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Writing on the Bayou

by Sherry Perkins
President of Bayou Writers’ Group

Are you a serious writer? Although I’ve been a writer my entire life, a few years ago I began to think seriously about writing. Why am I writing? What purpose does it serve? Who really cares?  Those questions, and others, plagued me. Regardless of my doubts, writing became an obsession and I stopped worrying about the last question.

I made my very own writing resume and reviewed everything I ever wrote. After seeing the long list, I decided to try to publish a few things. I could accept my submissions being rejected by editors, but I would not face being too scared to try.

I submitted to my area newspapers first. It worked! Seeing my name in print in a newspaper gave me the confidence to try my hand at magazines. That worked too! Elation and pride filled my soul the first time I saw my name in a byline in a magazine, and each time thereafter, it affects me the same way.

Soon, my list of published pieces began to grow. Months passed and I wrote and wrote and submitted and submitted. Naturally, not all of my pieces were accepted, but I was getting my name out there.

With more confidence, and a desire to challenge myself, I found a writing group in my hometown. It was a tiny group, but it was productive. We wrote and wrote. I felt I was becoming a better writer by learning to write on demand from writing prompts. Later, I found a second writing group.

This one was larger, and I felt a little out of place. However, I attended the meetings and paid my dues. After only five meetings, my name was on a ballot for the position of president. The group’s energy blew me away, and I was humbled at their generous spirit in electing me.

Therefore, here I am, the president of Bayou Writers’ Group (BWG). Not only do I continue to get stories and photographs published, I have my own blog, contribute to the BWG blog, but also am now writing this piece for the Deep South blog. Finding a writing group, and getting involved with that group, has increased my confidence, allowed me to meet fellow writers, sharpened my writing skills, and opened otherwise closed doors, all of which I embrace.

Founded almost 10 years by Pam Thibodeaux and Randy Dupre, the Bayou Writers’ Group of Lake Charles has grown from a few members to over 80. The membership ranges from published authors to emerging writers to those who simply seek fellowship, encouragement and understanding, even if they’ve never shared their work.

In the spirit of our motto to “educate, encourage and inspire,” we host an annual one-day writing conference, coming up next weekend. Our speakers include professionals from across the country who share their knowledge and advice on diverse subjects, ranging from writing, editing, pitching and publishing. For example, last year Gary Goldstein, senior editor of Kensington’s Citadel Press, attended. Furthermore, Harold Underdown spoke on the different facets of writing and publishing a children’s book. Along with four other professionals, approximately 80 people attended.

This year, our speakers include D.B. Grady, a Baton Rouge native whose debut novel Red Planet Noir won the 2010 Indie Book Award for science fiction; Mark Harris, a contributing editor at New York Magazine and columnist for Entertainment Weekly; and Anita Mumm from the Nelson Literary Agency. The speakers also participate in a panel discussion and answer audience questions.

If you’ve never attended a writing conference, I urge you to find one. What better way to initiate yourself. Here at BWG on November 12, we’ll welcome you with open arms and open hearts, feed you lunch and hopefully inspire you to write. Now is the time to get serious.

The Bayou Writers’ Group’s eighth annual conference is scheduled for November 12 in Fellowship Hall at University United Methodist Church in Lake Charles. Activities begin at 8 a.m. and end around 4 p.m. Cost is $40 for members and $45 for nonmembers in advance and $50 ($25 for students) at the door. For more information, visit bayouwritersgroup.com

Photo credits from top: BWG board meeting and 2010 conference panel, including authors Pam Thibodeaux, Lisa Boutin, Wendy Lanier, and Curt Iles, taken by Marcia Dutton. 

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