Austin residents who want to work on their prose and poetry now have a writing group right in their neighborhood. Write About It writing group had its first meeting on Sept. 6. Since then, it’s been meeting every week in the meeting room of the North Austin Branch Library, every Wednesday at 4 p.m.
While branch manager Arystine Danner will facilitate the first three meetings, Ann Eleven, the branch’s part-time librarian, will assume responsibility starting Sept. 27. The group is open to teens and adults who are interested in writing — whether they have any writing experience or not. And while it is primarily geared toward Austin residents, residency isn’t a requirement.
Danner said that the Write About it writing group grew out of the Learning Circle she organized at the library. She explained that Learning Circles are part of CLP’s partnership with Peer 2 Peer University, a non-profit that uses a combination of online and in-person education to teach certain skills.
“Learning circles are study groups for people who want to take online classes together and in-person.,” Danner explained. “The classes are on a variety of subjects, are led by a moderator and last anywhere from three to eight weeks.”
This particular Learning Circle was about starting to write fiction. It lasted for eight weeks. Before it wrapped up, one of the participants approached Danner and suggested that they should start a writing club.
The Chicago Public Library branches serve as meeting places for several writers groups throughout the city — some include Budlong Writing Workshop, which meets at Budlong Woods neighborhood library; Creative Writing Workshop, which meets at Bronzeville’s King library; and Chicago Writing Alliance, which meets at Uptown’s Bezazian library. Write About It is the only group that meets on the West Side. (In the interest of full disclosure, this reporter is a regular member of the Chicago Writing Alliance)
Danner said that she thought a writing group was a great idea.
“It’s an opportunity for writers to come together, share what they have written, write something off the cuff and give helpful feedback,” she said. “We currently host a Poetry Jam [at North Austin library] two to three times a year and this club fits right in.”
Eleven said that she obtained an undergraduate degree in creative writing at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, and that she is a writer in her spare time. She also has experience running writing circles.
“[After I graduated], I was part of running a writer’s group at a local coffee shop in Kansas City,” Eleven said. “We had about ten to twelve regular participants and it ran for a few years. I also regularly get together to write with various friends here in Chicago, or online, although we have no formal group name or organization. Building community around writing is a great way to support others and get inspired yourself.”
As Danner explained during the first meeting, the group is open to a wide variety of genres and formats. Members can bring in short stories, longer novels, poetry, essays and even songs.
Eleven said that she sees the group as a space where members can get feedback on whatever they’re working on. She may also suggest writing prompts, but only if there is time after sharing.
Ultimately, Eleven hopes that a group will become a community resource that will be around for years to come.
“I would love to see a sustainable support community develop for local writers,” she said. “Writing can be lonely, and everything in life pulls you away from it — work, family, etc. Having other people to connect with is a good reminder you’re not alone in what you’re trying to do.”