By Alexandra Molnar, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – “Writers write so that they can speak to somebody,” said Shrewsbury resident Benjamin Tartaglia as he sat in the company of four fellow writers, amid stacks of poems and drafts of short stories.
Photocopies of two Norman Rockwell paintings were among some of the content in the stacks, images that served as inspiration for that weeks’ writing session.
Tartaglia and the others are members of the Shrewsbury Senior Writers, a group that meets at the Shrewsbury Senior Center every Friday from 10 a.m. to noon to discuss writing, grammar and everything in between.
The group, which formed about 12 years ago and has 15 members, is composed of varying degrees of talent, from professional writers to others who write for pure enjoyment.
“[It’s] a good group for people looking to keep their minds active and engage in friendly discussion,” said member Alvin Weiss.
Members’ writing encompasses all types of prose and poetry including short stories, political statements, memoirs and essays. Each writer brings a different background, style and preference to the discussion.
Weiss, a former professor of chemical engineering, likes to write short stories, often incorporating humor. To evaluate the success of his humor, “[I] check to see if I get a smile or a laugh,” he said.
Weiss said that he never knows what he is going to write until he sits down, whereas fellow writer Geraldine Tongel said that she spends hours reflecting on her topic and how certain elements will fit into her story before even picking up a pen.
“It’s all up in my head,” she said, and then the ideas “come pouring out.”
Tongel, a former bilingual teacher of Spanish and English and fan of science fiction and fantasy, wrote a memoir about her time spent as a Fulbright Scholar in Peru after her daughter expressed interest in learning about her mother’s experience.
Jonathan Wright, another member, writes solely poetry and plays, most of which are inspired by his interest in history and his 40 years spent writing, orating and acting in theater as a hobby. Poetry is his preferred medium, as “there are a lot of things you can do with poetry that you can’t do in normal speech,” he said.
Like Wright, Tartaglia enjoys writing poetry for the challenge and for the idea that it is always transforming, every time you look at it.
“I paint pictures with words,” Tartaglia said, likening his hobby to an artist using paint to create an image on a canvas.
Having a career as a systems analyst, Tartaglia has written articles for technical journals. One of the first pieces he wrote back in the early 1970s, “The Economics of Word Processing,” was published in the “Journal of Systems Management.”
“It was pretty nice to see it in a publication,” Tartaglia said.
The group emphasized that they are not critical of each other’s works; on the contrary, they provide helpful suggestions which include grammar lessons, such as proper comma usage and punctuation within quotations.
Since its inception, the Shrewsbury Writers has published two books, including an anthology entitled, “Yankee Doodles.”
The group has a bookbinding machine that many writers have used to make their own books. Others, such as Weiss, have published on a larger scale; he published a textbook on cats through Amazon Kindle.
Even though the writers only meet once a week, they are constantly brimming with ideas and translating them to stories. Tartaglia makes sure to jot down his thoughts on his phone or on any piece of scrap paper he can find.
“There is nothing worse than having a good idea, then letting it slip away,” he said.
With all of his notes, he said that he will never run out of writing subjects.
Tongel agreed, saying that she used to travel around with a tape recorder in her pocket and would record her story ideas when they came to her.
Shrewsbury Senior Writers meet at the Shrewsbury Senior Center, 100 Maple Ave. The group is always looking for new members and it is open to anyone who is interested, including non-Shrewsbury residents.