"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life," wrote Ernest Hemingway.
Although solitude may be a writer's best friend, some robust social contact with other writers can boost motivation, increase market knowledge and assist in critiquing manuscripts.
Writing groups became fashionable in California shortly after Jack London and some of his cronies started the California Writers Club back in 1909. Today, dozens of groups assisting poets, screenwriters, novelists and others operate in Southern California.
The following Ventura County writing groups may help area writers put pens to paper:
* The Ventura County Writers' Club, formed in 1933, meets at 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, 1101 Ponderosa Drive, Room 314 in Camarillo. Speakers are featured at the meetings. Guest fee is $4.
A second monthly meeting for senior citizens is held at 1:15 p.m. the second Monday of each month at the New America Savings Bank, 430 Arneill Road, in Camarillo. There is no guest fee.
Initial dues are $20, then $12 for annual renewal. Genre workshops are held monthly in which many of the group's 200 members critique each other's manuscripts. Call 495-1675 for details, or write P.O. Box 7484, Thousand Oaks, 91359.
* Romance Writers of America, a national organization with 86 chapters and 4,700 members, has 30 members in its Gold Coast Ventura chapter. The group meets at 7:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month at Carrows Cafe and Bakery in Ventura. The meetings feature speakers who dispense tips about writing dialogue, description and information on various romance categories, such as historical and suspense.
The parent organization, based in Houston, Tex., sends members a bimonthly magazine that includes market updates and instructions on how to put more passion into prose. The Ventura County chapter has 30 members.
National dues are $45 a year and chapter dues are $12. An annual conference, with workshops on all aspects of writing romantic fiction, is set for July 25-28 in New Orleans. For more information, telephone (713) 440-6885. Or write 13700 Veterans Memorial Drive, Suite 315, Houston, Tex., 77014.
For local chapter information, call membership chairwoman Sheila Tenold at 684-3408.
* The National League of American Pen Women was founded in 1897 so women writers could gather outside male-dominated press clubs. A Simi Valley chapter, one of 205 in the United States, meets in members' homes at 8 p.m. the second Thursday of each month.
Critique groups focusing on fiction and nonfiction writing also meet weekly in members' homes. A biennial writers conference featuring workshops on all aspects of writing is set for April, 1992. The national organization sends a monthly magazine, The Pen Woman, to local chapters.
Scholarships are awarded annually to Ventura County high school students who show an avid interest in writing. A late-summer contest is also held for fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers. The scholarship and contest are open to both sexes.
Annual dues of $40 are paid by women who qualify as published in the category of art (such as architects, choreographers, cartoonists, designer painters, dramatists, editors, genealogists and poets) and in music (such as composers, musicologists and publishers). Associate membership, which does not require having been published, is also available.
For more information, write P.O. Box 1485, Simi Valley, 91362 or call membership chairwoman Mona Locke at 495-2026.
* ARTS Anonymous is a support group for writers and other creative people who are inhibited by fear, self-criticism or procrastination.
The group was founded in New York City in 1984, and chapters now meet at 12 locations in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. A local group meets at 1 p.m. Sundays in the Creative Life Center, just behind K. B. Roberts gift store at 542 E. Main St. in Ventura.
ARTS Anonymous (Artists Recording Through the Twelve Steps) uses the 12-step recovery process, which is the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs.
For more information, call 486-6496 or (213) 281-8420 for a recorded message listing times and locations of all ARTS Anonymous groups.