Near the back of the building of a Starbucks on South Hill, a small room acts as a meeting place for a group of five writers.
Once a month, these five writers from four different cities set aside some time from their busy lives to get together and discuss each other’s creative writing.
They’ve been meeting for about 10 years now.
“I love this group,” said Kathy Guimond, a Puyallup resident and second grade teacher at Hunt Elementary. “We were all strangers at first. I think we mesh really well. We have this philosophy where we put out different ideas and the author can either take it or leave it. We all know that and respect that.”
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Four of the five writers first met in a romance writing class held at Pierce College Puyallup Campus. When the class ended, their collaboration didn’t.
The teacher of the class suggested that every writer should have a critique partner, or a critique group. At the time, some classmates decided to meet at a Borders bookstore on South Hill.
I love this group. We were all strangers at first. I think we mesh really well. We have this philosophy where we put out different ideas and the author can either take it or leave it. We all know that and respect that.
Kathy Guimond, Puyallup resident
“We said we should meet there and everyone who showed up, showed up,” said Guimond, 62. “(The bookstore) was close to where we had the class. We wanted to be around books.”
“I had just moved to Puyallup and didn’t know anybody,” added Ella Graham Tate, another member of the group and a Puyallup resident who works for the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce. “I thought the way to get acquainted was to take a class.”
A few years into their meetings, they found out Borders was closing its doors, and the group knew it had to find a new space. That’s when members found out about the meeting room at a nearby Starbucks.
“This is just more private,” Guimond said about the room. “We can laugh and get loud.”
Group members don’t just help improve each other’s writing, but they act as supporters throughout the writing and publishing processes, offering advice from cover art to editing.
“It’s like having your own private editing services,” said another member, Bonney Lake resident Kelly Marshall. “There are some people where editing is their thing. Not me — that’s not my gift.”
But where one writer needs, another writer swoops in to assist.
“We all have a different talent in what we see in each other’s writing,” Guimond said.
“We encourage each other,” added Auburn resident Sandra Nachlinger, 69. “We all want each other to succeed.”
We encourage each other. We all want each other to succeed.
Sandra Nachlinger, Auburn resident
Buckley resident Pamela Johnson joined the group later on. With a background in journalism, she now works as a library educational assistant at Glacier Middle School in Buckley.
“I started writing in fourth grade and I won a poetry contest. That got me hooked,” said Johnson, 54. “I was really thankful when (Nachlinger) asked me (to join the group). It was a convenient time to meet.”
Over the past decade, the writers have seen each other’s continued accomplishments. Even now, each are in different steps toward publishing their work. Marshall, a U.S. government employee, has published four books, from a gentle romance titled “The Chair,” to murder mysteries titled “6 White Roses” and “The Radio Murders.”
“I love murder mysteries. That’s what I love to read,” Marshall said. “Whenever there’s a little extra time, I write books. I love writing. It’s my passion.”
Nachlinger published two romance books, “I.O.U. Sex” and “Bluebonnets for Elly.” Johnson’s work has appeared in anthologies, including “God Answers Prayers: Military Edition,” and finds herself writing stories about family.
“I love families and that’s my focus,” Johnson said. “Because I work with young adults, I want to inspire them in some way.”
Tate started out writing poetry, then turned to children’s stories when she had her children. Guimond is working on a historical fiction novel revolving around the 1916 revolution in Ireland.
“I thought that I’d write an inspirational book for teachers, but when I sat down to write, a historical fiction novel came out,” Guimond said. “I love history and I love writing. My favorite genre is history, so that’s what I write.”
It was so nice to be away. We all live really busy lives and the only thing on our agenda was fellowship and writing.
To stimulate their writing “muses,” the critique group goes on writer’s retreats together. The last trip was at Black Diamond Camp at Mount Rainier this past summer.
“One of the coolest things we do is we go on retreats,” Johnson said. “I let go of a lot of of things that were in my way.”
“It was so nice to be away,” Guimond added. “We all live really busy lives and the only thing on our agenda was fellowship and writing.”
Group members continue to support each other, and have plans to get their books out into the community.
Nachlinger, Johnson and Marshall will be at Arts Alive in conjunction with Enumclaw’s Semi-Annual Wine Walk to sign their books. The event is scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 12) at 1429 Cole Street, Enumclaw.
The group hopes to do more public events in the future.
“These gals keep me going,” Johnson said about the critique group. “They keep me feeling like I can do it.”