Lake Ridge - Occoquan Patch spoke with Lake Ridge writer Nancy Kyme recently about her involvement with Write by the Rails, a local writing group that meets in Manassas. Kyme recently published Memory Lake: The Forever Friendships of Summer, a book that is part novel and part memoir.
When and how did you become involved with Write by the Rails?
Last spring, I was introduced to Cindy Brookshire at a mutual friend's party. I told her about my newly published book and she told me about her 30-year career in journalism, her concept of a book that nudged her daily, and her idea of starting a writer's group. Such a group, she conceptualized, would pull writers together from around the county and elevate our stature on par with the performing arts. She visualized writers joining the Prince William Arts Council, sharing Park Authority resources, almost like a guild. Since my book was about to enter the most competitive book market in the history of the world, I supported her vision and asked to be involved.
How did the Write by the Rails get its name?
Pete Pazmino, a distinguished local writer, coined the name and created the logo. In his words, “It’s a nod to the rail line that runs through Old Town Manassas and the train station there that Stephen Stills made famous in 1972.”
Tell me more about how the group operates. Do you meet regularly?
The first official meeting was organized last year by Cindy and Pete and included local authors Sheila Lamb and Katherine Gotthardt. A second meeting occurred last summer at Simply Sweet on Main, in Old Town Manassas. I arrived late on a gloomy, rainy Saturday. The café tables had been pulled together in conference fashion and Cindy was asking questions and taking notes. What did we want the group to be? Carol Covin, Marvin Josaitis, Stuart Schadt, Ann Simon, Linda Johnston and I were new additions to the original four. We did not want to be an official guild with dues and the obligation of a tax return. We required a forum for networking and a means of creating promotional opportunities. We decided the best way to communicate and grow would be to utilize a Write by the Rails Facebook page. Currently, our membership is just shy of 90.
The meetings have become less frequent in favor of actual events. Last fall, the group arranged a table at the La Grange Winery’s craft fair. We pitched in for the fee, posted details on the Facebook page, and contacted Patch, Prince William Life, Potomac Local, and News and Messenger. It was a beautiful sunny day and those who had books to sell gathered around the Write by the Rails banner and talked up reading and writing.
On a grander scale, the group recently participated in Prince William County’s Arts Alive on May 6 at the Hylton Center for Performing Arts. Members gathered to promote writing and Cindy Brookshire was presented the 2012 Seefeldt Awards for Arts Excellence on behalf of her efforts to advance the literary arts in our community.
What sort of writing do you discuss?
Many types of writing are represented, including journalism, poetry, blogging, and the creation of short stories, memoirs, and novels. We discuss our paths to publication, our secrets for producing quality works, how to stay motivated, and how to find the time to write.
What kind of support does this group offer to writers? Editing? Brainstorming?
Promotion is at the top of the list. Local authors announce their new books on Facebook and we try to support them by purchasing a copy, writing a review, and spreading the word. Bloggers like Dan Verner and Kristina Schnack Kotlus drop in for subject material or to arrange interviews. It is also a great place for questions. Where can I find a local illustrator? How do I set the meta tags on my Amazon page? Mostly, we pitch in to arrange and promote events. They offer the best opportunities for members to discuss writing because participants spend the day together.
Writers can find additional support for promotion, editing and brainstorming through this group. For example, Writers Roundtable, also started by Cindy Brookshire, is coordinated by Ron Dunn and they post meeting times. Writers for a Cause is the brainchild of Katherine Gotthardt, and it promotes authors who devote part of their proceeds to charitable causes.
How has this group helped you?
It has put me in touch with like-minded individuals. Writing, for me, began as a very private endeavor in the dark of night or early morning, second only to family. I did not know any other writers. When my novel-memoir was picked up by the first publisher I approached, my world changed. I had to step away from the computer and learn about promotion. I could not have navigated the resulting chaos without the friends I have met through this group.
What writing have you shared with them?
Mostly, I have shared my novel-memoir, “Memory Lake: The Forever Friendships of Summer." Members have steered me toward sources for interviews and when an article materializes I share it with the group.
What are some of your favorite memories of interacting with this group?
At the La Grange Winery event, we encouraged each other to enter contests. This advice paid off because Carol Covin and Katherine Gotthardt have since won writing and poetry contests on the Internet. Marvin Josaitis’s book, "Pennies From a Heav'n," will receive honorable mention in the Paris Book Fair 2012, and my novel, “Memory Lake: The Forever Friendships of Summer” will receive first place in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Inspirational category on June 4 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
What are the group's goals for the next few years?
The group’s next event is the Manassas Railway Festival on June 2 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Its long term vision includes a conference for area writers, open mic readings and other opportunities for local authors to sell their books, and for local residents to buy books written by local authors. We are open to any forum.
How are you reaching out to new writers?
A writer needs only to visit the Facebook page, present his or her publication or request, ‘like’ the group to receive notifications, and either join an event in progress or create the opportunity for one and announce it. Writers are encouraged to obtain individual memberships in the Prince William Arts Council.
It would be great if this article spawned an Eastern Prince William auxiliary. I’d love to connect with writers just off Old Bridge Road. We could arrange our own informal meetings to get to know each other and to create our own events to open to the rest of the group.