Founders of the YaleWomen’s Writing Group Lisa Fabish, ’99 MBA and Annette Cyr Yale ’81 MFA talk to YaleWomen about the YWWG.
YW: What was the genesis of the idea and how did this group get off the ground?
LF & AC: Our group was spawned from the fertile ground of the YaleWomen Wednesday social zoom when, one night in October, Annette pointed out that nearly half the participants were writers: screenwriters, memoirists, playwrights, novelists, poets. “We should start a writers’ group,” Annette said. Lisa had hosted the Wednesday group for a few months in the summer, so she knew YaleWomen chair Jennifer Madar. “I’ll reach out to Jennifer and figure out what we need to do to get a new group going,” she said. And the rest is history.
YW: Please describe the group.
AC: The description Lisa wrote for the YaleWomen website really sums it up: “The YaleWomen Writers' Group is a community of writers who share successes and challenges, exchange tips on the craft and business of writing, and remind ourselves that all of our stories matter. All writers are welcome, regardless of genre, medium, or level of experience. We meet by Zoom twice monthly on the second and fourth Mondays.”
LF: Our job as hosts is to bring YaleWomen writers together as a community, and we’re constantly learning how to do it better! Thanks to members’ feedback, we’ve added discussion guidelines, closed captioning, and other tools that members have told us make them feel safe, empowered, and valued as part of this community.
AC: And if you’re reading this now and thinking “I went to one of their meetings, and I have suggestions for how to improve it, please email us at [email protected] and we promise to listen to you and hope to do better!
YW: What do you do at your meetings?
LF: In our regular meetings, we start with introductions and then break out into groups of 3-4, organized by genre and by the topics of craft and the business of writing. We share success and challenges, tips and resources, and we really have a chance to get to know - and support - each other.
AC: And about once a month we have an expert speaker - either one of our own members or someone from the outside that a member has reached out to invite.
LF: We’ve heard from experts on working with a developmental editor, pursuing freelance work, and various aspects of the publishing process – both traditional and self-publishing.
AC: At the end of each meeting, we share our writing plans for the next two weeks, and any links to our work, social media and recommendations of writing resources.
LF: And, at the end, we always we toast ourselves: for doing what we said we would - and for showing up!
YW: What’s next for your group? What’s coming up?
AC: In the next few months, we have talks from several literary agents, as well as a talk on craft and one on hybrid publishing. And two of our members are working on developing an anthology of YaleWomen writers’ work.
LF: It’s amazing how quickly an industry leader responds to an invitation when the subject line in includes the words “YaleWomen.”
AC: The writers’ group really drives itself. Every month, members add new programs for each other, building on the hub we’ve created through the recurring zoom.
LF: Yes! So if there’s something you want from a writers’ group, join us, and start something new!
YW: How have you connected with other women and writers and how has YaleWomen fostered new relationships?
LF: When we talk about the stories we’re driven to write, we can’t help but reveal something true about ourselves. That’s the magic of being part of a supportive writing community. We’re still in our infancy, but we’ve already seen members connecting over shared grief, trauma, joy, and hope, and taking that connection offline into a one on one relationship.
AC: Lots of opportunities to connect on a practical level have been created by us for us, too. An Artist’s Way group spun off to meet weekly on Saturday mornings, to “act as accountability partners for morning pages and artist dates” and we’re compiling a social media amplification list “so we can follow and boost each other.”
LF: We have members all over the world connecting one on one with each other for accountability or critique partnerships too.
AC: Yes! I check in with one member via What’s App daily about my writing process. I have been known to sit down to write just so I can text her “Wrote 1 hour today!”
YW: How does someone join?
AC: Just go to https://www.yalewomen.org/writers, and RSVP for a meeting. Note: you must rsvp separately for the recurring 2nd Monday Meeting and 4th Monday Meeting. (Zoom limitations on setting up recurring meetings!)
YW: Could you provide some examples of how this group has empowered you as a writer? Empowered other women?
