FOUNDING MEMBERS' INTERVIEWS
MORE MEMBER INTERVIEWS
Women Who Write, Inc. is pleased to announce that we celebrated our 25th Anniversary in 2013. We were fortunate to have 3 members who were founding members and had been involved in WWW for all 25 years. They are: Dolores Rems, Pat Weissner and Mary Lee Waldron. Congratulations, ladies.
Here are some of the photos from our party. Below the slideshow are interviews of the three founding members who attended our event.
DOLORES REMS, FOUNDING MEMBER
BY RONNIE HAMMER
In 1988 a group of women got together to help and encourage each other’s writing. They called themselves “Mothers Who Write,” and met in a house on Washington Street in Morristown. At that time the membership consisted of about 12 women. She says that the group encouraged many women. Their single group grew and became so popular that as word got around more groups were formed, expanding to 10 groups. The name was changed to “Women Who Write.”
The founder, Victoria Fann, started a similar group in Milwaukee , Wisconsin, and, when she moved to New Jersey, wanted to incorporate and expand into more states. This didn’t happen at that time, but might be a thought for the future.
Dolores started the Writer’s Notes column in Mother’s Who Write’s newsletter, and ran the column for several years before handing it over to her successor.
She has recently completed a 40 page history for Temple B’Nai Or in Morristown and is working on her own book entitled: T’Shuba.
MARY LEE WALDRON, FOUNDING MEMBER
BY MAUREEN LANAGAN-HAGGERTY
Q. What are your memories of how Women Who Write came about?
A. Originally I was with a group called The Mendham Poets, which met regularly in the Mendham Borough Library. When the founder of Mendham Poets moved to Texas, the group ended, so I was looking for a writing group. Around 1986 I noticed an ad in the local paper inviting mothers to attend a meeting of Mothers Who Write. Victoria Fann, who had been living in the Midwest, had recently relocated back to her hometown in New Jersey. She had previously established a Mothers Who Write group in the Midwest, and so decided to set up a similar group here in Morris County.
The early meetings were held in Morristown on the top floor of Victoria’s office. There were no chairs, just lots of pillows to sit on. At those early meetings we talked about creative writing—about six women were there. As the group grew, we then moved to Victoria’s mother’s home. We shared, read, and discussed our writing. Rules developed as we went along; one rule was “no journaling.” We were to work toward crafted writing.
Dolores Rems was also there in the beginning. Eventually the meetings moved to Dolores’ home in Morristown on Saturday mornings. As the group grew, the meetings moved to Mountain Lakes and Denville.
Q. How did the concept of separate writing groups develop?
A. As the group grew in size, several women wanted to start a separate group for writing novels. Before that, our group was Mixed Genre—it included poetry, children’s writing, and prose.
Q. How did Mothers Who Write develop into a more formal organization?
A. The members of Mothers Who Write wanted the group to incorporate and become a non-profit; this was about 1987. One of the group, Janice Bultman, contacted a non-profit volunteer attorney, and the group began to create by-laws around Janice’s kitchen table. By 1988 the group had changed its name to Women Who Write. Around this time, the Mixed Genre group began to meet at the Chatham Public Library, where we met for many years. By then, there were several additional writing groups.
Q.: Were there any other activities besides the writing groups?
A. Several of these early members were also teachers, so the organization started offering writing classes at the Unitarian Fellowship in Morristown and later through the Madison-Chatham Adult School. The group also had social events, such as Christmas parties. Soon after the founding of Women Who Write, Goldfinch, our literary journal, and Writers’ Notes, our newsletter, began to be published.
Q. How long have you coordinated the Mixed Genre Group?
A. Maybe twenty plus years. Over the years, I have met many writers. They come and go; some leave for a specific genre group, and others find they are too busy with career and family.I have also served on the WWW Board as Secretary and as Trustee.
Q. What do you see as the major benefit of being a member of Women Who Write?
A. It is a resource for women writers. I hope Women Who Write always keeps that mission going and remains dedicated to the organization’s original purpose.
Thank you, Mary Lee, for sharing your memories with members of Women Who Write.
PAT WEISSNER, FOUNDING MEMBER
BY BEATRIZ VELAZQUEZ
Pat Weissner had always avoided writing. She chose her courses in college based on how little writing was required. Pat taught Italian at college level. She also worked as a bookkeeper for various private schools. Before she began her love affair with writing, reading was her first love. “I get lost in it. I always thought that if I were to be born again I would be a writer. I never thought it would be in this lifetime and I love it. I love the creation of it. I love the creating of the story.”
