A Healthy Community Needs a Healthy Writer’s Group

by Jerry Waxler

A regional writing group in which I participate asked me to contribute to an application for a 501c3 status as a non-profit community organization. Since this is a topic about which I have been passionate for years, I had a number of ideas that I had never written in one place. Now, as I research the ways a writing group helps the community, I extend the conversation out to you. If you need such a document in your own writing group, or you want to offer your ideas and suggestions  to our group, please write your comments, links, and suggestions, below.

Since 2001, when I joined a writing group called Writers Room in Doylestown, PA, I considered writing groups a crucial part of my life. I am now the workshop chairman for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, GLVWG where I have volunteered at monthly meetings and the annual conferences, served on the board, and spoken at area Libraries, and I am on the Board of Directors of the non-profit group, Philadelphia Writers Conference. Why do I invest so much of my time and energy into writing groups? Because I have observed that healthy writer’s groups contribute to healthy individuals and communities.

GLVWG, like every writing group, consists of people who are engaged in a three-dimensional endeavor. First, members reach inwards, developing the skills to converting thoughts to writing. Second, they reach towards their peers, to encourage each other, develop networks, and create a healthy organization. And third, they reach out to surrounding neighborhoods and towns, using the craft of writing to engage others in the larger community.

So it turns out when writers come together in a non-profit organization like GLVWG, their writing, which is often perceived as a solo activity, is transformed into a contribution to the “common weal.”

Activities sponsored by GLVWG

GLVWG engages in a variety of activities, all staffed by volunteers.

  • Monthly meetings
    Library Talks
    Firehouse Friday, public reading
    Annual conference
    Monthly discussion circles
    Workshops
    Newsletter

None of these activities compete with commercial ventures, and taken together offer a wide array of benefits to individual, group, and community.

Communities need more facilities to teach the life skill of writing

Writing is a life skill, necessary for all sorts of communication. However, after our formal education is over, there are few places where we can improve these skills. Our community is under-served in this regard. GLVWG provides such training opportunities, offering a place where community members gather to share creative passion, and learn about writing.

Through GLVWG, published authors contribute to the community

The writing group attracts published authors to the area, and also brings the ones already in the area out of their homes and into the community, where they offer talks and booksignings at local independent and chain bookstores, craft fairs, and libraries.

Writing promotes regional culture

Culture, as expressed through such media as music, drama, and writing, represent the creative expression of society. Writers make an especially important contribution to culture, because in addition to its artistic merits, writing also informs. The members of GLVWG contribute to this culture in many ways. We write for entertainment, for the healing of self and others, and call our neighbors out for social action. Taken as a whole our writing forms the backbone of human culture.

Writing helps democracy and civic life

As many social commentators have observed, reading is necessary for a healthy democracy. In order to read, we need writers. GLVWG writers participate in all the local and regional media. Our members are reporters, bloggers, and contribute to group newsletters.

Writing groups help kids, families, and schools

GLVWG reaches out to young people. Parents and teachers pass on the value of writing to their children, encouraging them to explore poetry and storytelling. GLVWG runs a high school writing contest to stimulate and reward young writers. The young people who participate appreciate the opportunity to turn their creative energy towards the development of fictional worlds, giving them an outlet, as well as teaching them tools for their future employment and satisfaction.

Writing groups help seniors

Verbal activities are good for seniors, increasing mental stimulation and purpose, and reducing isolation. Many of our members are seniors. In addition, our members teach classes at senior centers. And as we teach and learn the arts of story writing, we preserve the stories of community members.

Writing groups help community religious institutions

Our members contribute to publications in their houses of worship, extending the connections of individual members into their own groups.

GLVWG collaborates with other nonprofits to provide cultural activities

Our group does not work on its own. We collaborate with a local theater to stage public readings. Members work with local senior centers to provide instruction. And we cooperate with a local non-profit storytelling guild, and book and art festivals. GLVWG provides people a place to gather, be entertained and learn. We have been featured in local radio, television, and on the internet.

Conclusion

Our culture relies extensively on the written word, and yet individual writers and aspiring writers often feel isolated. Non-profit writing groups provide an incubator where such individuals can learn their craft, and extend their verbal interests beyond themselves out into the community. It’s a perfect example of a win-win investment. By nurturing and supporting writers, we increase the health of the community.

Notes

Writers Room, Doylestown, PA founded by Foster Winans, is no longer in existence.
Philadelphia Writers Conference, held in June, is the oldest continuous writing conference in the United States.
Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group holds an annual conference in the spring, meetings, workshops, readings, and other activities.

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