BY MARGARET BENDET
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
June 1, 2016
“We are homeless, leaderless and penniless,” said Dot Read, a longtime supporter and former chairperson of the recently defunct Whidbey Island Writers’ Association. “From here,” she said—to some three-dozen assembled writers meeting in early May—“there is no place to go but up.”
And “up” they have come. Just a month after that first meeting, the newly fledged Whidbey Writers’ Network (WWN) will hold its first public event—a no-host happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8, at the Captain Whidbey Inn in Coupeville.
“We would love for all writers—new and seasoned—as well as writer groupies and curiosity seekers to join us for this happy hour,” said the new WWN facilitator, Tanja Diamond. “It’s going to be a time to hobnob, network, rub elbows, pore over prose and generally join in poetic skullduggery.”
Inclusive is the new byword for the group and, at that initial exploratory meeting, Dot Read filled a whiteboard with everyone’s ideas and dreams, their images and metaphors. (These are writers after all!) It was suggested that the new group function as an umbrella (encompassing writers’ groups, a webpage, and so on) or as a beehive (“for and by writers and about writing!”)
After the whiteboard was covered with priorities, one person said, “I think the real question is, ‘where do we begin?’” Read responded by scheduling another meeting the following week, but she also collected a questionnaire that included one vital query: “Would you serve on a steering committee?”
By the next meeting, there was, in fact, a new steering committee: Pattie Beaven, Lenita Graves, Mary Ellen Jones, Teresa McElhinney, Jo Meador, Deb Morgan, Mike O’Connell, Shawn O’Neill, Dan Pedersen, and C. Lee Sage, led by Diamond and co-facilitator Michelle Schmitdtke. The following week, they named themselves the GPS Committee (to find the right direction) and the week after that they chose a name for the organization.
By then the Whidbey Writers’ Network had already begun to function as an umbrella or, if you prefer, a hive—bringing together local writers and facilitating the flow of information between them. Here are some of the services now associated with WWN:
- Whidbey Authors: A Facebook page for local writers, created and maintained by Tom Trimbath.
- Meetup site: Local writers’ announcements site, created and maintained by Pattie Beaven: http://www.meetup.com//Writers-on-Whidbey-Island/.
- WWN Blog: Created and maintained by Trimbath: https://whidbeywriters.wordpress.com.
CONNECTING IN PERSON
- Weekly Coupeville Cowork meetings: Write on your own but in a common space: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Thursday (beginning June 2) at the Captain Whidbey Inn, coordinated by Deb Morgan and Theresa Pazar.
- Happy Hour: This is the aforementioned social event: Wednesday, June 8, 4 to 6 p.m., Captain Whidbey Inn.
- Whidbey Writers Group at the weekly markets: The WWG, led by Mike McNeff, is setting up book sales booths at the weekly markets in Bayview, Coupeville and Oak Harbor (weather permitting)—a great chance to meet local authors and peruse their books.
And there is more in the works. The Bayview Cowork meetings, which have been happening for some time in WIWA’s offices, are discontinued for now, but a new home on Whidbey’s south end is being sought.
At one of the early meetings, a question was asked about why WIWA had—as Read put it—“died.”
Michele Genthon, the acting CEO of WIWA’s parent organization, the Northwest Institute of Literary Art (NILA), chaired a meeting on April 26 to explain problems that had arisen in the last couple of years—basically, not enough revenue, too many expenditures. “With all the best of intentions,” Genthon said, “the organization overextended itself and just couldn’t dig its way back out.” One specific mentioned was financial losses from WIWA’s last two writers’ conferences.
Regarding the establishment of a new writers’ organization, one that simply unites local writers, Read said, “We built WIWA from scratch, and so we know that if we want a writers’ organization, we can have a writers’ organization.”
From the response, it would seem a writers’ organization is, indeed, wanted on Whidbey Island.
“A lot of people want to do a lot of things,” Diamond said, “and we can be the resource group for that. What we need to do now is turn ‘I want this…’ into ‘Here’s what I can do.’ What we’re looking for, and need, is you saying, ‘Here’s how I can help.’”
Image at top: Dot Read (image courtesy of Dot Read)
Margaret Bendet, author of “Learning to Eat Along the Way,” is an independent editor and writing coach and teaches memoir writing at the South Whidbey Center. For more information, go to margaretbendet.com.
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