Excerpted from Tangren Alexander’s introduction to the Writers’ Group’s twentieth anniversary reading in Ashland, Oregon.
I tried 3 times to start a Women Writers’ Group. Once in Eugene I declared the Natalie Barney Memorial Salon at my house on Fridays, and announced it with an Art Nouveau poster, but hardly anyone one came. Next in Ashland I made a poster with a graphic from my old book of Little Women -Jo March in the attic, madly writing. Still, no one came to the meeting.
But the third time was a charm, and I wasn’t even trying. It started with Martha Courtot, who came up from Santa Rosa to do a poetry reading in Grants Pass. It was spellbinding, and well attended, as was the writing workshop she gave the next day. You could call that the Ur-meeting of Writers’ Group. Towards the end, at Martha’s suggestion, we all wrote down our names and addresses if we wanted to meet again; someone agreed to arrange where and when and let us all know.
We first met in January of 1980, at Riverhouse, a dykehouse in Grants Pass. We brought our own lunches in brown paper bags, but it was immediately clear a potluck would have been more fun. Since there were so many of us, and we came from far and near, we decided to meet all day long, from 11 to 4, with a break for lunch. To meet every 4 weeks seemed to long, and every 2 was too often: Zarod suggested 3. It’s an odd number, but it’s worked for us.
At the second meeting, only Zarod and Hannah Blue Heron showed up: we owe it to them that Writer’s Group didn’t die then and there. They arranged for a third meeting, and we took off from there. For twenty years we’ve met -in groups of from 4 or 5 to in the twenties.
We’ve always been open to new members. We have evolved certain ways of doing things that work for us. But any woman who wants to come and do them with us is welcome.
We are mostly lesbians, but not all. Mostly country women, but some of us live in towns. We reach from Ashland to Myrtle Creek, or, at times, Roseburg. We are shaped by and are part of the local culture of country dykes and their friends.
Among us, we’ve published books at the national and local levels, created personal books of our own, made a place to share sometimes private writing, and always, to talk about our craft.