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In their own words

Created date

January 29th, 2009

By Setarreh Massihzadegan

From games in New York s Central Park to cries after India s 1935 Balochistan earthquake, childhood invokes different scenes for different people. And now that they are living at Brooksby, the members of Verena Rybicki s writing group are sharing the anecdotes of their lives, and in this case, of their hometowns.

"The people who live here [at Brooksby] are fabulous," says Violet Jarrell, who wrote about growing up in New York City. "They have such different backgrounds."

Solid matter

Despite their differing backgrounds, the ten writers share a desire to craft pieces on everything from politics to poetry. Every other Monday morning, they meet to read their latest pieces aloud around a conference table.

On this particular day, as the writers read history-laced narratives about their hometowns, Rybicki admitted that as a child born in England and raised mostly in India, pinning down a hometown wasn t easy. She shared vivid details of her earliest memory, a devastating earthquake that killed thousands of people but spared her family. Rybicki s family returned to England shortly after the earthquake, but because of her father s job with the Indian Medical Service, the family relocated every three months or so until she was 11 years old. As an only child who wasn t in school, she spent a lot of time alone, and she began to write.

"I became a writer when I was seven years old," she says, "but the problem is that life got in the way."

Group aspirations

Now that she has settled in and made Brooksby home, Rybicki has found that she and her neighbors have more time to fulfill their aspirations. Upon urging from other Brooksby residents, she put together her writing group, one of two at the community. Now in its fourth year, the group recently added Bettie Kaitz, whom Rybicki invited to assist in leading. The pair plans to encourage more feedback among the writers.

"I m very hopeful that we can improve people s writing," Rybicki says. She often suggests topics (see above, right) and encourages group members to practice on their own. "They take a great deal of pride in it," she says.

"I ve been writing all my life, and I like to have an audience," affirms Ian McEwan, who is a longtime writer and member of the group, known especially for his poetry.

Easy listening

Reading one s personal work aloud can be intimidating for some, but members of the group say there is great respect for one another. And this sense of support is not unique to the writing group, members agree.

"I think it reflects the spirit of Brooksby," Kaitz says. "This group is a microcosm of the community."