Friday, May 15, 2009

Life Writers Ink: A Fledgling Writers Group Spreads Its Wings

by Cheryl, Anahita, Ruth, Gail and Mary

Our group of five women first came together as participants in Allyson Latta’s online memoir writing courses. Compelled by the support, encouragement and professional critiquing we learned through those courses, we didn’t want to let go. The Memoir Writers Social Allyson organized in September 2008 gave us the opportunity to meet face-to-face for the first time.

When Allyson posted an article on, “Start Your Own Writers Group,” I (Cheryl Andrews) was inspired and forwarded it on to Anahita Printer Nepton, Gail Rudyk, Mary McIntyre and Ruth Zaryski Jackson.

"I know that workshops … can provide inspiration while they’re going on, but that that inspiration can disappear in a poof once they walk out the door (real or virtual). A writers group is the logical next step ..." (Allyson Latta 9/30/2008)

It certainly was the logical next step for us, and the article became the basis for our group Guidelines. We took them to a fairly comprehensive, yet informal and relaxed level and haven’t referred to them since. The extensive discussion process we undertook about the structure of our writing group was the critical element.

We came up with a name, "Life Writers Ink." Mary (lovingly) refers to us as the Lifers.

We held our inaugural meeting January 25th, 2009. We prefer Sunday afternoons, once a month and take turns hosting. As Allyson Alumni we have slipped into the writing group format with very few wrinkles!

"Every meeting reinforces my respect for our writing differences and how we learn from each other… I gain so much from your ideas. You energize me again to do more heavy lifting with my pen." (Mary McIntyre)

During our meetings we read our pieces to each other, critiquing upon request, socialize, discuss and swap books we’ve read recently, share news about upcoming literary events and contests, cheer and applaud successes and pry open the door when one of us hits the creative wall.

"I personally enjoy the side discussions that come up about the latest books we have read and information about any calls for submissions." (Gail Rudyk)

Life Writers Ink is about discovering the courage to explore the furthest reaches of our creative sides and providing encouragement as we move toward publishing. Writing memoir brought us together, and the support we get from the group has provided the incentive to investigate other genres. I’m playing with fiction, Ruth has ventured into the realm of poetry, and Gail, humorous vignettes about life and living. Anahita is sharing poignant passages from the journal she kept while watching over her dying father. Mary has found the energy to take on a major memoir project about where she really grew up: the family cottage.

" … (our) varied styles … keep our creative energies up, fueling new ideas/stories … suggestions are fodder that provides … options and directions that we may not have thought about, whether we use them or not. The variety of styles … helps to keep the blinders off so we are free to grow, develop and express ourselves beyond our abilities." (Anahita Printer Nepton)

Email helps us extend the encouraging borders of Life Writers Ink. Between meetings fresh pieces get circulated and critiqued, ideas tossed out for input, and progress, roadblocks and angst shared. No one is allowed to go silent for too long.

There’s something extraordinary about the camaraderie of our group. The comfort level with being honest and open as well as supportive and critical is way beyond where a newly formed group might be.

"I … feel supported by the group to move forward and overcome my lethargy… our writing differences stir our creativity and make us better writers. Thanks for your encouragement with the submissions." (Ruth Zaryski Jackson)

We take courses and participate in workshops. We created this writing group and read voraciously, but ultimately we each have to spend the time writing, the best we can, alone in a room, or "… ass in chair," as Margaret Atwood says.

We laugh a lot. We work hard. We are having great fun, and we are all writing!

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