DOWNERS GROVE – Writing workshops and support groups are sprouting up all over the country for both established and aspiring writers covering a wide scope of genres. A simple online search will lead to everything from romance, mysteries and sci-fi workshops to self-help and cathartic writing support groups specifically designed to help people heal from trauma. Some are very popular, while others disappear in a flash.
The Downers Grove Writer’s Workshop, sponsored by the Friends of the Library, emerged almost 40 years ago and is one of the longest-running. Meetings take place from 7 to 9 p.m. the second and fourth Monday of every month in the first-floor north meeting room of the Downers Grove Library, 1050 Curtiss St.
The group’s membership is currently at a dozen, but numbers fluctuate over the years. Meetings are open to all ages and consist of beginners as well as seasoned writers honing their craft in a wide range of subject matter and genres. The objective is simply to write more and write better.
Retired attorney Fredric Meek, a member for eight years, has penned four novels, three set in ancient Rome and one in the Vatican.
“I think I became a better writer since joining the group,” Meek said. “We use what I call a ‘sandwich technique’ for critiquing in which the process is uniformly constructive and positive feedback is always included. I am proud of our system and our group. Our members are generous in spirit.”
Longtime member and Downers Grove resident Larry Zoeller said “the workshop is truly a dream factory where concepts are molded, formed and assembled into finished products.”
“I find it a bit special both in longevity and in our approach to critiquing,” he said.
The author of two novels, short stories and poems, Zoeller holds a master’s degree in English literature. He finds the peer reviews and critiquing most beneficial.
“We don’t just read and critique, but use both written and verbal responses,” Zoeller said.
Up to three people read during each session, verbal feedback is given, and later the work from the presentation is posted on their website, which allows a more in-depth analysis.
Zoeller writes about “different phases of life similar to the way Picasso did with his art and his poetry,” he said.
He enjoys writing about his family history, has the books printed, and shares them with family and friends.
Zoeller is currently working on a novel titled “Ultra,” which revolves around code-breaking during World War II.
Other members also have enjoyed publishing success.
Pat Camalliere has had two historical novels published. Both featured a supernatural twist and are set in the Lemont area. She is working on a third.
Lee Williams, a retired IRS forensic agent, writes and publishes authentic thrillers.
Three generations of the Mahoney family have attended the workshop, including well-known local poet John Mahoney, a member for two decades who rarely missed a meeting until he passed away in his late 90s.
Daughter Georgina Mahoney Milsted followed her father’s footsteps with an interest in writing poetry, and John’s granddaughter, Clare, attends meetings during college breaks.
Other member accomplishments include a psychotherapist who writes under the pseudonym Keziah Frost, who initially shared a short story. With the group’s encouragement, she expanded the story into a book, which was later published by Harlequin and titled, “The Reluctant Fortune Teller.” Her lifelong dream of becoming an author had been realized.
The members enjoyed a special treat last year when motivational speaker and prolific author Lou Macaluso visited the group and shared the creation of his novel “The Great Escape,” a book based on a true story in which “danger and adventure abound as a group of senior citizens escape through the Berlin Wall to freedom,” according to his website.
Macaluso is a frequent guest on radio and television shows.
Upcoming meetings of the Downers Grove Writer’s Workshop will feature:
• Sept. 23: Danielle Egan-Miller, president of Browne & Miller Literary Associates, will answer questions and discuss the process of finding a literary agent.
• Nov. 11: Todd Stocke, senior vice president and editorial director at Sourcebooks Publishing, will speak about the publishing process.
The public is welcome to these events. Membership not required.