Writers tackle challenges together

Maribeth Fischer started the first Writers at the Beach conference in 2005, to raise money for mitochondrial disease, a disease that has since claimed the life of her two nephews, Sam and Zachary Juhlman.

Out of that “one-time thing” to raise money and awareness for mitochondrial disease has come an annual conference, the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s guild and subsequently, Free Writes.

“My nephew, Sam, died the day before the first conference, so it seemed like it was worth it to keep it going. I started the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild after that first conference because there seemed to be writers everywhere around here, so I thought I should do something.”

The Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild now regularly sponsors Free Writes, two-hour sessions of creativity led by a fellow writer. They are offered in Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Milton and Ocean View. The Free Writes allow people to come together and get their creative juices flowing.

“Free Writes got started to get people together so they can get started on something and then go home and finish it. There are five a week now and people love them,” shared Fischer.

Steve Plotkin, a guild member and volunteer agreed.

“For me, it’s a way to challenge the brain — brain candy. You’d go to Gold’s Gym or somewhere to exercise your body, so I want to exercise the creative element of my brain. I’m avoiding the bullet of Alzheimer’s, which is in my family. But I’d do it even if it wasn’t. Those three or four or five exercises we do have trained me to be a better, sharper writer.”

Participants can sit down with their pens and paper or laptops and participate in different writing exercises.

“We’ll have a few minutes for each and at the start we’ll have a prompt, like ‘The door opened, the light flashed on, and…’ said Plotkin. “Or, ‘Think of a color — use that color to flavor a story to interpret the use of color to describe a storyline.’”

“We’ll have four to eight minutes to write something down and then we share with the group. Critiquing is limited. Mostly, we just acknowledge what the person has written,” he explained.

Free Writes are held on Mondays from 9 to 11 a.m. at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth; Mondays evenings at the Milton Historical Society from 6 to 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lewes Library; Fridays from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Super Giant in Ocean View, in the upstairs conference room; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon at the Rehoboth Beach Library (with every third Saturday at Browseabout Books, Rehoboth).

”They are different each session,” said Plotkin. “Each time there is an appointed leader of the group. We sit down and go through scripts. On average we have about eight people. We have had four people and we had 20. We might do eight exercises in the two-hour period. And interestingly, men outnumber women!”

Spots are still open for the Writers’at the Beach: Pure Sea Glass 2008 conference, with guest speaker and New York Times best-selling author Jacquelyn Michard. The conference starts on Friday, March 14, and the cost to register is $200 until March 1 and after that is $215.

Workshops to be offered include everything from poetry and songwriting to blogging and manuscript writing. For more information, visit www.writersatthebeach.com online. For more information on the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild and Free Writes, visit www.rehobothbeachwritersguild.com.