Finding Gold

“What can I do with those old letters Grandma and Grandpa wrote during WWII?” “I love reading poems; I’d write some, but I have no idea where or how to start.” “Hmmm, I’ve been journaling all my life…could I turn that into a romance novel?” If you’ve ever had thoughts like these, your muse must be trying to get your attention. One day, those thoughts will probably become, “Where can I find a group of like-minded people to help me write poetry, stories, magazine articles, or plays? 

Look no further. Buried like a gold nugget inside the Anderson Arts Center is the Foothills Writers Guild (FWG). In fact, FWG turned gold this spring by celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, its golden anniversary! Anderson Mayor Terrence Roberts kicked off our golden anniversary year last January in a keynote speech that highlighted our guild’s literary, educational, and economic contributions to Anderson and the Upstate’s arts community over the last half-century.

Before there was a Foothills Writers Guild, four Andersonian friends  – Frances Mims, Jean McKinney, Eunice Sullivan Pracht, and Gayle Edwards – began meeting regularly in their homes in 1967 to study poetry and share poems they’d written between gatherings. In March 1974 they and about twenty area poetry lovers met in the Anderson County Library to form the Anderson Writers’ Guild (AWG) and elect officers. They began meeting the following month in the Anderson Arts Center. The name was changed to Foothills Writers Guild (FWG) in 1994 to attract professional writers and writer wannabes from Anderson and surrounding counties. 

The original purpose of these guilds remains today: to promote the art and craft of writing and develop a community of support for writers of poetry, prose, and plays, as well as readers. We gather once a month in person to learn and to hear published authors, writing teachers, or publishers speak on topics of interest to our members. These meetings are excellent opportunities for members to network and find inspiration and support so necessary for their own journeys.

Of our fifty members, we typically have 15 – 25 attend these and our Honors Night meetings. We also have a poetry chapter, a story chapter, and a children’s literature chapter. These smaller groups meet virtually from the comfort and convenience of their homes once a month for an hour to share work in progress or to just listen and learn. Each chapter periodically publishes a book of its members’ contributions. 

A unique benefit of FWG membership is our free spring and fall writing contests. Each contest has poetry, prose, and play or monologue categories. All entries are anonymous and judged by approved writing teachers and authors. The winning entries are published in FWG yearbooks and are recognized at Honors Night ceremonies. 

A new benefit began this year. President Angela Mason Lowe launched a formal mentoring program to help newer members get started sooner on their individual writing journeys by choosing to be paired with a more experienced member. 

An important part of this story is what FWG does to help create future generations of writers. Each year writing scholarships are presented to faculty-selected English students at Westside High School, TL Hanna High School, Tri-County Technical College, and Anderson University. In addition, our members introduce writing for fun and publication to elementary school students during Arts Day festivities each March. And, of course, our poets enter Anderson County Library’s annual poetry contest each April. 

One way our members voluntarily serve our community is by reading poetry at schools and independent living facilities. Another is by selling books at fundraising events by organizations such as the Cancer Association of Anderson, Vets Helping Vets – Anderson, the Anderson Woman’s Club, churches, etc., and then donating to the organization. 

Writers love to see their work published in books, magazines, and newspapers. Many of our members’ books are available for reading at local libraries. The Anderson County Library invites local authors, illustrators, and small publishers to participate in its annual author fair to kick off  “Read Local,” the library’s summer reading program. This year it will be held on June 1st. Not only do our members sell their books, but they also meet new readers, discover new speakers, and always lead new writers to our guild. 

Several of our members are regular contributors to Anderson Magazine, and The Fair-Town Times in Fair Play, SC. Also, two local independent bookstores have special sections for works by local authors: McDowell’s Emporium in Anderson and the Pendleton Book Shop in Pendleton. Our members soon have work published somewhere, and well over half of them are either authors of a book or have one in progress.

For writers and writer wannabes, the Foothills Writers Guild is the best deal in town. For only $20/year ($10 for students or teachers), the guild offers numerous opportunities to fill any writer’s toolbox with information and techniques to spend less time on the struggle bus on their writing journey. 

We each have stories to tell, and the world needs new voices and new experiences. If you don’t write your stories, who will? Contact Angela Mason Lowe at 864-940-6594 to get started on your journey.