Finding Their Voices
Nine writers known as The Writers of the Forest combine their talents into a new anthology about family and friendship.
Lorraine Gilmore arrived at Brunswick Forest in the winter of 2016 with a major idea. Wanting to form a writers’ group, she posted to the social media platform Next Door to see who was interested. Before moving to Leland, she had worked for an executive placement firm in Braintree, Massachusetts, and began writing essays and poems in 1974. Her children’s book, Matilde, was published in 2015.
Several people came to the first meeting. Gilmore explained that she planned to use the Amherst Writers & Artists Workshop method she learned in Lancaster, Massachusetts, where she returns during the summer. A half-dozen writers agreed to meet with her for two hours every Thursday. She provides writing prompts for inspiration and motivation, and the group writes independently for 20 minutes then shares what they write.
“We agreed to critique, but it had to be supportive,” says John Stipa, originally from Abington, Pennsylvania. “There’s a difference between harsh criticism and being supportive. We have a positive spin.” His wide-ranging publications include three novels, The Angel Solution, The Foiled Knight and No Greater Sacrifice, several short stories and a picture book with experiences from coaching soccer for 14 years.
Two more joined the group, and in March 2018 the six women and three men held a reading of their works. The event attracted 93 people, many of whom were so impressed they asked if a book was available.
“That began the discussion to publish,” says John Stickney, who hails from the Cleveland, Ohio, area. A professional writer since 1976, he has written art and book reviews, literary criticism, essays, fiction, poetry and other works published in several magazines and anthologies.
“Publishing a book was in the back of my mind,” Gilmore says.
“We discussed what would work for us,” says Claudia Blanchard, a transplant from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She retired as professor of marketing and chair of the business department at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan.
For the book, the group decided on “Family and Friendship” as their theme and wanted a variety of genres, including poems, short stories and essays. They set a deadline of August 1, 2018, and Stipa and Blanchard volunteered to be editors. Lee Mehler, a retired architect from Durham, painted the cover art he titled “Three Generations on Market,” which portrays his wife, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
They named themselves The Writers of the Forest and published It’s All Relative(s) in October 2018 through CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing service. All nine members have personal stories, poems and/or fictional pieces in the anthology of 37 works. They held a second reading in December 2018 with more than 60 people attending.
“A lot of the stories are from the heart,” Gilmore says.
Suzy Tenenbaum, who has a background teaching kindergarten and developing and directing several children and parent projects in Vermont, has seven pieces in the book. “The Blue Chair” is the comfortable seat in the hospital room of her son, Luke, who was waiting to receive a heart transplant. “Itchy Tights” recounts the stresses a six-year old experiences.
Barbara Dullaghan, formerly a coordinator and consultant for gifted and talented students and co-author of three children’s books and other publications, moved from Minneapolis to Brunswick Forest and has three pieces in the book. “Harsh Realities” tells of how she learned of her mother’s childhood. “Making a Statement” explores the possibility of a family member being a lesbian, and “A New House, A New Family” explains her family’s relationship with a woman who needed assistance.
“[The group] is therapy,” says Terry L. Dismore, a retired New York elementary school science facilitator and author of Calling All P.A.R.E.N.T.S., a book that helps parents make wise decisions regarding their children and family. “I call myself your ME, Motivational Encourager.” She explains that her story “A Fork in the Road” is for those who need to overcome suffering and or tragedy. “It’s a reminder that it truly takes a village when standing at the fork in the road,” she says.
Diane Pascoe, retired from human resources at Xerox in Toronto, Canada, and Nomaco Inc. in Zebulon, North Carolina, has been writing for 15 years with a specialty in humor. Her “Lightning Strikes Twice” elicits belly laughs from readers.
Memories of Thanksgiving in as Lee Mehler’s “Our life with Mother and Father” and an Italian Christmas that Stipa describes in “Feed Your Face” will have readers reminisce about their own holiday celebrations. John Stickney’s “The Awful Truth” recalls the Santa Claus fantasy and will have readers aghast. People will nod and recall lifetime connections when they read Tenenbaum’s “Pink Sneakers.”
What makes The Writers of the Forest successful?
“You have to show up,” Tenenbaum says. “You have to put in the time.”
“We feel compelled to come here,” Stipa says.
“It’s magic,” Tenenbaum adds.
“I’ve found the voice I have,” Dismore says. “This is a very special group of people. It is magical. It’s hard for others to duplicate what we have. It’s a commitment.”
“It’s become a very safe place,” Tenenbaum says.
The book can be considered a compilation of meditations, a source of inspiration and consolation for those experiencing anguish and grief in their lives.
“I write because it’s cathartic for me and others,” Dismore says. “To think that a written thought has the power to change the thoughts of others is inspirational and life affirming.”
Humor, reminiscences, family gatherings, family members are all part of the book.
“It’s a commonality regardless of the kind of writing you do,” Dismore says. “There’s a common thread. The common thread is family. No matter what we write, it’s relative.”
Want to get the book or join the club?
It’s All Relative(s)
Available at amazon.com and at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington
The Writers of the Forest