Heads bent and pens poised, passing papers in a circle: helping each other’s writing grow. Learning from published authors, networking in the industry. Simply having fun, enjoying a sense of community. These are writers of Utah Valley, coming together in writing groups to learn and grow in their art.
Stretching across Utah Valley, groups of writers are coming together to inspire one another, critique each other, learn about the writing industry, laugh and grow. Utah Valley is home to several writers’ groups and guilds, furthering the literary art of our region.
“Write On” is the newest chapter of the Utah State Poetry Society. Meeting in Lehi, this chapter represents the second chapter in Utah County. The chapter was formed because membership in Utah County was so high and many from northern Utah County had long commutes to participate with the original Utah County chapter.
Cindy Bechtold serves as president for the new chapter. Formerly, she served as president of “Word Weavers,” the southern Utah County chapter that meets in Provo. Now she is using her experience to help the new chapter grow.
So far, the chapter has about seven members, and Bechtold says new members are welcome.
The group meets on the fourth Thursday of every month to read and discuss poetry and to critique each other’s poetic works.
“[The group offers] a chance to talk about your own writing,” says Bechtold, who is a published poet herself.
But serving simply as a place to talk about one’s writing isn’t the only benefit the group offers.
“It’s wonderful because you get inspired and you hear good poetry and writing,” Bechtold explains of the joy of working with other poets. The group also provides opportunities for networking and for simply having fun.
Sometimes teachers come to present to the group. The group also gets involved in poetry readings and other community activities.
Bechtold, who writes around six poems per month, says the group helps to improve and motivate her as a poet.
“[The group] keeps you thinking and motivated to write new things,” she explains.
Bechtold, who referred to herself as “Grandma Moses” for being 60 years old, has only been writing seriously for the past ten years.
She began writing when she and her family lost their business of 20 years. Bechtold was very upset, and even angry, during this time. For her, poetry became an outlet for her emotions. It also became a path for feeling accomplished—for completing things.
“Instead of going postal, I went poetic,” she says.
Today, Bechtold’s first book of poetry, “Polished Edges,” has been published and she has plans to publish another book in the future.
When asked what inspires her as a poet, Bechtold replied, “People. Moments. I would say, trying to capture a memory.”
Bechtold encourages any who want to learn a new skill, have fun, be creative or learn “to put down events, moments, thoughts in a concise way” to consider joining the group.
Her advice to new writers is, “Start writing and don’t pick the tip of your pen up until you’ve written for ten minutes. See what comes out of your head and practice.”
To contact “Write On,” email Bechtold at email@example.com or visit www.utahpoets.com.
Short Story Fiction Writers
Also in literary Lehi, a group of dedicated short story writers meet. They are founded on a tradition that when writers join together, they can push each other to new levels of creativity and experimentation.
The group meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month and selects a different theme for every meeting. Typically, meeting participants are challenged to write a story in answer to the meeting’s theme. Each writer’s story will then be read and critiqued by the other writers present.
Although the group has around 39 members, each meeting is limited to eight people to allow sufficient time for reading and critiquing each story. Members wishing to attend a meeting must RSVP to reserve their place. Russ Lee, the group’s founder, says the group has six to seven regulars and is currently accepting new members.
Some topics the group has written on previously include: “Bad Guys Aren’t All Bad,” “So Much for Dignity,” “What a Turkey,” ghost stories, historical fiction and more.
In addition to holding writing-critiquing meetings, the group also has learning meetings. Their next meeting for example, will be a lesson on how to get published.
Lee reports that some of the group members have already been published. Further, he has worked as a magazine editor and another group member, Stephanni, formerly worked as an editor in New York.
According to Lee, there are many good writers in the group and those involved are serious about writing (though they also know how to have fun). “I’ve been in other writers groups and it didn’t seem like they were really serious,” Lee said. In contrast, Lee feels that “Short Story Fiction Writers” is serious and dedicated to producing writing.
Lee finds the group enjoyable and appreciates the way it pushes him to improve. “I like feeling like I’m being pushed to do better than I normally would,” Lee explains.
Lee founded “Short Story Fiction Writers” about a year ago as an outlet to be more “creative and imaginative.” A goal he has for himself is to become a more diverse writer, so he enjoys experimenting with writing in different genres.
One benefit Lee notes about writing groups is the feedback. He says that if you only show your writing to friends, they’ll probably just tell you it’s great. In contrast, other writers will be more critical of your work and help you to improve.
“[The writing group] helps you get better, and that’s what it’s all about,” says Lee.
To get in touch with “Short Story Fiction Writers,” visit them at www.meetup.com/Short-Story-Fiction-Writers-Group/ or check out their new website at www.shortystory.com.
League of Utah Writers – Utah Valley Chapter
Further south, the Utah Valley Chapter of the League of Utah Writers meets the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Provo Library.
Unlike the writing groups above, the League of Utah writers represents writers from all genres: poetry, journalism, fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, children’s books, memoirs and more.
The League is a non-profit organization, offering education and support to Utah’s writers.
The Utah Valley chapter provides a variety of services through its meetings: small critique groups, writing exercises, speakers on topics such as how to get published or how to use a new writing technique and more.
The chapter brings in members of all ages, even some teens, and has about 70 members, with a typical meeting turnout of 20-30 members.
“[The group has] a really positive environment,” said former chapter president Adrienne Monson. “The full purpose of the meeting is to help people with their writing and I think that’s what everyone gets out of it.”
Monson, a young mother in her twenties, credits the group with linking her to her publisher. Her debut novel, “Dissension,” which focuses on a fight between vampires and immortals and a search for a prophesied child. It is scheduled for release next spring by Jolly Fish Press.
“[The group] opens up opportunities,” says Monson.
It certainly did for her. Monson joined the group, hoping to use it as an entrance to the writing industry. She didn’t have a college degree in writing and had no time to return to college. For her, the writing group became an alternative path, her path, to becoming a professional writer.
The group offers several benefits to members such as workshops, conferences, and opportunities to meet with editors and publishers.
The goal of the League of Utah Writers, according to Monson, is “just to help all the writers.”
To get in touch with the League of Utah Writers, visit luwriters.org. To go straight to the Utah Valley chapter, head to www.uvwriters.com.
Writers across Utah Valley are capturing the dreams, imaginings, memories, musings, and history of our community. Joining a local writing group can be a way to become a part of it—a way to lend your voice and pen.
By Sierra Wilson