Walking by Inner Vision –A Personal Journal of Faith
“Benefits of a Writing Group”
Photo by Lynda McKinney Lambert, 1998.
Left to right: June Moholon Kerstetter, Lynda McKinney Lambert,
Danae: Ida Barton, Jean Cooper
Note: This story is inspired by The Poetry Ladies Group – 4 friends who met to discuss and write poetry from 1985 to about 2003, in Ellwood City, PA
If you are a writer, you are well aware writing is a solitary activity.Writing is not a group activity, nor is it a spectator sport, normally. Like most creative endeavors, you work alone in your office or dedicated writing space most of the time. It’s no secret, the “writing Life” can often be a lonely life.
At some point you might be willing to work alone in a secluded place to get your “work” done. I know there are some writers who do work in public places, such as in a library or café. I admit it’s not how I work. I crave quiet and solitude and I must have this in order to listen to my inner being. Thinking requires lots of “alone” time. Thinking is a job. The only company I have in my writing space is my cats and my dogs. They each have a little bed in this room and they love being with me – and very quietly nap while I write.
I found several ways we can interact with other writers through participating in a writer’s group. We can get involved with a writing group, or even form a small group of friends who can encourage and challenge each other to push on. It’s a great way to brainstorm ideas together.
During my undergraduate years, I became a part of a small local group of women who love poetry. The group began in 1985 when June Molohon Kerstetter invited three of her friends to come to her home one afternoon to talk about poetry. She invited Danae: Ida Barton, Jean Cooper, and me.
We developed a deep friendship that continued as I earned my first degree in an undergraduate program; through my years of graduate studies for two degrees in two different states; the 2 years I worked at a college in California; and the years when I was the executive director of the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts; and finally, throughout my teaching career at Geneva College.
I participated in a small group of four local writers. We met monthly to share our thoughts, new works in progress, and just to fellowship together and talk about literature. We met for lunch at each other’s homes. After a delightful lunch together, prepared by the hostess, we then had a meeting where we shared our work. We called ourselves “the Ladies Poetry Group.” We met monthly for about eighteen years. We celebrated our birthdays and we celebrated Christmas ever year at Jean’s home. She loved to be the Christmas hostess! It seemed to me that Christmas was something special those years, as we warmed ourselves by Jean’s living room fireplace and admired her decorations. We brought little gifts for each other – things we made or things that were for writing.
Some months we traveled to another city to meet with a group of poets who lived there. We sat in a circle with members who gathered in a community center. We listened to them reading their poems, and we shared our own at times. I’ve never experienced the same feeling that I had during those times of poetic fellowship when sitting with other poets. There is a deep bond that we have and it is so memorable.
Our little writing group:
_June worked as a journalist in her early career. Later in her life she went back to college to earn a BFA degree with a major in photography. June was articulate, jolly, artistically talented in writing as well as fine arts. June shared her latest writings with us and showed off her recent art adventures. She was working on her memoirs for a couple of years, and recorded them in a notebook. She read them to us when we met each month. She wanted to leave some of her life experiences, relatives, and memories behind for her family.
Danae: Ida Barton served as “Poet Laureate” of Beaver County (Pennsylvania). It was a position that brought her so much pleasure as she visited different organizations in the county to speak and give poetry readings. Ida was a flamboyant woman who loved to dress in bright colorful outfits and wore scarves with all of them.
Danae: Ida Barton
(1920 – 2001)
_Jean Cooper wrote human interest stories and memoirs for two county newspapers. Jean loved nature and wrote about what she experienced on her long morning walks on the rural roads where she lived. Jean was also very active in her church and spent over a year doing a special book on the history of her church which spanned two-hundred years. the historical book she wrote was available to church members during the 200 year celebration event. Jean was a quilter, spinner, weaver, and craftswoman who had many friends in her community.
Since our writing group met together regularly over so many years, our little literary group eventually ended after June and Ida passed away, and Jean was unable to write any longer due to Alzheimer’s disease.
After June passed away in 1999, the three remaining members of our little group published a chapbook. We called it, “Now, we are three” and we dedicated it to the memory of June. The chapbook includes June’s poetry and her photographs.
My teaching career kept me occupied after our group no longer was a part of my life. As a professor of fine arts and humanities, I worked on lectures for courses, papers for academic conferences, my own literary projects. My international travel/study course in Europe each summer gave me material which I developed into a book. “Concerti, Psalms for the Pilgrimage.” The book includes poetry, historical notes, and reflections I created over a ten-year period while traveling, published by Kota Press in 2002. While I wrote the book, my Poetry Ladies Group read all of my writings and their input into the production of the book is invaluable.
In October 2007, I suddenly lost most of my eyesight. I retired from teaching in 2008 and now I continue writing projects for literary publications. My writing centers around poetry and essays. I still love esoteric literature and continue to write from my own world view.
I work on writing books with the aid of technologies for the blind and special programs. Because of modern technology and rehabilitation training, I am more productive than ever with my writing life.
You may find many writer’s groups on the internet. I’ve had interactions and participated in a couple of them since sight loss. But there is never the personal and intimate friendships we have when meeting in person with other writers such as what I have described in this article. How could there be?
Meeting through electronic equipment can never replicate a personal experience with others.
Unfortunately, we do not have lunch together or personal face-to-face contact. There is no visiting in the warmth of each other’s homes, or any memorable personal contact in an on-line group. We can’t see each other’s facial expressions, or touch each other, or smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen, or hear family stories in our lively chatter around a dining room table. Just about everything that makes us human is absent from a long-distance group.
Nothing can replace the years of sharing our lives and our poetry with each other. I miss these years of fellowship with June, Ida, and Jean. Rest in peace, my dear friends.
Happy Writing! I hope you will take the challenge and reap the benefits of a writing Group.
Essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015. Revised February 9, 2020. All rights reserved.
All photos by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright, 2015. All rights reserved.