How SHW&P came to be … ah, the nostalgia!

In 2008 my husband, youngest son and I moved from Tacoma, Washington to a small town in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. I knew no one. I was excited for a new beginning in a new town, where the sun shines almost every day of the year. I left a job I’d had for over ten years, left a community of friends, and I left my writers group.

I made a couple friends, discovered new food and a warm, Southern culture, and every egret and armadillo sighting thrilled me. But I missed my writers group.

I searched online for nearby critique groups but the only one I found in a close enough was 45 minutes away.

A neighbor had a friend who was part of a national writers organization. When my neighbor invited me to meet her friend, an established writer, I felt that maybe this would be my chance to connect with others and finally become a part of a group.

The established writer was very nice, and she encouraged my interest in writing, but her group had strict requirements: first, you had to have at least five articles published, or a book, or …

“You can still apply,” she’d said. “We judge every applicant on her writing abilities as well as her publishing credentials.”

I’d had a few articles published but only one of those would be respected enough to add to a resume. I had finished a novel, but wasn’t near being ready to query agents. I still needed to learn about craft, voice, dialogue, pacing. I knew that could all be learned through critique.

Nine years later I look back and smile. There have been a lot of positive changes to the arts in the Bay Area, and I believe it is due to people who had at one point felt frustrated, like I did. From my desire to connect with other writers, I formed Safety Harbor Writers & Poets in 2010. Our first meeting was held at a small cafe on Main Street and only a few came to see what it was all about.

Not too long into the new venture, I met Barbara Finkelstein, Amy Bryant, Deb Klein, Romeo Lemay, and Warren Firschein. In the years that followed, I met Nicole Caron and Chris Shaun, nb and Carrie Granato. All but Romeo are still in my writers group. He passed away in 2013.

SHW&P went through some rough beginnings. At one meeting that I was not able to attend, a visitor started reading his novel to the group. Forty minutes later people became so frustrated by his lack of consideration for others, they left. There was a man who used to come to lecture people on their motivation and another woman would create side conversations instead of listening to the reader. We needed a leader and I needed to become a better one, fast. It took me several years and lots of practice, but since then SHW&P has become “home” to many writers and poets through conferences, workshops, open mic nights, writers groups, an annual writing contest, a literary journal and more. And I’ve learned how to be a better leader.

This blog will be a venue for writing advice from some members of Safety Harbor Writers & Poets. I hope you will find it helpful and I look forward to meeting you soon.

-Laura

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