Literary life

Crestwood poetry retreat offers
unique opportunity to hone talent

Meeting provides forum for
developing, established writers

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(December 2008) – For Barbara McMakin, “poetry cuts to the heart of the matter.” McMakin attended a poetry retreat in November with a diverse group of writers and was elated about the opportunities this retreat provided for her personally and professionally.
McMakin, a Crestwood, Ky., resident, is a member of the Green River Writers Inc., a non-profit organization that seeks to encourage a fellowship of writers of all genres. The input from other writers on her own works and the opportunity to hear what others are penning is invaluable to McMakin’s creative expression. As an added plus, “the camaraderie is great,” she said.

Mary O'Dell

Photo provided

Mary O'Dell founded
the writers group in 1984.

The Green River Writers Inc. was founded in 1984 by Mary O’Dell and her late husband, James O’Dell, when O’Dell felt she was “an isolated writer living in Hodgenville, Ky. I did not have a lot of contact with other writers.”
There are now approximately 200 members, many from the local area and some from out of state. Under O’Dell’s leadership, the Green River Writers Inc. has held numerous summer retreats, Novels-In-Progress Workshops and poetry retreats. The organization plays host to monthly reading-critiquing sessions and related activities.
Poetry meetings are held the first Saturday night of the month and prose meetings the second Sunday of each month. These meetings provide members the chance to read their works and have it critiqued by their peers, who offer support and encouragement.
McMakin was one of 18 to 25 writers attending the Poetry Retreat held Nov. 6-9 at Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center in Crestwood. The retreat featured readings, critiquing sessions and free writing sessions to generate writing ideas.
“There are no instructors,” said Louisville resident O’Dell. “We just come together to help one another.” This is due to the fact that once the group realized how much talent and natural teaching ability was spread among the members, they decided there would be enough knowledge shared from peer critiquing.
The guiding premise of our group, said O’Dell, is “writers helping writers.” Literary works are critiqued without expressing personal value judgments as to content or language choice.
“We look at each piece individually on its own,” said O’Dell, 73. “We want to make it the best it can be.”
McMakin, who primarily writes poetry, joined the group four years ago. She has won several poetry contests and had a poem published in the November issue of Kentucky Monthly’s special publication of Literary Issues.
“Poetry says a lot in a few words,” said McMakin, who practices her craft part-time. Being made aware of such opportunities through the group has greatly aided McMakin in her efforts to become a published poet. “This group is for all levels of writers,” she said.
Membership in Green River Writers Inc. is open to any age, from high school and above, and includes a mixture of published and non-published writers. “We’re open to newcomers to the area, or to writing itself,” said O’Dell.
Additional writing assistance is provided in the form of a newsletter and special sessions are held for members to study market guides and the fundamentals of becoming published. A nationally advertised writing contest is sponsored by the organization with prize monies awarded.

Barbara McMakin

Photo provided

Poet Barbara McMakin
said the annual Poetry Retreat brings together
a diverse group of
writers. The Green
River Writers Inc., is
for all levels of writers.

Three retreats are held per year by the Green River Writers Inc. in January, July and November. A Novels-In-Progress Workshop is held in March on the campus of Spaulding University, bringing together publishers, novelists, editors, agents and aspiring authors.
Shelbyville, Ky., poet Gail Chandler also attended the Poetry Retreat. Before joining the group, Chandler said she had never thought about writing poetry. She has since found poetry to be “one of my strong suits.”
Chandler will have a book of poetry available in May 2009 from Finishing Line Press.
She compares writing poetry to shinning a diamond. “Poetry enables you to take a group of images, polish the images and polish the vocabulary,” she said. The Green River Writers Inc. has “made me a better poet.”
Since retiring from a position with the State of Kentucky in 2003, Chandler said the group has “become my community of people.” Also a member of the Clear Creek Writers, Chandler said “writing is my life now.”
“There are so many good poets out there,” said Green River Writers Inc. member Victoria Rose, who attended the poetry retreat as well. The “group tells you how much better you could be-that’s where you learn.”
Crestwood resident Rose joined the group five years ago and said her writing is as good now as it’s ever been, thanks to the guidance of the Green River Writers Inc. She called the retreat a great opportunity to get together with other writers and share different styles of poetry. Members are “there for the learning.”
A Poetry Focus group meets for discussion with O’Dell from 10 a.m. to noon every Thursday at Frascelli’s Deli in Crestwood Station.
O’Dell firmly believes what she has heard many members say about the poetry retreat, “This is one of the most important things they can do in a year.”

• For more information on the Green River Writers Inc. contact Mary O’Dell at (502) 245-4902 or visit: www.greenriverwriters.org.

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