Finding the right words

Writers find support, advice, inspiration with group

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mark Twain, the American writer of "Huck Finn" and "Tom Sawyer" fame, once wrote: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter 'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning."

Nineteenth century writer George Bainton published this remark in his book "The Art of Authorship." Twain was responding to Bainton's request for advice, methods of work and literary reminiscences from leading writers of the time.

The Central Peninsula Writers' Group continues the quest for just the right words. Virginia Walters, the group's organizer, invites writers of all experience to join them for their meetings on the first and third Thursday of every month at the Kenai Community Library.

"We're very casual. We're open to anyone who wants to come in and read, and we offer criticism if that's what the writer wants," Walters said.

"We have published writers, and we have people who have never been. And we have had we don't right now but in the past we have had student writers. Like I said, we're a very friendly group."

The Writers' Group has been meeting for about 15 years. Their schedule and goings-on are posted at the Kenai Community Library's Web site,

Central peninsula writers attend the meetings to move their work forward. Some are published, some not. Some are young, some more mature.

"Some people come in just to see how we are, and listen to what we do, and then come back with something. And some people come in the first time with a piece. I would say that's kind of the way they do it. Because usually those people that come in with a piece are at a standstill and need some input. And that's what we're there for," Walters said.

Though generally authors attend with work already in progress, the group is willing to discuss things from the very kernel of an idea.

"We have had writers that come in and say 'Gee I've got this great story,' but then they don't know what to do. So they tell us their ideas and everybody says, 'Well you could do this, and this, and this.' Also, last year we haven't done it yet this year but last year we did a few of our nights were devoted to writing about setting, or writing about the general plot or just a few very specific things. So, we can offer what they want," Walters said.

The Writers' Group consistently meets with about a dozen people, though not always the same dozen. Their approach to criticism is to start with the positive in the work.

"We always start out with what's good. 'This was really good,' 'Your character was really good,' 'I liked your topic.' Whatever it comes out to. And then, we work into, you know, 'You could have done this,' or maybe you want to think about this.' We try to stay, you know, always the good stuff first," Walters said.

On March 15 at Triumvirate Theatre, the Writers' Group will offer a reading of work submitted to the group for its annual event.

"In the past it has been 'Central Peninsula Writers' Night.' However, the last couple of times, we have done it in the afternoon. So we have changed to 'Central Peninsula Writers Present,'" Walters said.

"We would like to have all writers in the area the central peninsula, which is Sterling to Ninilchik to Nikiski submit whatever. We go for something they can read in 10 minutes."

Interested entrants should submit their work in any genre to the group for consideration. The only stipulation is that the work must be read in 10 minutes or less.

"The entry forms and the guidelines are at the library, the Kenai Library. They have also been sent to all the English teachers at the high schools in the area. They are also online at the library Web site," Walters said.

The guidelines request three copies of each piece submitted. The entries will then be considered by a blind panel consisting of local experts. The group works with judges who have a background in writing and literature, but who might not necessarily be familiar with the Writers' Group membership's writing. Walters encourages any writer, whether they have attended the Writers' Group meetings or not, to enter. The deadline for submissions is 4 p.m. Feb. 15.

Once the judges have made their selections, the writers whose pieces are chosen will be contacted and invited to read as part of the "Central Peninsula Writers Present."

"They get up onstage and read their own work. We do a practice a couple of days before the presentation," Walters said.

Walters said that there have been occasional bouts of stage fright amongst the writers, but said that should not prevent anyone from submitting work.

"We have had a couple of times where writers, for one reason or another, absolutely couldn't read, and then somebody else will read it for them, if that's what they want."

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