North County Club Forming To Prod, Encourage Writers

Members To Critique Each Other's Work, Share Marketing Tips

January 28, 1991

Dennis Barnes, a Brooklyn Park technical writer who prefers his poetry to his day job, is forming a writers' club for North County residents.

The North County Writers' Club will offer writers of all skill levels inspiration and motivation to write regularly, a chance to have their work critiqued and tips on selling what they produce.

The group will meet from 7 to 8:30 p.m. the third Friday of each month in a conference room at the North County Branch Library, acrossRitchie Highway from Harundale Mall.

The club, which has scheduled its first meeting for Feb. 15, is open to anyone interested in writing everything from poetry and short stories to non-fiction articles. Membership is free. For more information, call 636-2575.

Barnes,a 38-year-old father of two boys, said he belonged to a similar clubin St. Louis and misses the regular gatherings.

"I find three, four weeks have gone by, and I haven't written a thing," he said. "That's why we want to get writers together to . . . prod each other to keep writing.

"We all need that if we're going to write regularly," he said. "So I just decided to take the bull by the horns."

Barnessaid he moved to this area three years ago. But the closest writers'group, a countywide club, meets in Annapolis, and few from North County have the time to make the trip regularly.

Barnes, who writes brochures for a Baltimore County engineering firm, said the club wouldprovide support and understanding in an informal atmosphere.

Eachmonthly meeting will begin with introductions, then a look into intopossible markets and critiques of one another's work.

Thus far, ahandful of North County residents have joined. Barnes hopes the membership expands considerably.

His poetry, which he describes as realism focusing on "the big three -- love, sex and family" -- has been published in small newspapers and other small publications, one as far away as Puerto Rico.

He said he hopes the group will provide a network for writers and aspiring writers, who will trade criticism andinformation on the business end, such as writing compelling proposalletters and avoiding common pitfalls.

Many beginning writers, forexample, buy into scams advertised in trade magazines such as contests or guaranteed publication. But the unwary find they have fallen into traps and signed agreements requiring them to purchase books and other materials, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars.

Barnes knows better. Besides, he says, the tips offered in such programs aren't nearly so mysterious as some would have you believe.

Many would-beprofessional writers mistakenly assume their work will sell itself, he said.

But without a good presentation -- normally in the form of a proposal letter -- even some of the best writing won't make a dollar.

"You only get about 20 seconds to make your case, and then the decision is made," Barnes says. "So the proposal better grab them quickly."

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