The Rye Public Library recently added a new event to its calendar every other Thursday night: The Writer’s Group, for local and inspiring writers to get together and work on their latest ideas.
“I wanted to insert a program that connected adults and teenagers because I feel really strongly about welcoming teens and getting a space for them,” said Jessica Ryan, head of Youth Services for Rye Public Library. “I used to be an English teacher and I firmly believe reading and writing goes hand in hand, and being around books is a great environment.”
With the idea of the Writer’s Group in mind, Ryan and Assistant Library Director Lisa Houde piloted it as a small program for anyone interested. They limited the group to six people, and the spots were quickly filled with two teenagers and four adults.
“They come up with great stuff and put my writing to shame. The goal [of this group] is to polish your writing and better your craft, but it’s also a support system,” said Ryan.
Two writers submit pieces at a meeting, and the other writers have the two weeks in between meetings to read and critique the pieces.
“There’s a lot of fear of putting your writing out there, but this group helps you get past some of that anxiety. You can write this piece and think it’s absolutely awful, but you sit in the room with these people and they will explain what’s so strong about the piece,” said Ryan. “I feel like the stereotypical writer is locked away in the office by themselves, so it’s really nice to be in this group and acknowledge that we all want [to be a part of] this for different reasons.”
The writers in the group have submitted a wide variety of pieces, ranging from academic work to children’s books to magical realism.
Age hasn’t mattered either with the works submitted, as teenagers have written fantasy and experimented with world-building and adults have created children’s stories with illustrations depicting the scenes.
Of the many genres written, Ryan said that Young Adult fiction is the most popular.
“We’re all writing outside of our genres,” said Ryan. “Sometimes we have pieces coming in [to critique] that are a few chapters, and then the next chapters are submitted. We’ve also had short stories and other pieces that the writers hope will go somewhere.”
While the Writer’s Group is currently full, Ryan and Houde are still discussing whether or not to open more sessions up to the public.
If more sessions are created, expect groups to still be small to prevent writers from feeling anxious over the number of people critiquing their work.
“We don’t have plans to expand currently, but if we have interest we’ll do another session. If people really want to be a part of the group, it’d be so cool to provide that avenue for them,” said Ryan.
With the program being successful in its first run, Ryan said she is glad to have something to build for teenagers and adults to enjoy together.
“When I submitted my own piece, I was overwhelmed in a good way about how much feedback I got back and how there were things I never considered. It’s been a great experience for me and I’m so happy to be a part of it,” she said.
The Rye Public Library Writer’s Group meets every other Thursday night from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the New Hampshire Room.
The group is full at the time, but if you are interested in writing and working with other local writers, you can contact Jessica Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and possible future sessions.
— Danielle Roberts
Photo (courtesy photo) – Left to right, top: Jessica Ryan, Isaac Roberts, Sylvia von Aulock. Left to right, bottom: Lisa Houde, Josie Sedam, Marcia Beckett.