What awakened the writer in her? How did this ‘non-creative writing’ woman end up winning short story awards and play a big role for Women Who Write, Inc., for twenty five years?
“When I was thirteen years old, my cousin who was my age, got a boyfriend. I didn’t have one, so I made one up. Every night, I would create a little story around him in my head. Where he lived, what he was like, how his family was and so on. I wasn’t connected to him, but I was creating him in my night time going to sleep memories—until I turned forty five-years old!”
This information was all in Pat’s head and never shared before with anyone. Until one day, when Pat’s son came home from school angry. Because he had been given a journal assignment. This triggered her memory of Jonathon, her made up boyfriend, who was still sixteen years old.
Pat thought, “What a good idea! I am going to have Jonathon, my pretend boyfriend, write a journal. I started with January 1st and went all the way through, every day I had a calendar, with what he did.” Out of that year when he was sixteen, is where all of her short stories originated. Pat couldn’t believe she was writing, and was excited about it. She even let her friends know that she was writing these great stories.
One of Pat’s friends gave her a clip from a newspaper. It was about a short story contest at The Authors and Writers Network of Montclair State College, in NJ. The categories included a YA children’s writing contest. Her first response was that she couldn’t do this, but her friend encouraged her to give it a try. Pat had no clue how to properly write a short story, so she reached out to a friend who taught English. Pat asked if she would read her work and give feedback. Her fifty-page short story actually needed to be only 2500 words! Her friend critiqued the work, and Pat, was able to shorten and tighten her short story. This gave Pat a great start, but she didn’t want to burden her friend whenever she needed feedback. So she began looking for a critique group, which was difficult to do.
She then heard about one named Mothers Who Write, founded by Victoria Fann. Meetings were held in an apartment with twelve people sitting on the floor as they read and critiqued each other’s work. Not long after that, Victoria moved out of state. Another member, Janice Bultman, continued running the group. Pat remembered Janice saying, “Not all of us are mothers, so why don’t we call ourselves Women Who Write?” They called Victoria to see if she agreed with the name change. Victoria did, and by 1988 Janice had written the original bylaws for Women Who Write and the group at the time became incorporated. Janice was made president and Pat the treasurer of the organization.
Also in 1988, Pat got her first award with her story “Strays”. It won first place in The Authors and Writers Network of Montclair State College. Pat then established a much needed children’s critique group. Additionally, Pat has also been the president for one term and treasurer four times of Women Who Write, Inc.
Pat shows her loyalty and gratitude with Women Who Write saying, “This organization has done a lot for me. I’m very happy with what I have received from my critique groups. I have found a lot of friends. I believe in a critique group, because you’re so in love with your words that you can’t see what you need to cut or fix. Once someone brings that to your mind, you begin to see it. We are there to help each other make the best possible story that we can. We were all beginners at once and we are not there to critique you for being a beginner.” She would like to see the organization continue to grow and would love to see more submissions in Goldfinch, the literary magazine distributed by Women Who Write.
Pat is proud to say that, “There are published authors that are still members which I think is great.”
Pat Weissner is currently the Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) of Metro NY. She arranges monthly talks for members with editors, agents, marketing specialists, illustrators and art directors. She’s also a trustee on the board for Women Who Write and is in charge of this year’s conference.
You can find some of Pat’s short stories in the earlier copies of Goldfinch. She continues to write, and is currently shopping around a middle grade novel with three agents. She is very humble about it. I saw such positive energy and joy that emanates from her. I feel so privileged to have interviewed her. I look forward to Pat’s book getting published and possibly be asked to interview her on that journey.
Happy 25th Anniversary!
BY MELISSA EISEN-AZARIAN
Karen DelleCava is a member of Women Who Write. Her short stories, games, and crafts have appeared in Highlights for Children magazine. She is also the...
BY BABETTE BERGNER
The diagnosis of Breast Cancer is a terrifying one that we all hope we will never hear. But it happens to some people; it happened to Ronnie Hammer...
BY MIRA PECK
MARCIA S. IVANS is a poet and an active member of Women Who Write. In addition to publishing two poetry collections, she has an online presence...