The Inkblots Writing Group
by Lyle Meeres | CARTA’s Inkblots Chair
This article was featured in the 2021 summer news&views
In Red Deer, about four years ago following a Central Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association event, a group of retired teachers were chatting when someone said, “You know, we should start a writing group.” The result: the active writing group of CARTA was born.
The group needed a name and one member jokingly suggested “The Inkblots.” After the laughter settled down, the group agreed, and the Inkblots became an organization. At first, all members were retired teachers, but soon the writing group was open to anyone.
For a time, members met in homes, but soon the writers found a suitable location at a city library. Attendance settled at about seven to ten people. The group met every other week, for two hours.
Each meeting included readings by members. Initially, members agreed to restrict feedback to positive comments, with the intention of eventually broadening the range to include suggestions. The initial positive focus made for comfortable and pleasant exchanges, and soon members were requesting specific assistance such as “How should I organize my autobiography?”
The group tried writing from single word starters, but soon turned to quotations from books. We also tried writing from actual incidents; following that, some members chose to focus on memoir writing. At times, the group wrote for ten minutes on an assigned topic, hoping to discover a theme to develop.
Since writers should be readers, a book review was included each meeting. At one point, the Inkblots read Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams and City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert as the basis for a hot discussion.
The group posted writing displays in the hospital and in a care facility. Eventually, Inkblots decided to assemble an anthology of writing for children. The book was titled In Other Worlds. Stories were grouped into three reading levels. One hundred and seventy-five copies were ordered and over half were sold before delivery. One member, Barbara Gregory, used stories from the book as part of a writing workshop in classrooms. The book was a tremendous hit.
The Inkblots assembled a poetry chapbook for sale and now have an anthology of prose ready for publication. There are plans to produce a second anthology for children this fall.
Writing activates the mind to search for the best expression. Once the writer has a draft, it is time to test it out on a group of sample readers. The vibrant Inkblots are well-suited to meet this need.
When Lyle Meeres started school in Regina, he would tell himself stories as he walked to and from school. “Now,” he says, “I’m ancient, and I still want to be a writer. Some days I give it a try. I write stories, some essays, and really bad poetry.”