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Novice Writing Group Gets Going in White Plains

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Pamela Stemberg is about to start a novice White Plains writing group for people who want to write but need the structure of a group to help get them started.

She knows the need for such a niche because she spent years searching for one after taking a long creative writing hiatus.

Stemberg, 49, watched her elementary school perform the first play she ever wrote when she was 10-years-old. The Greenburgh resident said the undergraduate writing program at Columbia University she took years later crippled her confidence.

She wrote non-fiction while producing television news and then taught videography to students at foster boarding homes, but the creative writing bug still lingered. Stemberg said it took her nearly 20 years to come back. Now she's finishing up a masters in writing at City College of New York.

"It took me two years to find a writing group," Stemberg said of an advanced crew of mostly published authors she joined. "I think everybody should have that opportunity."

Being in a co-ed writing group convinced Stemberg that her writing appealed mainly to women, because men in that group seemed unable to grasp what she was trying get across. But she did realize what was most important was to get feedback, because writers need that to grow. "Any writer can benefit from that extra set of eyes," she said. "I know I did."

She will lead the first gathering at 199 Main St. Tuesday. Writers working in all genres are invited to attend the meetings every other Tuesday for $20 each.

"I put a feeler out on Meetup just to see if people would be interested, and it turns out a lot of people were looking for a beginner group," said Stemberg, who worked as a computer programmer before joining the news industry. "So I thought I'd start a novice writing group. It's much more difficult to run a novice writing group if everybody is a novice."

The class will start by focusing on structure and helping writers find their voice.

"A lot of novices fall on clichés because they're most comfortable and accustomed to seeing them used," said Stemberg. "You'll find that there aren't a lot of clichés once you get past that first layer and find your voice."

Critiquing will be introduced to writers when every attendee is invited to read two pieces aloud each meeting. Those who are not comfortable will not be required to share their work. Stemberg says she will still give them feedback on their writing privately.

"We judge our own writing and that's bad enough, but when others judge us that's the killer," she said. "That's why being part of a novice group that has safety first and foremost is helpful."

Stemberg envisions a time when the nascent writers will not need her to act as a facilitator and transition into an established group.

For more information, contact Stemberg at pjs2169@columbia.edu .

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