The Baltimore Jewish Writers Guild is looking for a few good wordsmiths.
“We are now four women and one lone man, bless him,” says longtime member Edy Bondroff. “It’s so much fun to be with people who share the love of creating a scenario on paper.”
The BJWG has existed for more than a decade, meeting the first Monday evening of every month in the library of the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center.
Six years ago, the group consisted of more than 10 members. But today, the BJWG is a small but tight-knit group of regulars who discuss their current writing endeavors, participate in joint writing exercises and review each other’s work.
Some members are published or self-published, while others aspire to be published. Still others write just for their own spare-time amusement.
All writing genres and experiences are welcome, say members, including fiction, literary nonfiction/memoir, poetry and humor. Some of the writing contains Jewish themes, but not all.
Ahead of time, members can submit anything they have written, and they receive each other’s work via email. During their weekly meeting, they take turns speaking about what they’ve written during the past month or so.
Then, they workshop and critique each other’s work, so that they all can continue to improve. Their time together also includes creative writing prompts, such as looking at a picture to inspire a story related to a past experience.
The writing prompts can be a very creative and thought-provoking exercise. “It’s really fun to see the different takes each of us has on the subject/prompt,” says Linda Miller.
Still, the focus for the group is on the writing that they bring to share. “It’s a critique group, but we take it apart gently,” says Marlene Wolff Solomon.
The writing offerings can evoke emotions in the group, and they are there for each other through laughter and tears.
“You love what you write,” says Bondroff, an Owings Mills resident. “And if you love what you write, you want to share what you write. I can write things and the class cracks up in laughter.”
The group of regulars — Bondroff, Solomon, Miller, Mark Carp and Diane Gensler — get along so well that they often go out to dinner first to socialize and catch up.
“Our current members are devoted to our group,” says Miller. “I love our camaraderie and sharing our work.”
Terri Kane used to lead the group, but had to resign. Today, the group is self-led, with no teacher or moderator. They have had guest speakers in the past.
“I find the instant creativity to be the most fun of the evening,” said Bondroff. ”In one exercise, Terri asked us to put a dot on the middle of the page and write about it. We all wrote about what was inside the dot. Terri then said, ‘Why didn’t anyone write about what is outside the dot?’ It really made us think about that darned dot in other ways.”
Meanwhile, members say they are eager to welcome new members and attract some young blood.
“If you walk past us meeting, you’ll find happiness and laughter,” says Bondroff. “We get along very well. It’s a great atmosphere. I’m always happy to be there.”
Adds Solomon: “We all meld and mesh together. Each person has a little role. I love everybody in the group.”
The Baltimore Jewish Writers Guild hosts meetings the first Monday of every month at 7:15 p.m. at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center. Participation is free and the group is open to writing enthusiasts of all backgrounds and experience levels. For information, call 410-356-1553, visit https://baltodi.wixsite.com/bjwg or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anna Lippe is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer.