Finding inspiration

First Posted: 1/13/2015

TUNKHANNOCK — Friendly conversation and laughter filled the Children’s Room at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock on Thursday, Jan. 8 as Writers’ Group members gathered for their first meeting of 2015, celebrating the new year.

After sampling the refreshments and mingling among themselves, they soon settled into their seats to share with each other the good things they got out of the group in 2014.

Linda Bechter, of Laceyville went first, saying one thing she learned last year is that her manuscripts don’t have to be perfect the first time around, which she realized when group members told her, “Just write it.”

“It just made it so much easier,” she said.

At each regular meeting, two members are assigned to read their latest work, providing a typed, double-spaced manuscript, not to exceed 10 pages, for each of the others to give feedback on. Once the author finishes reading the piece, he or she must remain silent while listeners give their verbal critiques. A week-to-week rotation is kept among the members so everyone has equal opportunity to read and critique.

Chris Petrilak, of Fleetvile spoke next, saying she learned to add dialogue, emotion and inner thoughts to her stories.

“The biggest thing you guys said to me,” she told the others around the table,”was, ‘show, don’t tell.’”

When Judy Jones, of Mountain Top simply expressed the motivation the group gives her to write, several nods and “me too’s” echoed around the room.

Robyn Kochan, of Dallas, said she benefits most from the feedback members give one another on their manuscripts.

“For me,” she said, “it was just getting the courage to walk in the door. And I’m so glad I did, because everyone has been so encouraging and welcoming.”

Jeanne Moran, of Nicholson, who published her first young adult historical fiction novel, “Risking Exposure,” in 2013, said she started 2014 thinking she was not going to write a sequel. But now she is working on just that, and credits the Writers’ Group for much of her motivation.

“You go home stoked,” she said of the weekly meetings. “I wouldn’t have even written the first novel without this group.”

Moran added she also learned a lot last year about marketing, which was never one of her strengths.

Hildy Morgan, vice president of the theater’s board of directors, when it was her turn to share, said the best aspect of the group for her is hearing about the other members’ creations and watching them fine-tune their works until they come out “perfect.”

“It’s an invaluable resource,” she said, “and we’re always cheering each other on.”

Brian Golden, of Scranton, said Writers’ Group helped him learn to treat writing like a job and something he is passionate about.

“I really enjoy not only hearing what people say about what I write,” he said, “but it helps me to evaluate what other people wrote.”

Pam Smith, of Lake Winola agreed with the others’ comments, saying the group inspires her and gets her excited to write more on her own.

For Lindsay Sepela, of Mountain Top, the weekly meetings serve as motivation to “make the time” to write during her busy schedule.

“I have to think about it every day,” she said, “and figure out when I can put it into my schedule. …What I feel toward this group is a great deal of respect.”

Phyllis Cohen, of Montrose spoke last, commenting on how her writing process improved since she joined. Writing, she pointed out, is a “solitary” activity, but not one that is meant to be done in a “vacuum.”

“You need to read, and you need to get feedback,” she said.

According to Morgan, the club began in 2002 shortly after the theater and non-profit cultural center opened. It started off as a writing class, but soon developed into what it is today.

Its mission statement reads, “To provide a nurturing and encouraging environment for writers actively honing their craft.”

The group also hopes to present various activities throughout the year, such as writing prompts and workshops, although plans are not yet set in stone.

“If you’re serious about writing, or want to try your hand at writing,” Morgan said, “come try it out.”

Writers’ Group meets from 7 to around 8:30 or 9 p.m. every Thursday at the theater. New members are welcome to join at any time during the year, and there is no fee. Reservations are not required, but those seeking additional information about the group before attending may contact the theater at 570-836-1022 or call Morgan directly at 570-833-5246.

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