Women find they have a way with words

Keeler writers group has been meeting for 10 years

They shared a single assignment: write about sound.

But the words that flowed in response were as distinctive as the women gathered for the women writers group at Keeler Women’s Center in February.

Elisabeth Birky leads Keeler Women's Center writing group.Some wrote poetry, others prose. One disregarded the assignment entirely, and another addressed it incidentally.

More important, all of the women had written something in the two months since group leader Elisabeth Birky asked them to write about sound.

That’s one of the reasons why several of the writers like being part of the group.

“I like the discipline of coming here every month,” said Pat Callaghan, who has been part of the group for five years.

She responded to the assignment by defining sound as noise, and used poetry to examine noise — and its consequences — in her life.

“This group has made me think in a different way than I thought before,” said Ann Schriver whose response to the assignment was a few spare lines of poetry telling the story of the first time a friend heard her husband’s voice following a cochlear implant. 

Keeler Women Center's writing group meetsLike most of the women, Schriver has been writing since she was a child, in journals and letters. But being part of the group has encouraged her to venture into new forms of writing, such as poetry.

“It’s the encouragement,” she said, “and knowing that I can do more and do it better than I thought.”

In February, as members took their turns sharing what they had written, praise and encouragement flowed freely. Charlotte Horvatic wrote about her wedding some 50 years ago, and Theresa Van Pelt responded to the reading with “Wow, that was fun. I sure had a good time at your wedding.”

Birky noted that such compositions will be treasured by children and grandchildren, which is one of the reasons Schriver particularly likes putting her memories to paper.

“My grandchildren didn’t realize that I was young once,” she said. “I like sharing my memories with grandchildren.”

Birky, who started the group in 2005 at the request of Sister Carol Ann Petersen, said newcomers are welcome, and it doesn’t take long for them to get in the flow of the written word,

“When I started, so many people said, ‘I can’t write, I’m just here to listen. But it wasn’t long before they started writing themselves.”

In fact, she said, a couple years ago the group self-published a book of their writings, including a photo and a biography of the writer along with the pieces the women had written.

Keeler Women Writers Group

Want to join the group?

The women writers group meets from 1 to 2 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Keeler Women’s Center, 2220 Central Avenue, Kansas City, Kan. It is free and open to all women. The group will not meet in April 2015 due to Holy Week; the next meeting is Thursday, May 7.

May 2015 assignment

What objects tell the story of your life? Answer the question and expand on it.