(This is a short introduction I wrote tonight for the Kenosha Writers Guild anthology project.)
On a warm summer night in 2008, I attended a meeting of a local writers’ group in Kenosha for the first time. I’d brought with me a short piece, one of several little fragments of memoirs that I’d found myself recently writing. I found the group by doing a Google search on local writers groups. I had no idea what to expect as I entered the downtown ice cream store that was the location for the meeting. I’d brought along my little two page piece and nervously clutched it as I entered the store. The girl behind the counter pointed me to the table in the back where I joined the handful of others who were already there.
With about a dozen participants on hand, the meeting began, and after short introductions, the group got down to business. It turned out the old group was dissolving, and as I sat there, confused and unaware, I witnessed the birth of the Kenosha Writers Guild. After about an hour of establishing baseline rules, electing a president and board of directors and frankly boring me to death, they finally got around to sharing some writing.
There were poems, novel excerpts, short stories, and essays. Some were rough and unfinished, others were more polished, and the subject matter varied widely, but there was something I couldn’t put my finger on right away that they all shared in common.
Then it was my turn to read, and as I was (and still am) mortified by the thought of public speaking, another guy was nice enough to volunteer his voice. He read my piece aloud for me, and as I sat there and listened to my words spoken by this stranger’s voice, it occurred to me that I knew what the common thread was that all the pieces, including mine, shared. It was the fact that everybody at that table, at the end of a long day working and raising families and living the life they had to live, found time to sit down and put pen to page, or fingers to keyboard, and put down whatever it was they ended up putting down. But that was only part of it. The other part was that they felt compelled to take what they’d written and share it with others. I knew that was the case for me, that the need to have my work heard by others was what drove me there in the first place.
The meeting ended sometime around ten o’clock, and as I walked the couple of blocks to my car, I was joined by an older guy from the group who complimented me on my piece and said, “welcome home.”
That was nine years and two novels (one self-published, one just finished) and three or four published short works and a personal web page with over 200 pieces posted ago. I am now one of the senior members of the guild, and one of the three members of the steering committee that headed this project. Many writers of wildly varying skill sets, young and old, have come and gone, writing in all kinds of genres and forms. In terms of skill and sophistication, our writers have covered the spectrum. The one thing they’ve shared, though, is that something drove them to not only write but to share what they’ve written with others. The Guild not only provides a mechanism to fill this need but also an audience who is also driven by the same fever. It remains a place where writing and reading are celebrated, a place where we speak the same language, where we look out for one another, where we help each other grow and develop. It is in the truest sense of the word a family.
So to all my fellow Guildies, past, present and future, enjoy this collection as a representation of where the Guild is at this point in time. And whether you’re a nine year veteran or a future member, let me extend a simple but sincere: