Valley Verses: Writers create together through Warwick workshop

  • Warwick resident Elaine Reardon, standing, leads a writing workshop at the Warwick Free Public Library with, from left, Taica Patience, Kathy Litchfield, Barbara Lemoine, Jean Kozlowski and Lisa Sheehan. For the Recorder/Nicole Braden-Johnson

  • Warwick resident Elaine Reardon is leading writing workshops at the Warwick Free Public Library through March 6. For the Recorder/Nicole Braden-Johnson

  • BRADEN-JOHNSON

For the Recorder
Published: 2/27/2019 3:03:56 PM

It’s easy to see how inspirational and motivational it can be to attend the Warwick Winter Writing Wednesdays led by Warwick resident Elaine Reardon.

The workshop, which started Jan. 30, has a simple but effective structure: people who are interested in writing sign up by emailing Reardon, and then attend Wednesday evening sessions at 6:30 p.m. at the Warwick Free Public Library, 4 Hotel Road in Warwick. Reardon supplies participants with a prompt, and they then write for a designated amount of time. When the time is up, participants share what they have written and receive positive feedback.

Reardon explained that a focus on positive feedback is important, because, “we’re not a critique group. It doesn’t matter where you are. This is something to bring creativity and pleasure that we’re creating together, and it shouldn’t be stressful.”

Barbara Lemoine from Northfield said that part of what she values about the workshop are the prompts.

“With a prompt, you write things you ordinarily would not write; it sparks the creative process,” she said.

Taica Patience, also of Northfield, added, “My writing has better quality when I know I’ll be sharing it with other people.”

On one such Wednesday, Reardon’s first prompt was to read the poem “My Hero” from Billy Collins’ “Horoscopes for the Dead,” allowing participants to use whatever inspiration they can draw from the images he invokes. Her second prompt was to write about caring for ourselves in winter and thinking of winter as a time of rest. She said some of her future prompts will involve bringing her own visual artwork, and perhaps those of other participants, as inspiration.

The participants come from all walks of life. For example, Jean Kozlowski of Northfield had been writing and creating art for decades, but not recently. The sessions turned out to be a return to writing for her.

“I hadn’t been writing for years, and I stuck everything away,” she said. “When she told me about the group, I took everything out and I was enthusiastic to come back and be writing.”

On the other side of the spectrum is Sarah Wells from Orange.

“I like the idea of creative writing, but I haven’t done it before and certainly not in a setting like this,” she said. “I’m looking forward to playing around with it as a new outlet. I’ve been learning how to watercolor paint for the past year, so this seems like a nice progression from that.”

Reardon herself only started writing about 15 years ago.

“I always wanted to (write),” she said. “And then I said, wait, I’m getting old. Sometimes you have to do stuff for yourself.”

Since then, she’s published a chapbook “The Heart is a Nursery for Hope,” and has been featured in a number of anthologies. She participates regularly in other workshops, including one that is online but based in Sweden.

Her adult daughter and two grandchildren carry on the writing legacy she started. Both grandchildren have been published in children’s literary magazines.

“When my daughter was growing up, we loved to sit on the couch and read,” she recalled. “And when we’d canoe, we’d canoe to the middle of Laurel Lake with our books and our sandwiches, and sprawl in the canoe and read; and sometimes we’d write poetry together.”

Reardon is currently working on a second book of poetry, which she said will deal more with the legacy of growing up with stories from her immigrant parents. Her mother emigrated to escape the Armenian genocide and her father fled the violence of the Black and Tans era in Ireland.

This is her first attempt at running a workshop, but she’s already getting inquiries about doing more, which she said she’s open to doing “if the desire is there.”

She was inspired to start one because, “sometimes there’s a lot of competition, and I thought, that’s not fun! And I would like to come together in a country-style salon, and just write together in a safe space and enjoy it.”

To read Reardon’s poetry, visit her website at elainereardon.wordpress.com. For more information about the workshop, contact her at ear@crocker.com. The workshop is set to run through March 6.

Nicole Braden-Johnson of Conway is the author of “Unheard Melodies,” a monthly poetry column in the local “The Visitor,” and has also been published in several literary journals. She is always on the lookout for poetry news and events, and can be reached at bradennicole@gmail.com. Visit her website at unheardmelodiesnkbj.blogspot.com.




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