Thursday, 20 June 2013 12:49

The Cascade Writers Group Harnesses the Power of Community

Written by  Kyle Austin
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Cascade Writers Group
Kent District Library, Cascade Branch
July 9 and July 23, 7 p.m., (616) 784-2007

Many budding authors have the misconception that in order to be great, they need a cramped basement apartment in New York City, a typewriter and a bottle of good whiskey. Lisa McNeilley started the Cascade Writer’s Group seven years ago to dispel such myths by giving area writers a chance to utilize another, often under-appreciated resource: group feedback.

"We think of writers as working in isolation, but if you look at the acknowledgments of any published book, you'll see the names of the people [the author] consulted before they put their work out there,” she said. “Workshopping changes the way you see your own work and helps you to revise much more effectively."

Since its inception, the group has swelled in numbers to the point where prospective members are wait-listed until a spot is available. During sessions, which occur on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, every member is given a chance to read his or her work aloud to the group.

"If you’re apprehensive about receiving feedback, direct it yourself,” McNeilley said. “Go to the group and say, 'I'm trying to work on my introduction, or my character development, or my dialogue.' You get what you want and you'll be more comfortable."

All genres and styles of writing are considered and writers of all skill levels are welcomed, provided they show a dedication to improving their own writing and a willingness to participate in the group dynamic.

"We try to look at each writer's goals for their own writing and provide feedback based on that,” McNeilley said. “Writers change as they get more experience, so we try to remain flexible."

This year, McNeilley and her fellow CWG board members used the success of their workshops as a vehicle for a larger project that aims to give talented writers around the country the exposure they deserve. As an official entry in the fifth installment of the immensely popular ArtPrize competition, Imagine This! An ArtPrize Anthology, intends to remind people of the artistic merit of writing. 

“The written word is the fundamental building block of our civilization, yet with the advent of technology it's become a sort of background voice,” said CWG board member John Guertin. “We forget there's usually a brain somewhere behind it all.”

An open call yielded more than 200 submissions, but only 20 will make it into the anthology, which will be available at ArtPrize hubs, the ArtPrize e-store and various supporting businesses such as Schuler Books and the GRAM. The book will also feature images of notable artworks from ArtPrize history. Outside of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the project was made possible by invaluable contributions of time and money from the board members themselves.


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