BEVERLY — A South Side writers group called FLOW, or For the Love of Writing, wants to help aspiring authors pen their first novel in the span of just 30 days.
The seminar aims to prepare would-be novelists for National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo. Authors are challenged to write 50,000 words throughout the 30 days of November, said Lydia Barnes of Morgan Park.
Barnes is a member of the writers group as well as a past participant of the month-long novel challenge. She warned those interested in the project that causalities of completing a novel will likely include a big Thanksgiving celebration as well as advance holiday shopping.
That said, those who finish the program can walk away with enough material to have their name on the spine of a novel. And even those who do not complete their book will have plenty of content for a strong start, Barnes said.
FLOW was founded in 1998 but disbanded after four years, said Tina Jenkins Bell, who helped relaunch the group in July 2012. The group consists of six experienced writers — all black women with ties to the Beverly area.
"We knew that we wanted to offer opportunities for writers to have sound and supportive critiques," Bell said. "There was a need for authentic understanding of diverse voices."
The group meets on the fourth Sunday of every month with the exception of June and December. And the conversations switch focus each meeting. Members either evaluate their work or discuss strategies for publishing short stories, poems and other projects, Bell said.
"We evolved into this," said Bell, a Beverly resident for the past 22 years. "We wanted to create this synergy, specifically for South Side writers."
Despite having a core membership exclusively of black women, the group opens its workshops, seminars, retreats and longer sessions known as "salons" to everyone. Bell said this helps to diversify the group and the stories presented.
That said, the works created by the group's writers to have a strong, female voice and stories are often set in Chicago. Bell spoke about a recent piece that centers around two mothers — one with a son who is a police officer, the other lives in a poor, dangerous neighborhood.
Both of the women pray their sons will come home that night. In the end, someone dies. It's up to the reader to determine which of the two survive, Bell said.
At least a few of the stories like this that began in the group's workshops have drawn the attention of literary agents. And three of the members — including Barnes and Bell — will have their work published in January in an upcoming anthology named for Gwendolyn Brooks.
"These projects are babies that we have followed along," Bell said.
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