Do you want to start writing but have no idea where to begin? Or do you have a manuscript you want some feedback on? What about motivation to stick to a writing schedule or overcome writer’s block?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, the new O’Fallon Writing Group could be the club for you.
Co-facilitators Keli Tucker and Susan Cantonwine lead the group, which will have a launch meeting Saturday, Feb. 11 at the O’Fallon Public Library.
Tucker holds an M.A. in English from DePaul University and has three years of experience as a writing tutor, and has worked with writers of all experience levels writing in multiple genres, including dissertations, memoirs, science fiction, poetry, and digital composing.
Cantonwine is a certified language arts educator in Illinois and Missouri. She was a founding fellow in the Piasa Bluffs Writing Project and facilitated writing workshops for educators, as well as students. While a stay-at-home parent, she worked as a stringer for the Dayton Daily News and was a freelance columnist for the Honolulu Star Bulletin.
The two met through their positions at Southwestern Illinois College’s Success Center, where Tucker works as an English specialist and Cantonwine works in the projects division, in addition to tutoring liberal and language arts students.
With the their backgrounds and love for composition, the two decided to collaborate in forming a writing group.
“I live nearby, and I’ve always loved the environment here at the O’Fallon Library,” said Cantonwine said, who also works part time at the library. “And I always smile while I’m here, because the patrons and those I work with are just so warm and welcoming — I enjoy what I do here.”
As of late last week, there were 11 confirmed participants for the initial meeting, but group’s number is expected to grow.
“Some are waiting to see what their schedules are like that week, and whether they commit to the group longer term,” Cantonwine said.
Rewards of writing
Writing has many benefits, according to Tucker — even if it is just scrawling out a grocery list.
“The act of writing helps us to remember things more than with typing, so it really is better to take notes by hand versus typing,” she said. “Writing is a recursive process where you have to go over your work more than once, whether it be for the purpose of feedback, editing the work yourself or revising. So, essentially, it helps us figure out what we want to say, too, besides just with personal fulfillment, professionally or academically.”
Writing also forces people to also employ critical thinking skills, Tucker said.
“What we’ve seen lately in society is a trend of not really examining things we see, hear or read, in that we aren’t asking those questions of credibility in the sources, as well as not following through with our own thoughts as well as we could,” she said.
Cantonwine said she’s always loved writing, no matter the form or purpose.
“I like journaling and casually writing. And now I just want to continue, at least for me, as a practice that I find is mindful and uplifting,” Susan said.
About the group
The group welcomes adults who want to write, whether you are a published author or a novice.
“With my background with the National Writing Project, I learned strategies on how to manage all of the different personal writing goals and levels of experience or expertise,” Cantonwine said.
Tucker said her extensive experience as a writing tutor is an advantage.
“It comes very naturally to me to help people write more effectively and dramatize the reader,” she said.
The initial gathering is to discuss individual goals and learn what you would like to accomplish so, no need to bring a writing sample. This introductory session will offer the opportunity to get to know other area writers and to help shape the future direction of our writing group.
“We really want to know what others’ want to write about, whether it be professionally, for journaling, for that next great American novel, or just for fun,” Cantonwine said.
Tucker said fear of criticism shouldn’t keep someone from checking out the group.
“One of our primary goals is to create a welcoming space. I feel like some may be hesitant to join because, maybe, they aren’t ready for feedback on their work or may not want to put themselves out there on that level, but it’s going to be a place for people to get constructive criticism in a welcoming and relaxed environment,” Tucker said.
Those planning to be a part of the group should:
▪ Come prepared to write and occasionally share their work.
▪ Be willing to provide constructive feedback to group members following established protocols.
▪ Bring their own writing materials (favorite pen, paper, etc.), or laptop if you wish. Members should bring a flash drive if they plan to use a computer, either their own or one of the library’s PCs or laptops. FYI: The library sells 2 GB drives for $2 and ear buds for $1.
About the meeting
Where: O’Fallon Public Library, small conference room (upstairs)
When: Saturday, Feb. 11 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. (Future meeting times may vary based on group member preferences)
Who: This is a free event and open to the general public (ages 18 and up). Please register below if you are interested (even if you can't make the initial meeting).
Registration: To register, express interest, or learn more, go online at ofpl.info/events/writers or call 618-632-3783.