Shelby Writers’ Group offers camaraderie, critiques

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 19, 2014

 The Shelby Writers’ Group, which welcomes writers from Macomb County, meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays to offer and receive feedback, find inspiration and bond over their shared passion for writing.

The Shelby Writers’ Group, which welcomes writers from Macomb County, meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays to offer and receive feedback, find inspiration and bond over their shared passion for writing.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A diverse group of more than a dozen writers, among them half a dozen published authors, gathers weekly at the Shelby Community Center to share their writing, critique each other, stay on track and find inspiration.

The group, which meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, is always welcoming new members and garners a weekly attendance of 10-12 people. Members’ genres range from poetry to biographies, fantasy to essays, and six-word stories to adventure.

Shelby Township resident Pam Flanigan, the administrator and newsletter-formulator of the group, began writing humorous essays about personal experiences after her son was born 27 years ago.

She said some of her topics include things that she remembers as a child, events that happened in Great Britain with her mother and sister, and her struggles in her garden fumbling with a trowel and what the neighbors must have thought.

She discovered the group through advertisements posted in the library.

Although they meet in the community center, the Shelby Township Public Library sponsors the Shelby Writers’ Group and facilitates its meeting room, adult services librarian Elizabeth Campion said.

“The atmosphere is very friendly and homelike. We know each other well, and it’s very comfortable,” Flanigan said. “I learn from people, too. Everyone has a different way of doing things.”

Flanigan explained that during a typical session, she starts by asking how the writing week has been for everyone, and the group recaps what is going on in their writing.

“I draw numbers who is going to read their material and watch the clock while it’s being critiqued,” she said. “‘Criticizes’ sounds like a harsh word, but it’s a good experience.”

Terry Hojnacki, of Sterling Heights, said the group typically spends about 10-15 minutes on each person’s pieces, and the format motivates members to polish their work.

Literary fiction and young adult novels are Hojnacki’s specialty, and she said she currently is working on a story about an abusive relationship.

Hojnacki said she joined the Shelby Writers’ Group a couple of years ago because she heard about it through a friend. Both Hojnacki and her friend also belong to the Sterling Heights writers’ group, and she said a perk about the Shelby group is it’s geared toward all Macomb County residents.

“My first reaction (upon joining the Shelby Writers’ Group) was I was apprehensive. There are quite a few published authors in the group, and I’m not published yet, so it was a little intimidating,” Hojnacki said. “But I think that’s the best part of it — to be able to learn and give your opinions on other people’s work.”

She added that, with all the different genres represented within the group, each writer receives a wider range of feedback, which prevents their literature from becoming too focused on a particular genre.

“The critiquing is what I really come for, because I never really had a group that was not shy about telling me what’s wrong,” said fantasy writer Patrick Bradley, 24, of Shelby Township. “The hardest thing is having your family actually try to critique your work for you, and you don’t know if they’re being honest or if they’re just telling you what you want to hear.”

Bob Baker, one of the original members, said the group was established in April 1998 and had 23 members. Robert Chiarini, another founding member, added that the group met monthly. They said that James Habba, a screenplay writer for the children’s TV series “Bed Bugs,” was also among the founding members.

“Having a once-a-week group, a lot of people seem to like,” Flanigan said. “If I am distracted with family issues or something, I can become easily inspired by coming to the meetings.”

Erika Martin, of Washington Township, attended the Feb. 13 meeting for the first time and said she thought the group is absolutely fantastic and is looking forward to coming back and sharing her work.

Martin, whose second language is English and first is German, said she recently moved to Washington Township from the Dearborn Heights area and was in search of a writing group close to home.

Although she said she primarily writes in English, her self-published novel, “Little Nazi,” has snippets of other languages, including German, Ukrainian and Yiddish. She also has several short stories published in literary journals, she said, and enjoys the creative process of writing and expressing herself.

“I would encourage new and seasoned writers to come check it out if they’re interested in a good critique group,” Hojnacki said.

The community center is located at 51680 Van Dyke Ave. For more information, call the library at (586) 739-7414 or visit the group’s Facebook page,