By Amy Taylor
The Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writer’s Club, Write by the Rails, is working hard to bring poetry to the streets, encourage local writers and give valuable feedback on writing.
Writers helping writers
Jan Rayl is in her second term as president of the organization and has been a member since 2012. Rayl explained their mission in an email.
“Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, aims to raise the profile of the local literary community and explore ways we can nurture, cultivate and help that community grow.
“We also strive to be an integral part of the larger arts community and to enhance the quality of life for residents of the area by providing the opportunity to participate in events and activities that promote literacy and self-expression,” Rayl said.
The group welcomes both published and unpublished local writers who have an affiliation with Manassas, Manassas Park or Prince William. Writers can join via their website or at any of their meetings. Dues are $20 per year and writers who sign up now will have membership through the end of 2019.
“We generally meet once a month. Lately, we have been meeting on the East and West ends of the county on the same day, generally monthly on a Saturday morning. Meetings are announced on our Facebook Page which is a public group…We rotate meeting dates in an effort to include more writers,” Rayl said.
Rayl looks forward to launching books for each member of their organization.
“For me one of the great joys as club president, was the process that recently took place with one of our members Alan Bonsall. Alan had a great idea for a book; he joined WbtR and shared his idea. Members encouraged him in his writing. We listened to sections of his draft and gave feedback. Alan was encouraged and finished his book. Other members helped him along the way and now he has published his book, Young Heroes of the Lost Lake, A Johnstown Food Novel. Along the way several members helped in cover design, book launches and continuing to encourage Alan in the process. As President of WbtR, it does not get better than that!” Rayl said.
Bringing poetry to the virtual “streets”
Founding member and vice president Katherine Gotthardt explained how the organization is bringing poetry to the virtual “streets” through a new social media campaign, the #WbtR #BackOnTrackNow campaign.
“The goal is multidimensional: to bring poetry to the virtual streets, to make it more mainstream, to get it out of the classroom and into the public eye. We’re using social media as a vehicle not just because it’s such a powerful tool, but because it’s one that has become an avenue to spread negativity, thoughtlessness and useless, destructive ranting.
“If we can bring something creative to these social platforms, make people think in different ways, stomp out a few of the kindling fires of rage just by making people stop and say, ‘What the heck is this?,’ then we’ve done something. But to get through the noise of social media, we have to get as many people doing it as we can. And we have to do it consistently and long-term. Over time, it will catch on.” Gotthardt said in an email.
Anyone can participate in this campaign by visiting WbtRBackOnTrackNow.org and filling out the form, which gives Write by the Rails permission to publish their work on social media and in an upcoming anthology, if their writing is selected. Submissions should be Twitter-friendly and include space for their hashtags, #WbtR and #BackOnTrackNow.