The Hudson Valley Women’s Writing Group has existed in various forms for more than 25 years. It has always focused on providing a safe space for a small group of women from diverse backgrounds to explore, discuss and offer support for their personal writings – whether memoir, fiction, poetry, screenplay or otherwise. Since 2015, its membership has remained constant. All of its members are activists, volunteers and artists whose careers spanned academia and public education, social work, nursing and lawyering. Its members live mainly in or near New Paltz, Rosendale and Woodstock, NY.
Tana Miller, a founding member of the Hudson Valley Women’s Writing Group, offers her insights on the group’s long and productive history:
This group has been a constant in my life for around twenty-eight years. It began in Woodstock, NY, with a very reasonably priced weekly writing workshop led by Maureen Brady, a fiction writer, at her home in Woodstock, New York. Everyone participated in sharing and discussing each member’s work. I was still teaching full time then, so having a somewhat presentable bit of work each week was a stretch. After a time, two writer friends from New Paltz joined the workshop as well, and we took turns driving to Woodstock.
About two years later, Maureen announced she was discontinuing her workshop. Another Woodstock-based writer, Laura Kaplan (who was working on her book about JANE, the University of Chicago-based women’s reproductive rights group) offered to host our weekly meetings. The fee element was eliminated, and we all shared our work and provided feedback to each other. For the next few years, the group became a welcoming gathering space for local women writers.
During the next few years, many people joined and left the group. Women’s music artist, Alix Dobkin, worked on her memoir Red Blood about the early days of folk music in New York City and Woodstock which was published in 2009. Another writer developed her book about her work as an art therapist in a local institution for children. One member wrote her entire Ph.D dissertation while in our group. Over time, some left when their books were done. Others left because they moved away from the area or on to other careers (a rabbi, a musician) or to address family needs or other challenges.
At some point we began to rotate our meeting locations and meet less frequently to accommodate our own jobs, family responsibilities, and other creative pursuits. It became clear that a smaller membership and regularized schedule offered more opportunities for personal artistic growth and creative community. The seven-member group that exists today is the result of that evolution. In 2018, we put together an anthology of some of our writings, An Apple in her Hand, which was published by Codhill Press at the beginning of 2019. The group also reads together at local venues and is planning another anthology.
COVID-19 has currently limited our gatherings to Zoom but has allowed us to connect every two weeks. We have become close friends, in addition to writing companions and collaborators. I personally would rather be with this group of women than with any other. Our shared passion for literature, and our respect for one another’s writing are a sustaining, revolutionary force.