About a decade ago, when I was researching publishers to submit to, the best place to find writing advice and support was the Writers and Artists yearbook. No doubt there were forums for poets and writers online but I didn’t know the existence of such things, never mind how to go about finding them. About half a decade ago there seemed to be more and more writing circles; mostly groups of friends or academic poets reading their work to each other for critique. Recently, online groups and forums tend to dominate.
A few times I’ve noticed, on poetry groups in particular, that people tend to post poems for people to leave comments, but more often than not get completely ignored. In one instance, a member had commented about how less and less editors and publishers tended to join such groups. Nowadays, I think people like to find freebies on websites or blogs. They hunt about on their ipads for anything free and downloadable. This is good in the sense that it brings poetry to the wider community, but on the other hand, does anyone apart from other poets read it? And then there’s the stigma attached to freebies; if it’s free does this mean the quality is lower?
It doesn’t have to be so. There are many ezines, which are free to peruse, but yet the work included has one BIG difference from free poetry on online groups – it has a stamp of quality from an editor. Anyone can post a freebie poem or snippet of writing on a community page, but stories or poems appearing on an ezine have been filtered by a publisher, who has painstakingly separated the wheat from the chaff. That isn’t to say that everything posted directly by an author without having gone through an editor’s sieve is of poor quality. But in my personal opinion, if an editor has given the thumbs up, chances are there will be more work worth reading properly and less that merits only a quick skim (at best), which is what I tend to do when browsing writing groups. The work in such places ranges from unedited rough drafts to a polished pieces and everything in between.
So what does it all come down to? A question of time. Since we have become a nation glued to our phones and other various gadgets, it is better to know what is worth an eyeful, and what will only cause an eyesore. My personal view is that, if it’s an ezine, read it. And if it’s a writing forum, skim for the links to magazines or publishers and skip the free stuff. Then again, it’s a matter of taste.