The Wells Gray Country Seniors Society Writers’ Circle is still up and running, despite not being able to meet due to COVID-19 restrictions. This year’s focus is courage and resilience. (Unsplash photo)

The Wells Gray Country Seniors Society Writers’ Circle is still up and running, despite not being able to meet due to COVID-19 restrictions. This year’s focus is courage and resilience. (Unsplash photo)

Empowering seniors in the North Thompson Valley:Writers’ Circle focus on courage and resilience for 2020

Courage and resilience are the focus of this years’ Writers’ Circle compilation book, in an effort to showcase how seniors are coping with the pandemic or crises in their lives.

The Writers’ Circle is a club within the Wells Gray Country Seniors Society, and is the brainchild of coordinator Sandra Holmes, who created the group as a way to meet new people when she moved to Clearwater over a decade ago.

“I simply named a time and place,” she said. “And people came! That’s how it started. Simple as that.”

The group started meeting in 2011, and in 2012 they decided to put together a cookbook-style collection of their works. The following year, the Writer’s Circle chose to publish again — and they have many times over since.

In 2013, they tried their luck at a grant — and succeeded.

A $2,000 grant from the Wells Gray Community Forest was awarded to the group and they used the funds to publish their works into a more professional-looking paperback. They ordered 100 copies and sold out, making the full $2,000 back.

They’ve done this every year they’ve published, learning from their previous mistakes and adding local artwork and photos. Each book has been put together 100 per cent by volunteers. This year, they’ll be able to hire some folks to properly edit and compile their works instead, as they received another $2,000 grant from the Wells Gray Community Forest.

While those in the group may have a passion for writing, most of them are not professionals, said Holmes. The ability to hire an editor or two means they’ll be able to continue to improve the look and readability of their works.

“We’re not very good at giving each other good criticism,” said Holmes. “We’re too nice.”

The Writers’ Circle has about eight consistent members, but that number has changed, and so have the people, since they started in 2011. The story ideas have evolved, and so have the authors. Some are new to writing and others have had works published, such as Barbara Ferguson who published her own book of poems and short stories in 2012. She passed away in 2017 and members wrote pieces for her in the sixth Wells Gray Writers’ Circle edition.

Holmes said at the beginning, the group was quite shy because of the varying level of skill, and writing can be a very emotional and personal endeavour.

But over the years, they’ve come to understand what goes on personally in writing. And, like Fight Club, “What we talk about in writing group, stays in writing group.”

The collections contain a variety of pieces. They’ve done a few collaborative stories, where one person would write the first chapter, and the next chapter would change to a new writer, and so on until it’s complete. Other times someone will choose an item and the group will take a few minutes to write about it and share their work.

The Writers’ Circle would meet twice per month at the library, but COVID-19 restrictions have shifted the meetings to Zoom, which Holmes said hasn’t been extremely successful, because of bad internet connections, technology woes and the lack of personal connection. But, she said she’s going to keep going and the group hopes to publish their 2020 works by the end of June.

Anyone interested can reach out to Holmes by sending an email to sandrah707@gmail.com. No experience necessary, just a willingness to give it a shot.

“It’s amazing what writing can do for people,” she said. “If (they) are just brave enough to pick up a pen.”