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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Library Writing Group Fosters Creativity, Community

Since January, the DPPL Writing Group has met at the library to share their work, encourage one another, and stoke their literary ambitions. Their next meeting is March 5th at 7:00 p.m. and they want you to join too! You can also find out more about the writing group on the library's website.

I recently spoke with Anne Andersen, one of the group's members, to find out more about the group and why she joined.
Tell me a little bit about the writing group. What do you do during a typical meeting?

The DPPL Writing Group started after the NaNoWriMo event held at the Des Plaines library last November. We are currently a group of approximately 10 people who meet regularly to discuss our writing skills and review our written work. Our official meeting is the first Tuesday of every month, but most of us meet more frequently.

Our meetings last 2 hours and we usually do a writing prompt, someone sets a simple scenario or, as we did last week, someone brought in a box of old photographs and we each write for approximately 10 minutes then share what we wrote with the group. Often a discussion begins and we all learn a little something. We may work on setting, mood, dialogue, character development, etc.

We also have a website where our work can be posted and shared with others in the group. We usually review a story posted the week before the meeting. This can be a story fragment, a poem, or we can discuss some aspect of writing one of the writers has difficulty with, such as plot development.

We usually have a lively discussion about something at each meeting, often we bring up questions we have about writing, good books we have read etc.

What motivated you to join the group? What do you hope to get out of it?

I had looked for a writers group for well over one year before founding this group. No other group seemed to exist in our part of the world, with the exception of the Romance Writers, who meet at the Des Plaines library. That group is very large and genre specific and was not a good fit for writers who wanted a small more individualized group, and who write any other genre.

At the NaNoWriMo write-ins hosted by our library, I met a number of other writers who had also been searching for camaraderie and other writers who wanted to share and critique and help develop stronger writing skills. So our writing group was born.

We are a very democratic group and our rules are simple and fluid and change to meet the needs of each member. We encourage each other, we learn from each other, and we have developed trust and respect for each other.

What has the feedback been like? Are people helpful, harsh?

At this point we have reviewed work submitted by most of our members. Reviews are kind and respectful, but honest. Last week my short story was reviewed and I felt complemented but also realized my story needed major rewrites in several places. In one place several group members had a disagreement about how something in my story should be presented and that discussion proved valuable to me. I understand much better how my story will be viewed by an average reader.

When we evaluate another writer's work we are pretty honest, and the criticism can be considered harsh on rare occasions, but we know and trust each other and are always kind and always respectful. I enjoy hearing their honest opinions and then value their honest complements even more.

We have an agreement that if anyone should be too hard in their evaluation this will not be accepted by the group. We all have our individual styles that will be respected.

Why should someone join the group?

If you are a writer who needs companionship and someone who will critically read your work, someplace where you can discuss problems and workshop ideas, you may be interested in this small friendly group. You do not need to come to every meeting, but your benefits and skills will increase with your increasing level of participation in the group and time spent writing.

Would you mind sharing something you’re working on (even a fragment)? How has the group helped you with it?

I would be happy to share something. This is from a one-page writing prompt about going to the DMV:
I stumbled forward into the hunched little woman, almost knocking her over and tried to save us from falling by grabbing her shoulders. I came away with a fist full of damp polyester and some silver hair still attached to her head as she tried to slap meaway with her arthritic hands. She finally connected with my sunglasses. They flew across the room and skittered to a sudden stop under the toe of a polished black shoe on the foot of a DMV employee I couldn’t fully see behind the crowd of spectators now staring at me. I hoped he wasn’t here today, of all days.

I finally caught the woman’s hand as she swung at me again then stepped back from her into the protruding belly of the man standing behind me in line. The same man who had stepped on the back of my pink flip-flop and caused me to stumble in the first place. And since he was still standing on my sandal, my foot now stood bare on the dirty gold linoleum floor. He seemed completely oblivious. I turned back to the angry grandma in blue horn rimmed glasses. I pictured the heel of my hand making contact with the bridge of her nose, then my high crane floating spin kick making her fly across the room through the huge window and into the parking lot.

“I’m sorry… really sorry… ma’am, my shoe… I have a wedding…,” was all I could manage under her glare. She made the sign of the cross and turned away with a disgusted look on her pinched face.

Continue reading Anne's story

Anything else you’d like to say or share?

If you are interested in joining the DPPL Writers Group come to one of our meetings as a guest and see if you would enjoy participating as a regular member.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the interview, Brodie and Anne, and thank you Anne for sharing your work. I also love short stories, and I would like to invite Anne and any other short story fans and/or members of the writing group to attend the library's Thursday evening book discussion on March 14th at 7:30. We'll be discussing the short story collection Welding with Children by Tim Gautreaux, whose work has appeared in the Best American Short Stories anthology five times between 1992 and 2000. You can read more about him here:
    Book discussions offer a great opportunity analyze writing and learn what speaks to readers (and sometimes what doesn't). You can register for the discussion and pick up a copy of Welding with Children at the 3rd floor Readers' Services desk.


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