The art of writing

The process of writing is a mystery to most people. People dream of becoming writers — but they want to have written — not to write.

When we think of writers, some of us imagine a lonely figure with a pen clutched in their ink-stained hands. Maybe, it’s an individual hunched over a typewriter or computer with furrowed brow, fingers flying over the keys, a cold cup of coffee making ringed stains on the strewn papers nearby as words from their imagination appear before their eyes.

While works of fiction and non-fiction are usually the brainchild of one creative mind, sometimes it is fostered and wordsmithed with others.

The Renton Writers Workshop meets twice a month at the Renton School District’s Administration building. They polish their writing skills through the constructive comments and encouragement of fellow authors.

Although they have been meeting since 1976, few people know about the group. They have no digital footprint. It’s not a business or a nonprofit or a social meet-up.

It is a mutually beneficial group of writers who meet for the sole purpose of providing moral, creative and professional support to each person’s writing goals.

I had the opportunity to sit in on one of their sessions. I asked, Judy Kimball, the leader to tell me about the group.

She said her role is to “herd this group of strong and very smart people.”

She is the driving force behind two writing critique groups — the other one is in Sumner. She is published in numerous magazines and newspapers, has been a writing instructor and is now working on two novels.

I was gifted a copy of “Spotlights, An Anthology from Renton Writers Workshop.”

It showcases the stories, articles and poetry written by these talented writers. It’s not available for sale, but you can find it at community and senior centers, arts organization and libraries.

In 2009, the group awarded a scholarship to a student in a Renton school interested in pursuing a career in writing.

Member Susan Schmidt wrote in the anthology, “This group has given me both enjoyment and inspiration. It is also a way to feel connected to the arts community of the city of Renton.”

Anyone is welcome to walk in, but they are presently at maximum membership to allow everyone a turn at sharing their work — which is followed by a five-minute critique from each member.

I was curious about the critiques, wondering if anyone ever got offended. How do you handle feedback which might be resented?

I was told that most of this group want to be published and are very receptive to suggestions on how to improve their work and they welcome the critiques.

As each member reads, the others hold pens poised above their copies and make notations. Each of them jots down constructive comments, grammar corrections and suggestions for improvement, as well as “stars” to applaud a part that was particularly liked.

Joseph Gaylloyd Sisson told me, “The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.” His published works include essays, poetry and autobiographical commentaries on the meaning of life and human nature.

Past and current workshop authors have several dozen books, numerous articles and short stories in print and works are still in progress.

The writers practice their craft in a wide range of genres — poetry and memoirs, in a curious juxtaposition.

Then I begin mining my desk drawer or purse looking for a No. 2 pencil.

Ronda Taylor has published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and is now working on a children’s book called, “A Cockroach Ate My Homework.” I was able to listen to her read a fun-filled chapter.

Katherine Berryman’s pen name is Katherine Pym. I listened to one of her boisterous chapters which takes place in London in the 1660’s. She has done extensive research on this subject.

Sybil Davis is working on a memoir of her mother’s life that is based on her mother’s journals while traveling through several countries with five children.

Margaret Barrie is writing with a grant from the Columbia City Art Gallery.

Helen Collier is best known for writing science fiction and fantasy. She has a collection called, “Looking for Trouble.”

She says, “I always shock my readers.”

Her mother was also a writer of short fiction.

Sylva Coppock owned a graphics company until she retired and still produces marketing collateral in the area. She has been writing about her great-grandfather’s civil war stories and said, “Writing is hard work I think – even with a thesaurus at the fingertips. Finding precisely the right words to convey a specific nuance of meaning is one of the greatest challenges for a writer.”

Sylva is also a certified family historian and genealogist.

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the popular “Dinah Pelerin” mystery series and is a member of the International Association of crime writers.

She said, “The art of writing is the courage to start, the perseverance to finish, and the sense to revise.”

Sometime soon, Allied Arts of Renton will be sponsoring a book-signing event here in Renton which will likely include a few of these writers.

When I left, I told them to let me know when they have an opening. I know I was inspired, because I rushed home to start on this.

Contact Jaris English at