The Westbank Writers‘ Group has more than doubled in membership since last year and they’ve helped each other publish five books in that time.
Founded in January 2017, the meetings—then comprised of five writers—were held once a week for the writers to help each other stay on schedule while completing books of their own.
Now they have grown to 20 and are trying to find ways to accommodate more. Out of the group, 10 members have been published.
Organizer Donna Bird was one of the original five members. She said that when the group was created it focused on how to become self-published. But now the group has become a way to elevate each other’s work and stay accountable.
“We hold each other’s feet to the fire,” said Bird. “We have a phenomenal group… we work with active writers and take turns reading what we have written that week and then give feedback. We never judge subject matter. We are here to help with sentence structure and grammar.”
Bird says that accountability is vital for writers so the group helps them stay on track and improve their work that they hope to either publish themselves or take to a publisher.
Michael Jensen said his writing has improved substantially since he attended the inaugural meeting of the writers’ group. He began writing his memoir to give to his nine children and 28 grandchildren.
“It’s the camaraderie (of the writer’s group) and in my case, the commitment to be a leader and knowing that I want to leave my life history for my family,” said Jensen, who is also one of the leaders of the writers’ group. “It gives me the encouragement I need and a reason to keep on writing. I soon realized that if I wasn’t in a class and had a commitment to create, I wouldn’t.”
After watching one of the founding members, Geneva Ensign publish her book, Community Healing: A Transcultural Model that is now being used in a college in Alberta, Jensen feels even more motivated than ever to finish his masterpiece.
“It’s exciting, it really is. Just this summer her book was published and now it’s being used as a textbook,” said Jensen. “To know that she had to go through it over and over just like the rest of us do, it is pretty exciting and it is motivating.”
Ann Carter has been a part of the writing group for two years and leads the group alongside Bird and Jensen. She currently has three books on the go; a Reiki manual for the students she teaches that is about to be self-published, a book about handling grief and a memoir for her children, which will also be self-published.
“I saw a notice in the paper and the third time I saw it, I thought, ‘I am going to go,’” said Carter. “I felt very comfortable in the meetings and they are very helpful explaining things. It’s a very diverse group of people and I have seen it grow. Everyone brings something to the table when we meet. Any feedback is done in a heartfelt way and not done in a criticizing way so we all walk away with something each day.”
The Westbank Writers’ Group meets every Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Westbank Library. New members are welcome as long as they are established writers.
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