Originally started as part of the Vermillion Literary Project (VLP), the Vermillion Community Writers Group has been a space for local writers to meet and work for over ten years.
Marcella Remund, advisor to the VLP and head of the group, said membership ebbs and flows, but the group always has a variety of writers and writing styles.
“We have students who come through and disappear as they graduate or move on, we have members who are middle-age working adults, we have members who are retired, so it really is a wide range and diverse group of people,” Remund said.
When the group meets, members usually participate in writing exercises, Remund said, and afterwards anyone in the group can share their work to get feedback. Sometimes, members will submit work ahead of time for workshopping, but Remund said activities really depend on who’s there.
“Sometimes we do writing exercises based on building vocabulary, so we might do dictionary games or dictionary writing exercises. Sometimes we do exercises or activities based on working at imagery in our writing,” Remund said. “I try to come up with different exercises depending on the skill they help us hone.”
Cliff Summers, a biology professor at USD, said he began writing fiction about nine years ago and joined the group on a whim after he saw one of the flyers. On top of providing feedback, Summers said the group is a way for him to escape from the pressures of all the other writing he does.
“I write scientific papers, I write grant proposals—which is really the hardest thing I do,” Summers said. “It’s a way to do something different. I do it so that I don’t have to think about science all the time.”
Even before he joined the group, Summers submitted his work for publication, though he said he’s never been published. About the time he joined, he thought he would never submit work again, but the group encouraged him to keep going.
“After awhile, I had submitted several stories, and I was really discouraged,” Summers said. “I went to the group, and Marcella (Remund) was very encouraging and said ‘you should keep submitting,’ and the group did encourage me to keep submitting.”
Another member of the group, Earl Sampson, writes cowboy poetry. He said it’s good to talk to and be around other writers, and that he’s there to learn.
Sampson said all of his poetry used to rhyme, but he’s branched out into free-verse since joining the group. The group is good for local writers, Sampson said, because it gives them a way to grow.
“There are some people that would like to expand themselves and what it is they do and what it is they lean towards, and this gives them an opportunity to do that,” Sampson said.
The group is a way for the community to appreciate all the writing talent in the area, Remund said, and it gives writers the ability to gather and exchange ideas and learn from one another.
“It’s a pretty active community of writers, even though I think a lot of people probably know nothing about it,” Remund said. “You don’t have to be a writer to tap into that community, because it’s really fun to go to a reading and just listen, too. I think literary arts are for everybody, not just the writers.”
The Vermillion Community Writers Group meets every second and fourth Tuesday at 6 p.m. on Zoom. Those interested in joining the group should contact Remund at Marcella.Remund@usd.edu.