Since this is a group of writers, we asked them:
“This writing group has been inspiring, supportive, and informative. I never before belonged to one and did not know what to expect. I have found a rich resource of encouragement, advice, motivation, and space for sharing ideas.”
— Helen Mao, ’90
“The Yale Women Writers’ Group began in the darkest days of the pandemic and carried us through the winter with hope, humor and support for our writing and each other.”
— Margo Weinstein, ’82
"What do Yale Women do during Covid lockdown? They caucus.
Our origin story begins with the Wednesday night hang-out group, hosted by Opera Rock Star Claudia Rosenthal ‘08, ‘14 School of Music. We discovered there were writers among us. Annette Cyr ‘81 School of Art and Lisa Fabish ‘99 SOM, formed YWWG. It has grown logarithmically. Fiction; poetry; creative non-fiction; essays; hybrid; memoir; travel journal; straight-up academic writing; we have it all. We are from many different years at Yale, from recent grads to the early years of co-education, and different fields, English; Art; Business; Divinity: Medicine; Science; Journalism; Law and Law. “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” We’ve kept each other sane during this past year and had a blast."
— Patricia Sheppard, ’74
“To me, the act of composing language is by its nature a solitary endeavor. The YYWG has opened a window where I can share my questions about the art of writing, and offer support, to others, especially during this pandemic.”
—Theresa J. Mitchell, MEM
“Is there anything more blissful for a writer-woman than to be among other writer-women? I come away with not only ideas, but appeasement for my guilt re not making time enough for writing. I’m not alone!”
— Carole Johannsen, ’86 MDiv
“YWWG is that elusive blend: social contact with like-interested people, a mutually supportive environment, and genuinely constructive information on a serious endeavor we're all engaged in.”
— Sherry Agar, ’82
"The [YWWG meetings are the] highlight of my Zoom week: each time I have joined, I have met energetic, fascinating, ambitious women from all over North America. Connecting with the group has provided me with the motivation (and discipline) to stick to a writing plan I devised last autumn. Writing is usually a lonely pursuit, but thanks to the company of the YWWG crew, I longer feel like a lone writer on a snow-swept plain. Instead, I know there is a reliable, collegial and supportive group of friends and strangers (what do we call our internet pals, anyway?) who will cheer my successes and offer proactive remedies for failures. The formation of this group has been a bright spot amidst the pandemic gloom, and I look forward to reading all the writing that our members publish."
— Vicky Solan, ’04 PhD
“It is a pleasure to associate with such a talented, creative, and accomplished group of women. They inspire and enlighten me to return to my writing with renewed interest and fresh insight.”
— Anna Marsh, ’85 PhD
“I only recently discovered this amazingly supportive community, but I’ve already been struck by the wide span of generations, genres, backgrounds (the kind that predates “zoom…”), careers.
When about 20 years ago I taught creative writing workshops to Yale undergraduates who aspired to become novelists, the first anxious question they often asked me during office hours was, “Do you think I should go to law school?” And I encouraged it. Then they’d have material for their fiction, not to mention for rent. “You can write on the side, or retire early and write full-time,” I’d tell them. In the years since, I’ve often doubted my advice, wondered if any of them managed that.
Now that I’ve met the writers in this Yale Women’s group, I’m finally reassured. Here are engineers, ministers, painters, journalists, teachers, doctors, and, yes, lawyers with an abiding commitment to writing, and with the published books or the works-in-progress, the poems, the one-act plays, short stories and screenplays to show for it.”
— Alexandra Shelley, ’83
“I just wanted to say that I am so happy I found the Yale Women Writers Group. At every meeting, I marvel at the diversity of experiences, perspectives, and stories --the stories we live, the ones we tell, and the seamless fabric of voicing and witnessing that is created in just over an hour. And, above all, the energy! I leave each session energized by what I've learned and I feel so privileged to get to meet amazing women of all backgrounds who generously share their knowledge, struggles and successes as writers. In many ways it's a bit like being back at Yale: the energy, the learning, the wonderment.”
— Ana Marina, ’96