Nobody volunteered to read first. So the writing group’s leader, Melanie Tibbetts, offered to start the session last week by reading her new short story.
She described a hag who lived in her home, wind chimes made of bones clanging outside. Two children approached the home and knocked on the door. The old woman, who seemed a warm grandmotherly figure, waited inside.
Five other members of the group around the table in Natrona County Library listened to Tibbetts’ fairy tale, based on a witch-like character from Russian folklore called Baba Yaga. The group told Tibbetts, who is an adult services specialist at the library, that she’ll have to continue writing the story so that the group can find out what happened when they meet next month. Some members asked where they can find the original story of Baba Yaga in the library.
The Wednesday Writers group offers feedback, constructive criticism and motivation, members said last week. It’s open to anyone interested on the first Wednesday of the month at the library. All writers are welcome, and members’ writing crosses genres, including memoirs, essays, poetry and fiction, Tibbetts said.
“There’s no judgement. We all read whatever we’ve written and we try to do positive feedback,” Tibbetts said. “We critique, but we keep it positive.”
Group member Kathy Pagel read a short piece last Wednesday called “Resolution for 2018,” describing a dying pine wreath and poinsettia, rotting cranberry salad in the fridge and other trappings of the holidays bound for the dumpster. She described the bell ringers and food collection sites retired for the season, though needs continue year-round. She ended with her resolve to help others in need every month.
The group thanked her and complimented her on her piece, which some said hit home.
“I just started feeling so remorseful, because of course that’s me too,” Dinah Utah said.
Utah joined the group two months ago to find out what a writing group is like, and she’s been hooked. She enjoys the chance to express herself, meet people with different experiences and hear how others express themselves, she said.
Pagel joined the group about five years ago, and memoir writing is her specialty. Some of her topics include her family history and her career shift from the brokerage industry to social work. The group motivates her to write more, she said.
“This helps me keep on task, and I feel it’s very beneficial to me to bring my past and talk about things that no one knows about,” Pagel said later.
“I just enjoy being with the other people,” Pagel added. “It’s interesting to learn more about their lives that I would not otherwise know. It helps to get to know people on a deeper level and also to introduce myself on a deeper level.”
Pagel finds inspiration and ideas in the discussions about the other members’ lives and writing, she added.
Stephanie Vance read an introduction to a collection of stories her husband used to tell. She’s writing them down for her daughter. The memoir included her own account of their first date 63 years ago. It was a blind double date, and they were late. Then he dropped his coins for the parking meter on the sidewalk. She’s been listening to his stories since, with favorites including their own children’s antics.
“Of course his telling is what made them funny,” Vance read. “I can’t tell them in his voice. But I can tell what I have heard, second hand.”
One group member commended the details in the story, like how she remembered the coins dropping on the curb and the couple scrambling to retrieve them.
Pamala Rush hadn’t had time to write over the holidays, she said. So she shared a story she’d written about three years ago when she joined the group. Her story relayed an early childhood memory of building a snowman with her family along with a smaller snowwoman her older sister built herself.
“It towered over the brown grass and threadbare snow,” she read. “It could have been seven feet tall from what the almost seven year old girl could tell. Even bigger than daddy, she thought, with a mile-wide grin.”
Rush writes stories from her life, often featuring her five dogs, she said. She’s also penned two children’s stories in a series featuring canine main characters, which she hopes to see published.
She’s become comfortable reading her work aloud to the writing group, she said. It helps her notice any mistakes or places to clarify her language. The feedback from the others is important, Rush said.
“They give you a sounding board and tell you how good it is or things you need to change,” she said.
Debra Park didn’t bring her writing this time. She’d just learned about the group that morning on social media and hurried to the library, she told the others.
But she added next month’s session to her phone calendar. The group will help her write more, since she’ll look forward to sharing her work, she said.
“It’s so easy to say I’ll do that later, or I don’t have time today,” she said. “I thought if I have an obligation — I’m a pretty good student, so if I look at it as class, I’ve got to do my homework.”