Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pay It Forward: Life Writers Ink success stories

Formed by an enthusiastic group of novice writers who came together through some of my online workshops, Life Writers Ink is a small group of women from a range of ages and backgrounds who meet regularly to encourage and critique one another's creative writing endeavours. Several "Lifers," as they've dubbed themselves, have met with success recently in some notable ways:

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MARY McINTYRE published a personal essay titled "30,000 Lasting Impressions of Georgian Bay" in Lifestyles This Week, a Parry Sound publication. The essay developed out of a writers' retreat this summer organized by three Life Writers Ink members at a cottage on Otter Lake, near Parry Sound. One of their activities was a boat tour. To read Mary's reflections on this experience, visit:


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RUTH ZARYSKI JACKSON will see two of her poems published in an upcoming anthology of poetry and prose written by and about grandmothers, titled Grandmothers' Necklace. Ruth was published for the first time last year when a vignette, "Room in My Heart," appeared in the anthology about grandmothers titled The Wisdom of Old Souls, published by Hidden Brook Press.

Ruth has since launched a blog, Memoir Writers World, and she invites you to check it out at:


There you'll find the post "Reading Not Writing," about her first public readings as a published writer.

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CHERYL ANDREWS's poem "The Frayed Map" appeared in the Summer 2009 issue (Our Sacred Identity) of the theological literary arts journal SmoKe and SaLt, published by Vivian Carter's NEUK Press.

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GAIL RUDYK, yet another member of Life Writers Ink, now runs an informal memoir writers' group out of her Georgian Bay cottage. Following is an introduction by Gail to a recent piece by one of her fellow writers.

I was excited about writing my life stories and wanted to share that enthusiasm with others, so two years ago I started a cottage memoir writers' group. Since I stay up at our Georgian Bay cottage all summer, it gives me something to look forward to every Wednesday morning. There are six of us and we meet for coffee, chat, and then sit down to read a story which we have each written over the week. It's important to read our story out loud and get feedback from fellow writers.

We all have the same goal: to get our stories down on paper for our children and grandchildren. As a bonus we found that sharing our life experiences has brought us closer than we had ever imagined. Now we sometimes expand our two hours to three, and meet at someone's home for lunch following the meeting.

The following was written by group member Charlene Lowes:



by Charlene Lowes

When Gail Rudyk started her memoir writers' group at her cottage last summer, she was kind enough to invite me to attend. A group where I would be expected to write something weekly was a stretch for me. I am a number person not a word person. Could I manage this? What would be the ramifications?

At first, I declined the invitation. I was busy. I had other obligations. Thankfully, the invitation didn’t come with a deadline. Later in the summer, I was allowed to change my mind.

The experience has been interesting though at times stressful. The words don’t just flow when I have to put them onto paper. This summer Gail has been giving us a subject every week. I have learned that I need to take time to think about the subject and how it pertains to me. I certainly cannot write anything credible in the last half hour, as MaryLou manages to do most weeks. For several days, I find the "subject" consuming my mind. After thinking things through, my thoughts start to form into what I hope will be a coherent account of some happening or other.

We are all aware of the fact that humour is an important part of life’s experiences. It helps us deal with issues that might otherwise overwhelm us. I have come to realize that although it plays an important part in the writing of memoirs, humour can also be used as camouflage. Like the class clown who uses humour to hide an inferiority complex, the writer can use humour to hide his or her deeper feelings.

Last week, our subject was "The Not-So-Perfect Mother." Most of us used this opportunity to poke fun at ourselves in a light-hearted way. One of us did not. Margaret was courageous enough to trust us with a very painful part of her past. Without a doubt, Gail was Margaret’s role model. Margaret has commented on the honesty Gail used in writing about her father’s anger issues. With or without Gail’s influence, the importance of Margaret’s courage and trust cannot be overemphasized. It took our little group to a new level of friendship and understanding.

Scot and I have never regretted our decision to live our retirement in Tiny. We have met lots of fun and interesting people. We have an active social life that we love. However, these new relationships are mostly superficial due to their relatively short duration and the lack of shared life experiences. The members of our memoir group have shortened the incubation time of new friendships by honestly sharing meaningful events from our past. And Margaret gave us the gift of her friendship by doing just that.

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