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Women’s Writing Group – Writing in STyLe

By Katiuscia O’Brian

It is a cold and dreary January Sunday afternoon in St. Louis.  One that makes me feel that the day would be best spent sitting in my PJs, under a blanket, watching a movie, and eating an entire bag of potato chips while sipping hot tea.  The sky is spitting out the occasional frozen rain and there are not enough layers of clothes one could wear to keep the cold wind from making you feel chilled not only to the bone, but the bone marrow.  The kind of grey day that makes me glad the days are shorter in winter.  And makes me question why I haven’t moved south to warmer climes yet.

Instead of sitting at home being lazy and warm, I suited up and ventured into the cold, cold world (and you know how I hate being cold!).  But it is for a very good reason – I am sitting at the monthly Writing in Style Women’s Writing Group working on my latest great work of literature that will be sure to stand the tests of time and win the Pulitzer Prize. Ok, I will settle for NYTimes best seller.  For at least a week.  Ok Ok maybe even just get one story published somewhere.  Anywhere.

I take a break from my recent spurt of writing to stretch my hands and neck.  I watch the staff at Mokabe’s Coffeeshop cleaning up after their well-known Sunday Brunch and there is a fantastic din of people murmuring over their lattes, mochas, or steaming cups of coffee.  Students of all kinds hunched over large text books and several lone coffee shop hoppers with the light of a laptop casting upon their faces and without looking, reaching over to pick up their cups filled with their drink of choice, effortlessly bringing the cups to their lips to take a sip, never once moving their eyes away from their screens.  Music is always the soundtrack of my time spent at this progressive mainstay of SoGrand – more often than not, I end up bugging one of the baristas to tell me who was playing the most recent song.

I return to tap-tap-tapping away at my old Apple Laptop that doesn’t work unless it is always plugged in, trying to get motivated again.  Trying to find that perfect word and syntax.  Actually, I am just trying to wrap my mind around how to actually write my latest writing challenge: a play.  This has been a work in progress; going on a year and still not quite done.  I am surrounded by members of this group: all deep in thought, knee deep in their imaginations, creating worlds that didn’t exist outside their mind until they put it on paper.

I smile as I think back to when this group started and why.

It is early summer of 2011.  I happened along a fantastic writing workshop at Rockhaven, a local ecozoic women’s retreat center.  Located in House Springs, Missouri – this center is only 30 minutes from St Louis but feels like you are a hundred miles from civilization.  The history of these grounds extends back hundreds of years.  Sacred grounds for a local Indian tribe, the Catholic Church bought the land and set up a retreat center for nuns.  Retired nuns rescued the amazing spot along the Big River (which isn’t really big, actually) when the church put it up for sale, and they have been holding conferences, retreats, mediations, and other women-centric events for almost 10 years.

I was unable to attend the entire weekend long retreat but I was able to make the trek to Rockhaven to hear Joan Lipkin, the Founder and Executive Director of That Uppity Theater Company, do a reading and workshop on playwriting.  After being incredibly inspired to start and maintain writing in our lives, Suzanne Dickneite and I started prodding Joan about local writing groups in St. Louis that were women-centric and focused on writing, not socializing.  Much to our surprise she told us the last one folded years ago and there hasn’t been one since.

So that day, it was decided that maybe it was time to start a new one.

Writing in STyLe was founded July 2011 and quickly found a home at Mokabes Coffeeshop on Arsenal and Grand.  We meet once a month year-round for 2 hours every 2nd Sunday at 2pm.  We have anywhere from 2 to 12 writers at any given month. This is a working writing group so pleasantries are exchanged at the beginning but the rest of the 2 hours fly by relatively quietly with this amazing group of like-minded women furiously typing, writing, clicking away creating diverse works of written art.

This group accommodates all writing levels.  One writer just penned her very first poem a couple years ago and with the group’s encouragement, continues honing her new-found creative outlet.  Another is an accomplished playwright trying out new forms.  I personally sashay between bad poetry, essays about personal growth and life, and fictional short stories loosely based on my own experiences.

The best part about this fun group is our Salons!  We meet once every 3-6 months at a group member’s home for an old fashioned Writing Salon – a modern day homage to Gertrude Stein.  First we enjoy a shared potluck style meal…and of course wine flows freely as well!  We try to make the environment welcoming and as encouraging as possible for everyone to share their work – whether it is your first time reading in front of people or your 100th.  The reader lets the members know whether critiques on writing style and/or grammar are welcomed or not, in order to set the tone.  The plethora of works that have been shared up to dated is amazing.  Poems, essays, short stories, and even part of novel that was part of NaNoWriMo, the yearly Novel Writing contest that challenges writers to complete a full novel in a month!  I always enjoy hearing what I watch folks working on in the Writing Group.

Personally, I have found this group to be profoundly encouraging and stimulating of my creative writing.  After going through premedical studies for several years, I didn’t think I had a creative bone left in me.  Slowly, through the encouragement of fellow group members, I not only have I started writing short stories and essays again, but also I even started drafting my very first play.

Some months ago I had a severe case of writer’s block and literally couldn’t seem to put two words together.  That is when being part of a writing group is invaluable.  At one of our monthly meetups, after voicing my frustrations of being blocked and not knowing where to start, I was given a writing exercise by a fellow group member to create a story from three random words the group conjured up.  I was to work on that for the remaining time.

I wrote that paragraph and then proceeded on to start and complete one of my favorite short stories I have written up to date, one that literally would never have materialized without the support, structure, and encouragement of Writing in STyLe –St. Louis’s only Working Women’s Writing Group.

Now, isn’t that something worth venturing out into the cold, cold world to attend?

 Are you looking to start writing again?  Working on a novel, poem, or short story but can’t seem to create the time and space in your hectic life to get around to it?  Do you enjoy the company of fellow wordsmiths crafting diverse works of written art?  If so, this group might be the right one for you! Come join us – new members are always welcomed!  Writing in STyLE – Working Women’s Writing Group meets for 2 hours at Mokabes Coffeeshop at 2pm on the 2nd Sunday of the month. The Salon meets once every 3-6 months at one of the member’s house for food, calm revelry, and readings.  If you would like to join us, please contact Katiuscia O’Brian at vicenza77@gmail.com or find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/134261399982164/.

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