story by Patricia Merrick | photography by Britton Ledingham
It started with a passion for writing and has lasted through years of friendship. This year marks 15 years in operation for the Crossfield Writers’ Guild, which member Beverly Gatt attributes to friendship.
“We’ve had so many different people come and go. People come in from Crossfield; from Airdrie; from Carstairs,” she said. “We’ve had people from all walks of life – from Hutterite colony, men and women – but mainly women now… We’ve become friends.”
The group was formed by children’s poet Joanne Shackleton and used to meet in the building that currently houses Town Hall. According to Gatt, five years after the group started meeting, it was going to fizzle out because the members weren’t able to meet at that location anymore.
“It was going to be disbanded and I said, ‘Well, we have such a good group. It’s so good educationally and also for people who are struggling writers who want to learn how to write or are afraid of how to do it. And I said, ‘Well, you can meet at my house,’” she said.
The group met at Gatt’s house for a while but moved to the Rocky View Lodge in town after some of the members moved into the seniors’ housing unit. The group still meets at the lodge every third Thursday of each month at 1:30 p.m. for approximately two hours. Each meeting is recorded and Gatt said the group follows an agenda.
There are a variety of writing activities in which members can choose to be a part of, like taking a sentence home and expanding on the topic, about two pages long, which would then be critiqued at a future meeting, according to Gatt. Members also participate in a five-minute free writing challenge and share their work afterwards.
“We (critique) in a gentle manner because writers are very tender people,” she said. “If you’re too harsh, they will feel, ‘Well, I’m not going to write again.’ It’s got to be in a positive way, not to pull anyone down.”
The group is open to writers of all stages, whether they’ve never written before or they’re more advanced. Some of the group’s members have even been published, including the founding member, as well as June Copeland, Melanie Stanford and Gatt herself, who is currently writing a history novel and recently travelled to England for research on it.
Some members are working on writing memoirs or biographies about farming or moving to Canada for their kids and grandkids, while others enjoy writing poetry or short stories. Published authors outside the group have also volunteered their time to attend a meeting and share tips, as well as critique the members’ work.
The group currently consists of 10 members and Gatt said they are looking for more members to join – younger members in particular. There is no fee to join.
“I think that (for) lots of people who are struggling with putting their ideas on paper, it’s the ideal place to start,” Gatt said.