What is The Writer's Group with Shanna T. Melton?
The Writer’s Group first took place at M’bellish Cafe. A loving space run with the kindness of Carline and Eddie Perez. They heard my idea and made space for it. People who make space for your ideas are important as the idea itself. There were soft pink and white roses everywhere. White curtains that would lift like wings when the wind blew into the space. Antique furniture from the chairs and tables to the vases and candle holders. They played Coltrane to Jill Scott and you could get lost in the atmosphere while drinking rose water and eating chicken salad with cranberries and cucumbers on croissants. It was a little piece of heaven on earth. Especially while writing from the deep spaces of our lives, minds and spirits. M’bellish grew so much that we had to find a space that suited our need for silence and space.
There were a few years where we went to libraries and spaces that I was hopeful could give us the energy and love to which we became accustomed. It was hard to find but we persisted until I just decided to wait until we found a new spot. Years passed and I would have participants contact me on a regular basis asking when I was bringing it back and why it no longer happened. I just didn’t have a place that felt right and I focused more on sharing my poetry and exhibiting my art knowing in the back of my mind that I would do it when the time and space made sense.
While attending a workshop about teaching art to the homeless presented by City Lights Gallery, I presented The Writer’s Group as my final workshop offering. Suzanne Kachmar was so moved by this workshop that she wanted to bring it into the Gallery on a regular basis. Additionally, I have worked with her by bringing it into Roosevelt School and community programming that transitions the homeless population into safe homes.
The Writer’s Group gathers on the first and second Saturday of each month at City Lights Gallery. We also gather at the New Canaan Library on the third Tuesday of each month. Our gatherings have been so empowering for myself and the community. We talk about everything from family and community to faith and strength. There are diverse genres of writing from people in absolutely different walks of life. The ages, cultures and level of experience vary which makes for a uniquely enjoyable time. We write knowing that sharing and feedback are optional. This erases the fear that you have to speak it out loud because I want all participants to focus more on self expression. When someone chooses to share and have feedback they learn how others receive their offering. They learn how to enhance it and they are often encouraged to turn it into something more once they step out of the doors.
When you walk into our gathering space at City Lights Gallery you will find a sunny room with huge windows and white walls contrasted by art that joins us in storytelling. There is a long table with tall backed chairs. The participants bring snacks and good energy along with a desire to create as they sit and greet one another. When you walk into The New Canaan Library the shelves are lined with books about art that is timeless and we are greeted by walls that are lined with the current gallery exhibit. We also have a long table and comfy chairs that hold us as we speak and create from our hearts. Both spaces and the many others where The Writer’s Group has been hosted welcome us, silence us, and hold us as we share.
One of my favorite things is to listen while people write. The scratch of the pen, the occasional laughter, grunt or sniffle will be the loudest sound that you hear. It is not lost on me that this is when we are the loudest. This is when the voice in your mind and spirit become a symphony and your hand becomes a mouthpiece for it all. I sometimes have to basque in how much I admire these people for being so courageous. This is a time when I am so thankful that these people trust me with what is often their most sacred work. It is later when they have won a contest, published a project, shared their story with someone who needed to hear it from their perspective; that I smile. It is when I am at an event in the community and members of my group are supporting one another that I know true kinship has developed as a result of creating together. Having my hand in this magic is a source of great pride.
I have hosted this group in galleries, libraries, cafes, schools, and community organizations. I found a passion in guiding creative work through my personal passion for words. The people who attend my groups are some of the most supportive and inspiring human beings that I’ve ever met. There are amazing people with a world inside their mind who can save the one we walk in with a little push of the pen. Adults often put our dream of writing or creating in the past saying, “I did that a long time ago but then I had kids, jobs, spouses… and focused on that instead”. That is a valid testimony because life can cloak our imagination. It is our responsibility to know that our journey feeds our creativity and can eventually add to what we write. Those necessary journeys are fertilizer for the stories we can tell with the stipulation that we allow the seeds to grow.
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A collection of poetry by Shanna T. Melton titled "Unraveling My Thoughts" is available on Amazon.com.
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