by Judith Lindbergh, The Writers Circle’s Founder/Director
When I started The Writers Circle, I had no expectations that it would become what it is today. Honestly, I had no expectations at all. I just needed a way to make a little money, to contribute to my household income and justify my desire to stay at home to raise my two boys. Those were early days when grade school pickup was at 3:23 PM sharp. I simply couldn’t imagine going back to the double-commuter life that my husband and I endured when we first moved across the Hudson to New Jersey.
I’d been lucky to sell my first novel, The Thrall’s Tale, for enough money to keep me home for half-a-dozen years. But my advance was finally running out. It was 2009, the height of the recession. We still had my husband’s income to keep us afloat, but it wasn’t quite enough. And my contribution was quickly evaporating to fumes.
It was a chill October when we had to face the fact that our rickety front porch stairs were in desperate need of repair. To save money on a contractor, we decided to rebuild them ourselves. Chip maintains the “measure twice, cut once” philosophy, and though quite competent when he has to be, home repair is not his area of expertise. So my role in this project was to hold things, hand him tools when required, and otherwise to shut up (which, many of you know, is not my greatest skill). As he carefully measured, pondered, drew more sketches of the project, fitted, hammered, and screwed, I was left with plenty of time, mouth shut, to think as I pulled weeds from the garden beds nearby.
Around that time, our son Colin had come home from third grade with an assignment. Some of you have probably heard this story about the five-paragraph essay that required no curiosity, no inquiry, no thinking. Just fill-in-the-blanks… how I was appalled…. This isn’t how a writer works! And how I’d taken my horror to my black-top parent-friends who shared that their kids used to love writing, but after three or four years in elementary school, the joy had been drummed out of them, transformed to trepidation and uncertainty, to the pressure that they had to do it “right,” and therefore were paralyzed to write at all.
That’s where the idea came to me, there waiting for Chip to ask me to hand him the cordless drill. I could do something about this. And, apparently, I did.
It was ten years ago on January 18 that I taught my first class under the official guise of The Writers Circle. Here are photos of my kids as early models. (Both dyslexic, so writing is still not their forte, which obviously kills me!)
And here they are—one in college, the other in high school—today.
Over the years there have been innumerable characters named Bob who liked pie. There were countless unicorns and mermaids. There was a whole series of vampires, zombies, teenage warrior girls with bows and arrows, and Greek demigods. There were stories that were begun and never finished, and stories that are now published or, with luck, finding their way there.
There are children whom I’ve watched grow to adulthood, and adults who have become my dearest friends. And there are a few that we’ve lost, some to moving on or away, and a small handful to eternity. But at every step of this journey, I’ve treasured the countless people who’ve made my life and the existence of The Writers Circle worthwhile.
In these ten years, I have completed two novels, published articles, chapters, and blog posts. I have supported friends and writers and have joyed in seeing them grow. I’ve welcomed other local authors to join us as teachers, and they have grown their own magnificent circles of students and friends.
When I started this, I had no expectation that this little idea that came to me while building my front porch steps would become what it is today. I thought it would only tide me over until the next book contract. And while that particularly rare blessing hasn’t yet appeared, something far more impactful and certainly more magical has: the growth of a community of creativity, friendship, and support, and of writing that expresses the depth and breadth of all of our experiences and imaginations.
I cannot thank all of you enough, particularly Michelle Cameron who joined me early on this journey and has helped The Writers Circle grow to what it is today. I could not have done it without her, without all of our wonderful instructors throughout the years, without our staff and our interns, and, most importantly, without all of you who have come to our classes and workshops and events and retreats, and shared your gifts. Whatever brought you to us, and wherever your words have taken you—whether it’s through a difficult moment in life, through the simple satisfaction of recording them on the page, to paid publication, or to some other unforeseen or unforeseeable goal—your thoughts and emotions and spirit of grace and generosity have sustained us all.