Once upon a time...there was a dream.
A note from Founder Richelle Putnam: "The journey actually started in 2003, when I began the search for like-minded writers who not only saw the need for a state writers guild, but who were willing to put forth time, energy, passion and determination to carry the dream to reality. The incredible thing about Mississippi is that so many writers have that drive.
The Mississippi Writers Guild story was really no different than any other story. There was a definite goal and there were certainly conflict and obstacles along the way, but the passion and perseverance of many MWG members to continue the efforts through difficult times brought the Guild much success and growth. Innovative ideas of new board members and leadership brought the organization even closer to its full potential. Every MWG board member has realized that MWG does not belong to any one person or group of people. It belongs to writers everywhere because every writer has a voice and that voice should be heard."
An excerpt of an interview from WOW! (Women on Writing) on the Founding of MWG
(Incorporation officers listed as founders on the MWG Charter are Keetha DePriest Mosley, Anne McKee and Richelle Putnam. After incorporation in 2005, the founding MWG board consisted of Anne McKee, Ralph Gordon, Keetha Mosley, Dan Lee, Virginia Dawkins and Richelle Putnam. The Mississippi Writers Guild received its 501c3 in 2007.)
INTERVIEW WITH MWG FOUNDER, RICHELLE PUTNAM
By Anne McKee
Mississippian, Richelle Putnam, is a multi-published/award winning poet, songwriter, musician, playwright, and writer for children, but more importantly, Richelle extends her talented hands, the hands of an artist, to fellow Mississippians whom also have creative writing dreams.
It was in 2005 that Richelle felt the burden to establish a writing organization for the state of Mississippi as the result of her efforts to locate a writers support group in the state. She had attended writing conferences, workshops, and retreats sponsored by the states of Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, New York, and Georgia, but she yearned for a Mississippi group.
Thus, Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG) was born, and through the dreams of a writer who longed to join with others, and to learn and promote the craft of creative writing, the Guild has grown rapidly throughout the state.
ANNE: Has there been great excitement with Mississippi Writers Guild?
RICHELLE: It's been absolutely excitement from day one to now and the excitement never wanes. There's always something new and there's always something going on. It has been a long, tiresome journey, but it's the kind of journey, that say, a marathon runner does. You may get tired on the journey, but you're always looking at the goal, the ultimate goal, and so you just keep going. As we (the original board) got together and started coming up with our bylaws and going through all of the legal aspects, which is not fun, but is just part of it, we were all willing to take the time out of our schedules to take all of the proper steps, form a corporation, board of directors, and file for our 501c3, which is a journey in its self, because it's not easy to obtain one of those.
ANNE: How did you attract people to become part of Mississippi Writers Guild?
RICHELLE: Actually, I contacted the founder of Florida Writers Association, Glenda Ivey, and that's where I got all of the information on steps that I would need to do, and then I began searching for Mississippi writers who would be interested with partnering with me in this venture. The very first one I ever talked to was Keetha Reed. She had already seen the need for this type organization in Mississippi and she and I began to email. She found two other writers out of Jackson Mississippi who had also expressed the same desire to have a writers’ organization in Mississippi, and we began meeting in Jackson and talking about forming Mississippi Writers Guild. But as that went on, like I said, it really is a long tiresome journey and some of the people did not have the time to put forth, at that time, and two of our first members of that little group had to drop off. Then I met Anne McKee in Meridian Mississippi and she was so excited. She and I were able to meet all of the time and finally it left Keetha, Anne and I as the basic foundation people.
ANNE: Can you relive the excitement of the first event?
RICHELLE: Oh, gosh, it was exciting. It was in Nov of 2005 and we had two events planned for that day. Our first early event was at a beautiful, historic home in Meridian Mississippi, Merrehope, and we had so many people that the entire place was filled with writers anxious to come out and share their work. We had every kind of writing that you can possibly imagine and that excitement carried over to the night event of Literary Artists on Stage at The Daily Grind, a coffee shop in Meridian Mississippi. It was from Literary Artists on Stage we grabbed Ralph Gordon and Daniel Lee and from there we formed our foundation executive board for Mississippi Writers Guild.
ANNE: In order to be a member of Mississippi Writers Guild, does one need to be published?
RICHELLE: No, in fact you don't really have to consider yourself a writer. We have so many who come to Literary Artists on Stage only to listen. There are a lot of readers who appreciate the craft of writing, and without writers we would not have communication anywhere. In every area of communication there first has to be a writer.
I do believe that people can learn to write better. You can teach a person to be a creative writer and learning the craft is a very, very important aspect.
Anyone can be a member of Mississippi Writers Guild and can be a lover of reading or a respecter of writers to enjoy the journey with us, and never even have put a letter on a piece of paper.
ANNE: Is the event, Literary Artists on Stage, unique only to Mississippi Writers Guild?
RICHELLE: Literary Artists on Stage was, of course, the opening event for the Guild. It was to draw writers. What is different and unique about Literary Artists on Stage is that it's not just a Poetry Slam or it's not just a reading. All writers of every walk in life are invited to share their work. You may be a poet, or an essayist. We've had skits, and songs.
We want all writers to be able to come together for the love of their craft and not only recognize each others talents in their specific genre or category of writing, but to get excited about all categories of writing. You may not realize what you might want to pursue next. I know when I hear poetry even though that was actually not a category that I pursued as a writer, I got excited about that category, and I decided I would love to write poetry. It really urged me and prodded me to learn more about poetry, and I started journaling in poetry. I realized that learning poetry not only helped me in my rhythmic writing, but it also helped me in my writing of fiction. I think any writing enhances the other writing.
ANNE: Mississippi Writers Guild is busy with chapters throughout the state and each chapter is making their contribution to literary events. Each group is styled by the needs of their individual chapter, and the Guild comes together at certain times of the year, one of which is the annual writing conference. Could you tell the readers about the first writing conference?
RICHELLE: Our very first writers conference was at Eagle Ridge Conference Center, August 3, 4 2007 and we had an awesome slate of speakers. We had as our keynote, Joshilyn Jackson, author of, Gods in Alabama and Between Georgia and her coming book, The Girl who Stopped Swimming. She had earned many awards for her first two books, and she delivered the keynote address on Friday evening. We also had for our Saturday workshops, our all day workshops, Joshilyn Jackson, Barbara Garshman, Garshman Productions, author of Create and Sell a TV Series, was the Saturday keynote speaker. Barbara is an Emmy nominated producer of the daytime soap, Guiding Light. John Rawl from Y'all Magazine. Charles Tolbert, New York City literary agent/attorney. Rebecca Jernigan, playwright, poet and member of Mississippi and Southern Artist Roster. John Floyd has published over 500 short stories and winner of 2007 Derringer Award for mystery fiction. C. Hope Clark of Funds for Writers. I think Hope presented one of the best workshops I attended at the conference where we learned of funds available to help writers financially.
You can enjoy the rest of this interview on WOW! Women on Writing