Write On The River creating a sense of community here for literary folks
Our valley is culturally richer place because of the authors who have emerged in our midst and we can thank the nonprofit Write On The River for its role in creating opportunities for writers to gather, create and help each other with their craft.
Write On The River has been on its own journey of transformation, from one that used to focus on one major conference a year, but now is focused on supporting writers on a more consistent, year-round basis. There are two writing competitions, one for high school students and the other for adults, an annual retreat, a novel seminar and other gatherings.
Rose-Hahn grew up near Chicago, and then moved to Phoenix after college before getting what she described as “a classic corporate America job” in Denver. She ended up in Los Angeles and described her life there as a stereotypical California girl. “I had the makeup. I had the clothes. I had the hair. Lots of dates, lots of friends, lots of drinking and lots of clubs,” she told me. “I had a good paycheck and a good job, but something was missing,” she said. One night she was surfing the web and came across an opportunity to become an AmeriCorps volunteer in Alaska working outdoors doing trail building.
“I had never done anything like that before,” Rose-Hahn told me. She’d never camped and the only time she’d seen a tent was on TV. Manual labor was completely foreign. But she felt called to seek more in her life and crossed the threshold to a completely new opportunity.
That five-month stint changed her life. Being alone in a tent without the distractions of television and the Internet “you really get to know yourself,” she said. When she went back to Los Angeles, she left behind the hair dye, the makeup, the loud clubs and some friends. She came away with a deep sense of appreciation for the value of community. Before that experience, “I didn’t appreciate the community around me and didn’t really what that meant.”
When she and her husband moved to the valley a decade ago, she came across Write On The River and began attending events and volunteering. She liked the sense of community that existed and wanted to contribute; at the same time, it allowed her to explore and develop her writing skills.
Writing had always been a passion — she won several awards for her talent growing up, but she said it took some time before she started calling herself a writer. After her son was born, she started writing poetry and columns about motherhood and has been published in the Wenatchee Mom Blog as well as other literary magazines and forums. She writes essays and poems about motherhood from the perspective of someone who’s come to that role “relatively later in life,” Rose-Hahn told me.
She’s happy with how Write On The River has shifted to an organization that concentrates on supporting writers on a continuing basis throughout the year. There are regular social events and other opportunities for writers to gather informally. Rose-Hahn said she benefited by joining a critique group that allowed a small group of willing members to read each other’s work and make suggestions. That made her a better writer, she said.
The emphasis is on creating a comfortable atmosphere for people of all skill levels to contribute and belong. Writers, she told me, are an introverted crowd and the work is mostly solitary. Write On The River gives them a community to reach out to and share experiences.
“I’m active in the community and I care about the community,” said Rose-Hahn. “It’s done a lot for me and I believe in giving back.”
For more information about Write On The River, check out writeontheriver.org.