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Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Helping Hand

Penn Writers Group

By Natalie Fabe
October 25, 2001

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Men and women of all ages who share the same addiction confronted their issues together last week. After ten minutes of introductions, the healing began. No, it was not an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There were no lives in danger here. It was printed lives that were hanging in the balance. The 12 participants were all nonfiction writers, uniting for the first session in what will be a biweekly series at the Kelley Writers House.
Both Penn students and non-affiliated community members turned out for support.
Former Boston Globe reporter Richard Carreno, a veteran of the one-year-old group, is also a first grade teacher, freelance writer and soon-to-be School of Education graduate student, come January. Philadelphia resident C. Lynn Hightower, on the other hand, is "just a person who's been trying to write."
Calling herself a "non-trained" person, she said she is "seeing things and trying to help myself, but I need more help than that."
The group empathized with Hightower.
"Writing is terribly hard work," said 1941 College graduate Sylvia Auerbach, the founder of the Nonfiction Writers Group. "I think writers need a group to bounce their ideas off of."
Auerbach, a former editor at Publishers Weekly and instructor at Temple University, started the workshops after failing to unite her neighbors in a similar endeavor. "I wanted to be in a writing group," she said.
Auerbach brought her idea to the Writers House last year, where she found participants who matched her definition of a "a serious group of people."
"I am going on the assumption," she told the group, "that everyone here ultimately wants to get published somewhere."
Many of the members do, in fact, intend to publish a body of work. College alumnus Lucia Zapatero is working on a piece about a boy orphaned by a war.
Zapatero, like most present, was drawn by the disciplined atmosphere.
The group "is a great opportunity for me to force myself to do that which I love to do," she said.
And College senior Patty Quinn likened the group to an intimate seminar without the academic component.
"It's nice not to have the pressure of tearing my hair out over a grade," she said.
College senior Aimee James, who will graduate in December after a four-year break, attested to the difficulties inherent in nonfiction writing.
"Part of what makes writing so difficult...is that it's freelance," she said. "It's about making yourself get up at five in the morning and making yourself write if that's the only time you have."
end of article dingbat