Greenbelt Writers Group
The Greenbelt Writers Group meets every month on the third Friday evening in the Greenbelt Community Center. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. and it includes speakers, open readings, spontaneous writing, critique sessions, and group discussions. Authors, literary agents, teachers, and journalists have all spoken at the meeting.
Carol Griffith, treasurer of Greenbelt Writers Group, introduces tonight’s speaker, her friend and co-worker Edward Belfar. Belfar’s new book Wanderers was published in June, and he will read from it tonight. “His fiction has appeared in Shenandoah, Tampa Review, Confrontation, Natural Bridge, and other publications. His short story ‘Errors’ was chosen as the winning entry in the Sport Literature Association’s 2008 fiction competition.”
Edward Belfar shows his book. He says that the cover photograph was taken by his wife, Kathleen Belfar, at a gorge in Naivasha National Park in Kenya. Kathleen Belfar is a native of Kenya and is sitting on the left. The book is dedicated to her.
Wanderers is a collection of 15 short stories and several of them, but not all, are set in Kenya. “I chose ‘Wanderers,’ the last story in the collection, as the title story because of the thematic unity it provided. All the book’s protagonists are wanderers of one sort or another. The terrain over which they wander—whether geographical, cultural, or emotional—is unfamiliar to them.” Here Belfar reads the first story “Mistaken Identity,” set in Kenya.
“In ‘Mistaken Identity,’ a blunder by an American groom-to-be at a traditional Kikuyu engagement ceremony lands him in hot water with his fiancée.”
After reading the first story, Belfar talks about the publishing process and answers questions from the audience. He says that the stories were all published individually in various magazines. The book was a finalist in Stephen F. Austin State University Press (SFA Press)’s 2010 fiction contest, and he was notified in November 2010 that SFA Press would like to publish the book. There was a time-consuming process of correcting the galleys and the book finally was published in the spring of 2012.
Barbara Ford asks a question.
Matt Arbach is the president of Greenbelt Writers Group.
Belfar tells that because SFA Press is a small operation, he has to do much of the marketing and promotion for the book. SFA Press is a member of the Texas A&M University Press Consortium, so the book was listed in TAMU’s online catalogue. He contacted the magazines in which the stories had originally appeared and was invited to write a blog post for Baltimore Review on the writing of one of the stories, “Matters of the Heart.” After the book was published, he was able to join the Authors Guild, which set up a website for him. He has also used a site called Goodreads and set up a page there. He also talked to a Kenyan journalist about the book and a review is forthcoming. [The review has since appeared.]
Belfar shares a laugh with Barbara Young
Eli Flam (end of table) asks a question.
“All the stories in the collection were rejected by various journals before they were published, and the book manuscript also was rejected numerous times before I found a home for it at SFA Press. What I have learned from my experience in getting Wanderers published is that two essential qualities for a writer are persistence and a thick skin. So throw the rejection letters in the recycling bin, and keep writing.”
Edward Belfar signs a book for Barbara Young.
Margaret Holley gets a book.
Belfar signs for Barbara Ford.
Belfar signs for Matt Arbach.
Wanderers’s cover photo was taken by Kathleen Belfar and shows a gorge at Hell’s Gate National Park in Naivasha, Kenya.
Marjorie Gray (left) chats with Jacqueline Byrd.
Leeann Irwin (right) talks with Peggy Rooney.
After Belfar and his wife have left, Leeann Irwin, who is a member of Friends of the New Deal Café Arts (FONDCA), talks about a project that FONDCA is developing.
She tells the group about Takoma Park, Maryland’s poetry walk and Portland, Oregon’s poetry posts. Both projects display poems at public places. Irwin says that FONDCA is thinking about setting up a similar poetry display in Greenbelt and invites input from the Writers Group. A member tells that Charlottesville, Virginia has a poetry walk as well.
Laura Brown brings “poetry boxes.” She invites members to write poems on them and then fold them and give them out to others. She says that she made these for a school project at Wheaton High School where she works.
From left are Jacqueline Byrd, Peggy Rooney, and Leeann Irwin.
When group members signed in, they wrote whether they would like to read at tonight’s meeting. Here Matt Arbach looks at the list and calls the readers’ names.
Peggy Rooney reads her poem titled “They Passed By”: “She was tired as she left the store with her bag of groceries / and headed for the car…”
Barbara Young reads a poem.
Margaret Holley reads a story about her dog.
Marilyn Wassmann reads a short story.
The Greenbelt Writers Group started in 1995 and Dorothy Sucher was one of the founders. From 2003 to 2007 Amy Hansen was the president, and then Matt Arbach took over the post. “The Greenbelt Writers Group is a community group that encourages and supports the development of literary arts through open readings, writer critique groups, and other activities.” The group meets on the third Friday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in the Greenbelt Community Center, and group members have published several anthologies together. There is a $10 annual due for members, but readings are open to the public.