see my friend Edgard, which was awesome. He suggests he might be moving back to the area next year — a suggestion I hope translates into reality!

Social Schedule. November was busy:

  • 11/3 — Nat Sherman 85th event at Grand River Cigar with Scott
  • 11/4 — Writers’ group Thanksgiving fest (turkey and all!)
  • 11/5 — “Dead Presidents” Halloween party @ PPQ’s in Royal Oak, MI
  • 11/10 — Dinner with Roni
  • 11/11 — Sister-in-law’s 40th birthday party
  • 11/13 — Day of Knockout Noveling at CultureWorks in Holland, MI
  • 11/18 — Murder-Mystery dinner at Ruth’s Chris in Troy, MI
  • 11/24 — Thanksgiving Day at mom’s house
  • 11/27 — The End Is Nigh celebration at KDL/Kentwood
  • 11/28 — County convention, Kent County GOP
  • 11/30 — NAHQ board meeting commences

… and all of this, plus the day job, plus me attending Jessica’s write-ins every Tuesday, plus me hosting write-ins every Saturday morning. I’m back into the editorial-consulting space, working as a contractor for and its migration of content to premium verticals. Similar concept to the Demand Media “renovation,” but executed with a much higher degree of sanity.


This morning, Saturday, Dec. 3, the National Weather Service’s landing page for Grand Rapids says: “November was among the Top 2 to 4 warmest on record around the area. Meteorological Fall (Sep 1 through Nov 30) eclipsed Fall 2015 as the second warmest on record.”

So, yeah. It’s been unusually warm. My landlord mowed the lawn last week, if that’s any indication. The forecast is for roughly an inch of snow locally over the weekend, although temps will still hover around 40 F; however, the freeze starts to set in around Tuesday night, with predicted high temps between 28 F and 33 F and lake-effect snow likely for the end of the coming work week.

I like cold, snowy Decembers. Warm/dry Christmas seasons totally suck the life out of the holiday. That point was impressed upon me in Orlando, where the Magic Kingdom now stands bedecked in holiday regalia. Looking at Christmas trees while walking around in 85-degree weather just feels weird.

I spent some time on the last leg of my trip home working through some planning notes for my upcoming two-week Christmas vacation, as well as penciling in some goals for 2017. It occurs to me that some of these goals require downtime. When the seasons are out of whack, it’s as if my body’s calendar gets out of whack, too. Downtime is a function of environment as much as a schedule.

Catholic liturgy values seasonality. We have a clock to rule the day, a calendar to rule the month, but the seasons rule the year. Throw some sand into the gears of any of those three temporal markers, and things grind to a halt. I noticed, perusing some old blog posts, that as recent Decembers have been unseasonably warm or cold, dry or snowy, my reaction tends to follow suit. 2012 = warm/dry; 2013 = snowy; 2014 = frigid; 2015 = warm/dry. I got into my vacation and come back again either refreshed or dejected, in part based on my attitude about it all, which is influenced by the climate.

I have high hopes for this December. Let’s see if the weather cooperates.