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Members of 'lonely profession' get valuable support at writers group
By Jennifer Patterson | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/9/2007 12:19 AM

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Writing is a lonely profession, according to Amy Gail Hansen of Algonquin.

You can sit at your desk for hours agonizing over a single phrase -- or the words can pour from your fingertips like water.

Maybe you get up 10 times to pace the living room floor, or you sit for so long the desk chair has a permanent imprint in just your size.

At the end of the day, no one can appreciate what you went through but you and the computer.

And maybe the members of the Algonquin Area Writers' Group.

The forum for writers of just about any genre and level of experience meets monthly at the Algonquin Area Public Library to listen to and critique works in progress.

"It's nice to have a group of people who have similar interests and a similar set of skills," said Hansen, a local freelance journalist who is working on her first novel.

"You feel safe there," she said. "It's been very beneficial to me."

The group is the creation of Lisa Guidarini, adult program coordinator for the library district and an independent book critic, columnist and blogger.

"I think it mostly brings support that they may not get from other people," she said.

At gatherings, two or three writers sign up to read a piece of their choosing. Length is kept at 10 pages or less, and hard copies are provided for each member to follow along.

Each reading is followed by questions, and comments. Then, time is allowed for members to jot down additional thoughts on the paper copies, which later are turned over to the author.

"It's interesting, because you really get a lot of opinions on your work. You get a nice cross-section of readers," Hansen said.

"It's nice to have a test audience for your work."

Besides being a way to get some constructive criticism for your work, the meetings also are a good way for writers to set deadlines, Guidarini says.

After all, if you know you're scheduled to debut the latest chapter of your novel, you might just make sure the pages read the way you'd like.

Members of the club are both published and unpublished writers, with some becoming published in the nearly year and a half the group has been meeting, Guidarini said.

And not all are novelists. Some write poetry, essays and short stories. There even are a few people working on memoirs to leave family members when they are gone.

In addition, published authors occasionally are brought in as speakers to discuss the writing process and how to become a published writer.

There are some 30 to 40 members, Guidarini said, though about a dozen are in attendance at each meeting.

Which is just enough to get some inspiration.

For more information, you can contact Guidarini at the Algonquin Area Public Library at (847) 458-6060, ext. 115, or visit the library district's Web site at

You can also bring your literary self to the library district's main branch on Harnish Road to sit in on a meeting.

Hello: I may be consulting members of the group from time to time myself as I write this new column about people, places and happenings in the village of Algonquin. After a break to ensure my children survived at least into the toddler years, I am returning to my computer to write a monthly feature.

However, I do need your help. If you know someone or something worthy of some newsprint, let me know. You can contact me by e-mail at I look forward to hearing your ideas, and making sure everyone else does, too.