Camaraderie found in words

I though that fellow writers might be interested in this story that was published today by a regional newspaper. I can remember how scared I was the first time I went to a writers group meeting with St. Croix Writers in Solon Springs, WI. I felt shy and that perhaps my work might not be as polished as fellow writers, many of whom were published.

It turned out that the group was compassionate and encouraged me to write and share my work with them. Thus I took my place and began to feel comfortable with myself and them. I was no longer fearful of sharing myself and my writing. I write creative nonfiction in the areas of plant and butterfly science. St. Croix Writers Group is superb.

I had also tried another writers group back in those early days. One of the members started shouting at me after I read my piece. I though, what is this all about? There was no comparison between St. Croix Writers and the unmentionable writers group. One more word about writer’s groups. Find one where you feel comfortable and where you can open your heart and let others feel your depth of soul.

Now on to the story.

Source: Superior Telegram by Maria Lockwood, January 27, 2012 

St. Croix Writers are a Midwest version of Las Vegas. What goes on during a meeting stays at the meeting — at least until it’s published. The close-knit group swaps more than words during their weekly Tuesday gatherings. They share laughs, honest emotion and lives.

“I think that the biggest reason we’ve stuck together so long is that we’re like a family,” said Anna Martineau Merritt. They don’t just care about one another during the Tuesday meetings, she said, “We care about each other on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, you know.”

Newcomers are always welcome.

“We are friends,” said Christine Hensolt. “And everybody who comes through is an addition and just makes us more whole.”

Jason Rizzo sat in on his first writers’ session in December as an observer. The next week, the Gordon man brought a piece of his own.

“The first reading I did was kind of a short story that was emotional,” Rizzo said. It was a big step to read it, he said, but he appreciated the feedback from people outside his immediate circle of family and friends.

Charles Shingledecker, new to the writing craft, credited the constructive criticism he got from the group for getting his book, “The Crazy Side of Orthodoxy,” published. The fellow writers helped him approach the complicated issue from an outsider’s perspective, he said, and gave direction in refining the manuscript.

“They critique, they don’t judge,” said fellow writer Judith Liebaert. “And everyone feels accepted.”

There is a sense of trust and honesty within the group, members said, and it can become addicting.

“You don’t miss it,” said Agnes Kennard of Wascott. “It’s not required, but you’re always there.”

Anyone can join the sessions, which run 9:30-11:30 a.m. every Tuesday at the Solon Springs Community Center.

“The door’s always open,” Kennard said.

The writers have been meeting since 1989 in Solon Springs. Their work encompasses every genre you can imagine, according to one of the founding members, Jo Stewart. And it is not censored. Nature poems, murder plots, songs and even sex scenes can turn up at any given session. The ranks swell to more than 30 during the summer, with a smaller gathering during the winter. And the group is not just a bunch of amateurs.

“We’re good enough to be published,” Kennard said.

Shelves full of published works by St. Croix Writers — everything from chapbooks to children’s books — are showcased in the entryway of the Solon Springs Community Center as part of the Rural Arts Voice North (RAV’N) display case.

“And this isn’t even a complete showing,” Liebaert said. “(I) didn’t know we were such a prolific group.”

“This area has a lot of talent,” Merritt said.

RAV’N, a non-profit group that promotes and supports the arts, maintains the Solon Springs display as well as cases at Wascott Town Hall, the Minong Clinic and a site in Barnes.

“RAV’N wants to show the arts in all their forms,” said Hensolt, group president. RAV’N hosts a spring student art show, art and craft fairs in the spring and fall and musical events over the fall and winter. A traveling art exhibit sponsored by RAV’N last year was so successful that the group plans to hold a juried art show, the Upper St. Croix Art Exhibition, from July 13-22 in the Solon Springs Village Hall. Artists from Douglas, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Ashland and Bayfield counties can submit two pieces of original artwork in any media created within the last year. The theme of the show is “Happiness, within, without, and all around.” For more information or entry forms, contact Mary Lu at (715) 378-2728 or