William Shakespeare was a member of a writing group that called themselves “The University Wits,” Dorothy Parker was a member of “The Vicious Circle” which later became known as “The Algonquin Round Table.” Although no one from The Malden Writers’ Collaborative (TMWC) has come close to reaching that level of fame and notoriety, TMWC has helped writers of all levels further their craft.
As their annual public reading draws near (May 29, 2014 at the Malden Public Library), Neighborhood View sat down with Evangeline Vickery , the founder and facilitator of the group to talk about “fostering a writerly community among aspiring writers with a focus on workshopping and the study of craft.”
Originally from Manlius, New York, Eva makes her home in Malden with her husband, her cat, and her string instruments. During the day she’s the Office & Accounts Manager for Reuning & Son Violins but the rest of the time she calls herself a writer. “I’ve been writing for most of my life. I recently went through a box of old school papers from my childhood and found a stapled booklet titled “My Memoir” that I wrote in the third grade. But I’ve been writing seriously since 2011, when I started my MFA degree.”
After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree from Gordon College, Eva spent the last three years obtaining her MFA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, work full time, running a writers group and still found the time to get married.
Do you find it difficult to balance your time between your career, personal life, your own writing and TMWC?
“Absolutely. It’s easy to get bogged down and sad and stressed and feel like I’m not a serious writer when I’m not writing every day, but one thing grad school taught me was how worrying wastes the time and energy I could be working. Instead of worrying about how I’m not writing as much as I think I should be, I stop the thought right there in its tracks, reach for my laptop, and get my a** in the chair. Worrying is wasted energy for productivity.”
Do you have a favorite genre or topic you write about?
“I spent my time at grad school primarily studying and writing nonfiction pieces, specifically memoir. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite genre or topic, but it was what I needed to write about at that time in my life. In this case, the topic and time chose me, not the other way around.”
Is there a process you have to write? Quiet place; on the train; etc.?
“It’s simply about getting my a** in the chair. It’s the first step and it’s the most important. Everything after that is subjective to my mood and comfort, although I do prefer to type on my laptop. I like the freedom to move around and write wherever I want. The idea of writing by hand seems romantic and grounding, but honestly, I type much faster and it’s more efficient when the ideas are flowing.”
What made you start The Malden Writers’ Collaborative?
“I was more curious than anything else. I was curious if there were other writers in Malden who wanted community, like I did. Writing can be such an isolating activity and community of any kind, whether it’s an MFA program or a local group, can help writers feel like they’re not alone. I had no idea what to expect on the very first day. I thought there was a very good chance I would end up sitting in the Program Room at the library all by myself, but thankfully, three people showed up.”
How large is TMWC?
“Currently we have eleven consistent members. The group morphs into something slightly different each season. With new personalities and stories and experiences, the group can’t help but shape shift into what it’s meant to be for that particular season. I think we currently have a strong and solid group. I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished independently and together.”
What’s the makeup of the group?
“Both men and women, all adults, although we don’t always act like it. Poets, playwrights, fiction and nonfiction writers. Fathers, mothers, daughters, sons. People who have published, people who have not. Straights, gays, and everything in between. People who have advanced writing degrees. People who are writing for the very first time. People who have been writing for over twenty years. Long haired, short haired, brown eyed, green eyed, blue eyed beauties. But we’re all writers. We all write. We’re a group of people who want to help each other be better at something. We get excited and we’re emotional and we get loud and we laugh and cheer and we debate because we respect the writing and the writers. We give the writing and the writers our best — we owe it to the stories and poems.”
In a need for full disclosure, I have been a member of TMWC for three seasons now. It’s what has allowed me to hone my skills as a writer and given me the confidence to be a part of the Neighborhood View program. I wanted to take a moment here and get a few other opinions from writers’ who have been involved in TMWC.
“It’s a great experience. It demonstrates the immense amount of talent that exists in the Malden Community.” – Roberto L. Di Marco, Esq.
“Overall a great group for anyone looking to start writing or just get out of that awful writer’s block.” – Ty Perez
TMWC also fosters the love of reading, which is the other side of the coin for a writer. In 2013 they collected and shipped over 1,000 children’s books to the Konya Community Library in Ghana, Africa.
Now back to our interview with Evangeline Vickery, Founder of TMWC.
Proudest moment as the facilitator of TMWC?
“Witnessing a member of our group take “the leap.” That can mean a couple of different things. When a member decides they want to share a prompt response for the first time, they’ve taken the leap. When a member decides they want to workshop for the first time, they’ve taken the leap. When a member decides they want to read at the public reading for the first time, they’ve also taken the leap. I’m so incredibly proud when members step up to the challenge and push themselves outside of their comfort zones. I pride myself in fostering a supportive, uplifting, and safe environment for writers to express themselves, both when being workshopped and when workshopping others, so when someone takes “the leap” I’m proud of them for trusting themselves and the group as a whole.”
What role does the library staff play in your program?
“Jean Slavkovsky has been my go-to girl from day one. She’s friendly and helpful and responsive to ideas and questions. The library is a great place for the group to meet and the staff has been helpful.”
Did you have a teacher/mentor that left a lasting impression on you?
“Yes, Pamela Petro. I studied both nonfiction and food writing with her while I was in graduate school. She gave me guidance and exploratory writing assignments when I was feeling overwhelmed, confused, and possibly like I wasn’t meant to be a serious writer. She helped me find the freedom writing could offer, she helped me break down the mental walls I felt confined by. I will forever be grateful for the compassion, kindness, and seemingly never ending devotion and time she offers her students. A great mentor’s teachings will be with you long after the semester is over.” (Pamela’s latest book is The Slow Breath of Stone: A Romanesque Love Story)
What are your long-term writing goals?
“I’d love to write a book, I mean, what writer wouldn’t? But I’m not forcing myself to bang out pages right now. I’m getting the itch to get back into a more serious writing routine with self-made deadlines and goals, but I’m currently focusing my energy on trying to get something published in the next few months. I’d like to start with an article in a magazine or a short piece in a literary journal and then work from there.”
“If you’d like to meet some of the
members of our group or get a glimpse of what we’ve been working on this season, please join us for our 4th Annual Public Reading on Thursday, May 29th at 7:00 PM at the Malden Public Library. It’s free and open to the public!”
You can find out more about the group here: http://www.evangelinevickery.com/tmwc/ The Malden Writers’ Collaborative meets evenings from October to May, every first and third Thursday of the month, at the Malden Public Library.