by Marcia Gaye, Secretary of Saturday Writers 2013
Writers Encouraging Writers. It’s a nice, catchy motto. But to a group of writers in Saint Charles County, Missouri, it’s more than a motto, it is the way they approach their craft.
Saturday Writers see themselves as craftspeople with a two-fold mission: to become better writers and to help others do so too. Once a month, they gather at St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre and apply both these ideals, accepting all levels of writers from the aspiring to the accomplished, from journalists to poets, with just about every genre represented.
It’s a busy group, abounding with all manner of opportunities for embracing those two goals. If the only thing a member does is attend the monthly meetings, they will hear speakers who know what they’re talking about; they’ll rub elbows with kindly mentors; they’ll see firsthand what other writers really look like, and they’ll write.
Most meetings include a few minutes of actual writing time. Free pens and blank sheets of paper are available on the information table. Laptops and iPads are a common sight. There is a break mid-way for socializing. If that’s not enough schmoozing time for you, the meeting is followed by lunch at a local restaurant, usually attended by the day’s speaker. Listen and you’ll often hear the opening question, “So what do you write?” replace the area’s standard “So where did you attend high school?”
Announcements always include notice of special goings on. The group sponsors open mic nights at local coffee houses and wine bars. They run online, member only critique groups for specific genres. Twice a year walking marathons through historic old Saint Charles inspire participants to sit and soak up the atmosphere and write, then and there, followed by lunch on Main Street. In the summer a Youth Writing Camp welcomes youngsters grades 3 through 6 to a jam packed full day of creative activity which has developed astounding works by the participants. In October a full day workshop for adult writers is specially produced.
Most meetings offer a myriad of tasty snacks and ever replenished coffee, and a smattering of door prizes. Attendees might win a cap, T-shirt, tote bag or mug embossed with the Saturday Writers quill logo. Early December brings the annual Christmas party, perfect for conversation and food, with light entertainment and giveaways.
Perusing the information table presents literally (pun intended) dozens of other ways writers can help each other. In addition to the content seen on Saturday Writers website, there are flyers galore about contests, submission call-outs, conferences, retreats, guidelines and articles, all provided to encourage participation in writer-driven activities. The overflowing table allows members to exchange their business cards and bookmarks, and display posters of their covers.
Prominently displayed are volumes of the Quivre River Anthology, which has been published annually by Saturday Writers for six years. The book highlights the monthly contests, assuring entrants who win first through third places bonafide publishing credit. The most recent volume, Cuivre River VI, won the Best Anthology of 2012 Award bestowed by the Missouri Writers Guild.
The connection between the state guild and the county-based group is a strong one. Saturday Writers is a local chapter of the MWG and some of SW Presidents have also served as MWG Presidents. SW members have supported the guild by serving as conference leaders and speakers and with helping in tasks like registration and shepherding. Connections extend to other chapters as well, with co-project participation such as the St. Louis Writers Guild’s Writers in the Park, which includes presentations by SW members. Some people hold membership in both groups. Others share ties to groups such as Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, Western Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Ozark Creative Writers.
While much of the content of meetings is geared to starting newbies on the professional path, authors with long lists of publications receive attention too. How to write is interspersed with tips toward publishing, marketing, and social media. A members’ page on the website www.staurdaywriters.org offers members a place to post their bios and all their credits, and place links to their websites and blogs. A routinely updated column offers accolades for members on their releases, acceptances, awards, notices of signings, etc.
With over ten years as an organization under their belt, making art is almost a science for these dedicated writers. However, they are quick to point out that compelling writing is not achieved by following a formula. There are rules and formats, but the creative aspect of creative writing must weave throughout every piece of work.
Writing is work, hard work, but it should be fun too. After all, monetary payoff is rare, so if the process isn’t fulfilling then why do it? Even the most serious writer enjoys the act of choosing words to put on paper and arranging them just so. Saturday Writers enjoy themselves and there is usually laughter bouncing around the room.
Membership of $25 a calendar year includes perks like discounts to contests and MWG activities. Renewals are $20 and an always welcome visitor pays $5. An hour before each monthly meeting and just across the hallway is the Works in Progress Café, a welcoming place for members to read their work and receive comments if they desire. Authors quickly discover that reading aloud presents a useful tool for polishing their prose. Reading to an attentive audience is an aspect of writing too often overlooked one which provides instant and valuable feedback just by observing faces and body language. Again, the rule is to encourage each other, and WiP Café is a safe place to do just that.
The summer of 2013 has seen the roll of members climb to the 100 mark. Most of the founding core is still actively involved. Louella Turner is a dynamo of energy who naturally draws an entourage wherever she goes. Lou is a sought after speaker in her own right. She owns and operates High Hill Press, a small publishing company that counts a handful of exceptional Saturday Writers co-members among its clients. Her vision for High Hill is to bridge the gap between authors and the big New York publishers.
Donna Volkenannt, the fist President of SW, has applied ten years worth of lessons and has the awards and credits to prove it. Her modest demeanor belies her achievements. Donna also travels to other groups to share what she’s put into practice in her own career. Margo Dill has stuck with the group for the duration and is now the author of multiple books and articles. She is a beloved speaker and teacher. Other charter members have seen success come to their work as poets and respected leaders in the writing community.
Current President Jennifer Hasheider has inherited the enthusiasm of her predecessors. With the group growing in number she sees the possibilities increasing exponentially. Jen envisions more involvement in the community, seeking ways to open the field of writing to more people, young and old. She is taking her own advice by becoming a published author of stories for children and adults and tackling writing a novel.
The name Saturday Writers has never referred to people who write on Saturdays. It was inspired by the nursery rhyme that proclaims, “Saturday’s child works hard for a living.” Ten years of encouraging each other has resulted in people who answer the question ‘What do you do?’ straight in the eye to say with confidence, “I am a writer.”
The back cover of Quiver River VI states, “Writing is a journey that need not be taken alone.” It’s a nice, catchy secondary motto.
For more information about July’s meeting, please click here.