Writers group offers attendees a supportive place to share work

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Dan Lorenz, Jeannine Schreck and Anna Moody listen as Michelle Pettit reads a poem during the McGregor Public Library’s writers group. The program is held each Wednesday, at 1 p.m., and welcomes all area writers. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

A LOOK AT LIBRARY PROGRAMS

Over the next few weeks, the North Iowa Times will highlight some of the unique programs and activities offered regularly at the McGregor Public Library. Our first feature focuses on the weekly writers group.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Writing is often a private endeavor, with journal entries, poems and stories serving as a means of personal catharsis for their creators—never to be shared with others. But sometimes sharing can be freeing too.

“When you’re writing, you feel like you’re in a cocoon, by yourself,” reflected Michelle Pettit. “It’s nice to have that support, to know other people are writing.”

When Pettit took over as director of the McGregor Public Library in 1999, creating a group that would bring together area writers was one of her early objectives.

Twenty years later, the group is the library’s longest-running program, and continues to welcome writers each Wednesday, at 1 p.m.

“It’s changed over the years,” Pettit said, through incorporating different people and creative ideas. “We did retreats for many years. There were times we watched videos and did writing activities and writing prompts.”

But, mostly, it’s been about sharing their work.

“We all bring a variety of things,” said Pettit, who, after a 2018 deal with herself to write one poem a day for the past year, has been sharing poetry lately. 

“Some days, they just come into my head,” she stated, “but other days they’re harvested from old journals. They have a jumping-off point.”

Jeannine Schreck brings short stories. The characters, she explained, “are about people I’ve known, people I’ve heard about. I’m writing for fun, not for anything else.”

“I write because of what it does for me,” said Anna Moody. “I get excited about coming when I’m writing a book. Everyone here is looking forward to the next chapter, so that makes it easy to come and read it.”

Dan Lorenz accidentally discovered the McGregor Public Library’s writers group in 2006.

“I came into the library and saw a sign on the door,” he quipped.

He writes longer stories—featuring themes like mystery and science fiction—and has over 40 books to his name, along with some screenplays.

Schreck said she’s always amazed at the material people write and share.

“I like hearing other people’s ideas,” she remarked.

“If you pay attention,” Moody added, “there’s a lot of food for thought.”

Over the years, Pettit has learned from everyone’s distinct voices. She’s impressed by those, like Lorenz, who choose to write books.

“I’ve tried to write a book,” she said, “but I always end up starting over. I get three or four chapters done, then go back to the beginning.”

Moody enjoys socializing with the group—their easy banter. The setting isn’t formal, she said. No one is armed with a red correction pen. When sharing, some nerves are normal.

“There’s no need to be embarrassed or intimidated. We all had to come the first time,” she commented. “We’ll tell you what we like and don’t like, but we won’t burn up your paper.”

Schreck said people can also attend the writers group simply to socialize and learn more about others’ work; there’s no pressure to share.

“Writers can be reserved or shy,” Pettit admitted. “So you can just sit and listen. We won’t force you.”

“We’re more of a writing support group,” she added. “And we’d love to have more people join.”

If you’d like to learn more about the writers group, stop by the Wednesday meetings or contact the McGregor Public Library at (563) 873-3318 or mplib@mchsi.com.

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