Write Group 19th birthday party
Sunday, Jan. 21, 2-4 p.m.
Montclair Public Library auditorium
50 South Fullerton Ave.
By GWEN OREL
Writing is famously solitary, but every Tuesday morning, a group of writers come together to share their writing issues of the week. It’s the core weekly meeting of The Write Group, which celebrates its 19th birthday on Sunday, with an open mic event, and a cake.
Last Tuesday, after the event, nine people stayed on to chat: two writers were attending for the first time. Others had been members of the group for years.
In addition to its core meeting, The Write Group holds groups for memoirs, novels, prose, Saturday morning “free writes,” and more, for a total of eight different feedback groups.
The Write Group has no dues, no membership fees, no bar to joining. It’s all member-driven. Most of the groups meet in the library, but some meet elsewhere.
“We’re a support group. If you’re a writer, you write. If you write, you’re a writer,” said Carl Selinger, who eschews a title but is a de facto organizer of the group. It relies on peer pressure.
Different groups are organized differently: a fiction writing group has a strict limit on its size, and you have to submit material to be submitted. Montclair resident Patrick Fouché leads the fiction writing support group. In his group, people can bring in revised material one time. In a memoir group, work is only read once. Memoir is very popular: there are three groups devoted to it.
Helen Lippman, also a Montclair resident, runs a slot on Thursday nights that is a different presentation each time.
While there are many book clubs in the area, and classes, there isn’t anything quite like The Write Group. The two newcomers had driven over from West Orange.
Mark Lance, also of West Orange, was attending for his second time. “I came with a specific goal, in mind to meet people to help me give me some advice or whatever. Not so much on the writing because that’s now what we do. But the reason I came back is that I liked the people and they’re all interested in writing in various fashions.”
Lippman said she came shortly after she retired from a career in medical publishing. “I wanted to start freelancing. And I was sort of a little bit anxious about it and the group really helped me. I was feeling kind of stuck. I had all these ideas and I’ve since gone through a whole metamorphosis I wasn’t writing personal essays which I am now. It’s been really good,” she said.
Montclair resident Josie Zeman also has a backbground in public relations, and said that “when it came to writing personal essays or trying to write fiction I was a rank beginner. So I found a lot of support and good feedback in this group.”
Newcomer Lisa Slattery said when you write alone, “the only feedback you have is yourself. And if you don’t have the answers… “ And family and friends try to be supportive, but you’re not always sure they want to read your work, she added.
Said Nancy Taiani, of Glen Ridge, “It’s lonely working at home.”
Selinger said,”a word hasn’t been mentioned yet which is very unusual, by The Write Group: We’re welcoming. It’s not an adjective that describes writing groups. But we get that feedback because it’s the nature of the people of the people.”