Encouraging Words

From aspiring authors to those already published, practitioners of the written word find a helpful and supportive sounding board in a local writers’ association. 

Story by Sarah Smith Photos by Robin Loznak 

It's never been a better time to be a writer — and to see your name as a byline. 

With free platforms like Lulu and CreateSpace (an adjunct of Amazon) popping up all over the Internet, writers have the freedom to self-publish. 

But writing is a craft that must be developed through deliberate practice and study. Many modern writers join literary communities that connect them with other writers as well as with industry professionals. In addition, writers’ associations advocate for their members and promote industry standards. 

While some are small and cater only to regional groups or specific genres (for example, Historical Writers of America or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), others are international. 

Gone are the days of the lonely, reclusive writer. The same way other industries have guilds and societies to further their professions, authors join writers’ associations to connect, access resources and help their careers. 


— Annie Proulx, American novelist 

Merriam-Webster defines a "group" as a number of individuals assembled together that have some unifying relationship, mutual influence, common feeling of camaraderie, or who work together to achieve a common goal. 

That’s exactly the definition of An Association of Writers, a group of local storytellers who meet monthly at Roseburg’s First Presbyterian Church. 

Founded in 1992 as an offshoot of Umpqua Community College writing classes, AAW has 34 members and welcomes writers of all genres. AAW’s mission is to “encourage high-quality writing by our members, to offer help and support to those who wish to market their writing and to provide visiting experts to enhance writing skills.” 

One support for AAW members is the Read and Critique (R&C) at alternate meetings. Members have the opportunity to read their work aloud in a small-group setting and receive feedback. 

AAW member Emily Blakely compares R&C to an open mic event for musicians. 


“The writer states what feedback they want,” she says. “One person reads the piece while others note suggestions/corrections on the copy they each have, then feedback is shared with the group.” 

Janet Fisher, a local author and longtime association member, says R&C is more about sharing than criticism. Feedback is an essential part of the writing process, she says. A Doubleday editor once told her, “If you get a negative response, large or small, keep it in mind. If you get two responses that say the same thing, consider making changes. If you get three, you'd better make a change.” 

However, Fisher adds, “Sometimes there's a difference in opinion. You won't please everybody. Critiquing is very subjective.” 

Beyond AAW’s providing of constructive feedback, help and support, Fisher appreciates the camaraderie. 

“The AAW writers’ group has been a wonderful source of support and encouragement,” she says. “When I launched my second book in Elkton, near my home, eight people from this Roseburg group surprised me by driving out to my launch party to share this milestone with me. I was thrilled to see them.” 

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