Local chapter of Blue Ridge Writers thrives during COVID-19

By Page H. Gifford

When Alden Bigelow was recently installed as the chair of Blue Ridge Writers local chapter of the Virginia Writer’s Club, he was not enthusiastic about zooming with his fellow writers. But his reluctance soon caved into his excitement and acceptance of its ease and convenience. Once everyone knew where their audio and video were on their zoom screen. Bigelow and the others saw the advantages of virtual gatherings during COVID-19. No traveling distances to meet, just flip open your computer, get a cup of coffee, sit back in the comfort of your home and everyone is right there.

“The Zoom method originally necessitated by COVID-19, actually offers us unlimited geographical boundaries to talk and bring in new members,” said Bigelow. “Imagine if we had a typical critique class made up of members from Charlottesville, Fluvanna, Washington, New York, and even Maplewood N.J.” He’s trying to convince his son, who lives in Maplewood to join.

BRW thrived through the pandemic because members embraced the new technology. They were able to gather, critique, and share insights into each other’s work. After all, this is what BRW is all about.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the BRW. The Virginia Writer’s Club was founded in 1918 by James Branch Cabell, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Travers Clover, and Dr. Orie Hatcher. In 1991 the Charlottesville Writers led by “Booton” Herndon became the first chartered chapter in the VWC. In 2007, it became the Blue Ridge Writers when the first anthology was published.

With their newfound freedom on zoom, they are looking for new members. They will meet in person as well when it is safe to do so but zoom will continue to be utilized. There are many local writers involved, including those from the Fluvanna Writer’s Group.

“Since I first joined Blue Ridge Writers, I have become ever more enthusiastic about the whole thing,” said Bigelow. “As a solitary writer by nature, I was somewhat reluctant to join a club where my work good or bad would be lambasted and criticized by people who did not understand it.”

 Bigelow. like many writers, recognize those moments spent in solitude, living in the story and the final product. Being critiqued is often viewed with trepidation, fearing the work will be denigrated and ripped to shreds. As a member who has been with the group for a few years, he noticed that constructive critique and not harsh criticism would give writers the tools they needed to become better, stronger writers. It’s not easy, but being critiqued and listening to another viewpoint can be eye-opening for writers, helping them on their journey and search for a voice and a niche. Critiques are valuable for writers to learn and grow.

“Whether you are a beginning writer or a seasoned veteran, we welcome you. We are all here to help each other, and your individual writing experiences will enrich all of us. Everyone’s work is honored here as are disparate points of view.”

BRW has monthly critique sessions, providing mutual feedback for each of its class members. They also have senior members who will review work one-on-one with writers. They also produce publications annually and eligible writers will be included in one of the four publications, Publications feature a wide variety of writing, including poetry, prose, fiction, non-fiction, and memoirs.

“We are a growing, evolving, diverse group of people. Many who love and respect all aspects of writing.”

For more information, visit blueridgewriters.com or vwc.com

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