My 400th post on this blog! It seems that I should write something special to commemorate such a milestone. So I will.
Ten years ago last June, Kenda Turner, Connie Huddleston, Catherine Hershberger, and I met in Wheaton, Illinois, at “Write to Publish,” a Christian writers’ conference. All we knew about each other was that we lived in the Cincinnati area and were writers. I was excited to meet other writers from here and hopeful about starting a new writers’ group.
In the early nineties, I was a charter member of the Cincinnati Christian Writers’ Fellowship, led by Teresa Cleary. We met for about twelve years and those meetings were helpful and inspiring. I published my first paid piece after learning at one of those early meetings about a contest by The Christian Reader. We would have guest speakers and critique each other’s work. I have fond memories of that group, but we finally dwindled and lacked leadership so that we disbanded.
So I carefully gathered home addresses and email addresses from these women in hopes that we could get together. Back at home, I plotted on a map our four addresses to see what a common meeting point could be. I determined that a Starbucks on Harrison Avenue would be best. Connie and Catherine lived at opposite ends of the Cincinnati metropolitan area.
Catherine couldn’t make our first gathering and finally decided she couldn’t join us at all. But Connie, Kenda, and I met at the Starbucks, awkwardly starting light conversation about what we would buy. Turned out that both of them preferred tea over coffee, and Kenda offered her home as a place to have tea and conversation. She persuaded us with “It’s only two miles from here,” so we went. That was the beginning of our little group, which we creatively call our “Writers’ Group.” Why waste creativity by thinking of a clever name?
In the ten years that have passed, what has occurred with our group of three? For one thing, we have not tried to recruit others to join; we are quite satisfied as we are. We meet one Tuesday a month from 9-11 in Kenda’s lovely sun room, sharing our lives, our writing, and our faith. From the beginning, we agreed on no food, just tea. Kenda broke that rule recently when she had yummy warm lemon bars to go with the tea in celebration of ten years together. Once every ten years is acceptable.
Connie suggested our format: each of us talk about our current writing and one family prayer request. We each take notes and then pray around, praying for the person on our right or left. Connie keeps up with who prayed for whom the last time so we alternate.
Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about each other. We know each other’s children’s names, their spouses, the grandchildren. We know where they live and what they do for a living. We know of their struggles and their triumphs even as we know each other’s. We pray for them.
We marvel that we each have wonderful, godly husbands. We each have two children who are married and raising their children in the Lord. I am in awe that all of our children and grandchildren are so faith-filled. We especially enjoy sharing with each other when our grandchildren give their lives to Jesus and are baptized. What rejoicing!
We’ve seen each other through the deaths of three parents and the births of numerous grandchildren. We’ve prayed and supported throughout Connie’s battle with breast cancer, successful treatments, and the resultant lymphoma. We’ve carried each other through lesser health problems and family crises as well.
Connie and Kenda are excellent critiquers. We all try to be tactful, but critiquing is easy because all of us have about the same skills. I love getting their input and ideas on a piece I’ve written. Presently, Kenda is working on a chapbook of her haiku, Connie is taking an online course to help her write a devotional book for cancer victims, and I’m trying to publish online more, since print magazine opportunities have almost disappeared.
We have rejoiced with each other over items published and commiserated over rejections. We help each other hone our writing skills and counsel over personal frustrations.
We continue to encourage and pray for each other about individual challenges, family situations, and our writing. We are more than a writers’ group; we are blessed to be friends.