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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, Jun. 9, 2017 3 years ago

English professor launching writers’ group in Winter Garden

Tess Nater hopes to create a group for those in the writing community who are seeking literary feedback.
by: Gabby Baquero News Editor

Permitting strangers to offer their personal critique of your work — particularly if it’s a poem, novel or essay into which you have poured your soul — is enough to throw many writers into panic mode.

But Winter Garden resident Tess Nater wants local writers to step out of their comfort zones and help establish a strong and welcoming community group to support like-minded writers. The group, called Winter Garden Writers, is open to anyone, and its primary aim would be to encourage and assist both aspirational or seasoned writers in honing their craft.

Originally from Boston — the city informally known as the literary hub of the country — Nater is the sole person behind the initiative. Nater, who has been an English professor at Valencia College since 1991, genuinely believes the group could benefit the writing community and might even make the process of writing a novel less of a solitary task and more of a social experience.

“We give feedback in a very simple way: You tell them what sings about the piece, you know what you liked or thought was cool, and then you say what confused you and what might need more developing or editing,” Nater said. “So we’re really gentle, but people are scared to share their writing. I still get nervous and speak too quickly when I’m reading my own writing aloud.”

Nater, who is currently writing her own book, has been in several writers groups previously and plans to model her own group activities based on her experiences. The meetings, she said, will include conversations about writing pieces, writing story prompts, engaging in writing exercises and playing literary-minded games. The idea is to help them expand their imagination, clear their head and practice other writing skills, she added.

“With your own piece, sometimes you’re too involved and every word that drips out of your pen is so important,” Nater said. “But when you’re working on a story someone else started, you feel freer to be creative without censoring yourself, and it just all helps people to expand as writers and gets them to work on genres that they haven’t done before, for instance.”

Being a full-time English professor, Nater is also familiar with the struggle of finding time to write and believes being part of a group adds accountability, which presumably encourages one to quit delaying the writing process until it’s already bedtime.

So far, Nater has only had one meeting in which three people attended, but she hopes to have more come in as she works on getting the word out about the group via social media and her personal contacts. The two-hour biweekly gatherings of literary minds will be planned for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of the month. For the time being, Nater conducts the meetings at the northern end of Plant Street Market by the outside dining area. 

Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected].

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