Arts & Culture

Charlotte Writers Club Celebrates 100 Years with Gala, Workshop

New Student Initiative looks to cultivate younger voices

Charlotte Writers Club
Members of the Charlotter Writers Club at a pre-pandemic “open mic” event. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Kenna)

Mrs. A. L. Kimball founded the Charlotte Writers Club in the spring of 1922 after moving to the Queen City from Lowell, Mass. In a quote from Kimball on their site from a Charlotte Observer article in 1928, she said, “When I came to Charlotte, some eight years ago, my first question was ‘Is there a writer’s club?’” 

I had the same question upon moving to Charlotte from Chicago in September 2019. Though Kimball left Charlotte a few years after founding the club, it has remained active over the past century, and her first steps ensured that, upon my arrival 97 years later, there was a meeting place for like-minded wordsmiths — professionals, amateurs, and aspiring writers alike. I remain an active member of the club to this day. 

A centennial birthday is reason to party, and the club plans to do just that at The Mint Museum on Randolph Road on Sunday, May 22, from 6-9:00 p.m. The CWC Centennial Gala will feature live music, a guest speaker, hors d’oeuvres, beer, wine, lemonade, a silent auction and more. Each guest will receive a special CWC Centennial mug to take home. Award-winning mystery novelist Ruth Moose will host a short-story session in the lead-up to the event, beginning at 4:30 p.m. 

Continued growth at Charlotte Writers Club

Caroline Kenna is currently serving her third year as president of the Charlotte Writers Club (CWC). She said the thing she is most proud of during that time was the club’s ability to pivot during the pandemic and continue meeting virtually, establishing monthly writing and sharing time. 

In the past five months alone, CWC members have celebrated the release of 22 new books, and the club was recently awarded an $8,691 Infusion Fund grant — one of 51 recipients of the new grant from the City of Charlotte and Foundation of the Carolinas, which came from the city’s newly formed Arts & Culture Advisory Board. 

Kenna said CWC plans to put the money toward revamping the club’s website. 

“What’s next? The sky’s the limit. The last two years have taught me that if there is enough creative energy, anything is possible.”

Over the past year, the club has also launched its new Student Engagement initiative, which aims to nurture new writers and continue not only the club’s growth with fresh blood, but also help the next generation of writers pursue their craft. 

As part of this initiative, CWC began offering virtual office hours on the first Wednesday of every month during the school year from 4-6 p.m. for Charlotte-Mecklenburg students who are seeking help with writing. Tutors and experts will be available to answer questions and provide guidance, as well as reading students’ stories and providing feedback and suggestions. 

Charlotte Writers Club
The Charlotte Writers Club holds critique meetings every month. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Kenna)

The club engaged with Philip Shabazz, a poet, author, and teaching artist who has taught at over 400 schools, and brought him on to head two instructional seminars for the students. 

In February, the CWC opened submissions for the inaugural short-story writing contest for local students in two categories: those in grades 5-8 and those in grades 9-12. The contest, which I am chairing for full disclosure, will culminate with the announcement of the winners at the club’s May 17 meeting. Each winner will be given the opportunity to read their stories aloud before receiving cash prizes and a free year’s membership to the club. 

As the contest chair, I was especially excited with how many students participated in our first go-’round (submissions closed in April). The students contest surpassed our four other contests in entries, which I thought was incredible since we just got the word out a few months ago. 

A new generation of writers will be leading the way, and it’s in the club’s best interest to support that desire to write and open minds to all the possibilities. Writing allows you to create your own world and go wherever your imagination takes you. There are no walls or barriers. Everyone is equal. 

My writing journey

As a kid, I loved writing. Before I had a typewriter or keyboard, I wrote stories longhand about baseball and my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. I did breakdowns of not only the Cubs but their competitors before each season. It’s like I was writing a baseball preview magazine, but I was the only one reading it.  

At some point in my late teens, I quit writing altogether. I had hoped to go to college and major in journalism, but I wasn’t the best student and the school that accepted me didn’t have a journalism major.

It took me nearly two decades to get back into writing, and that led to a job freelancing as a sports columnist for publications like The Heckler and Bleacher Report in Chicago. I was able to pursue a passion that began in my childhood, except this time people were reading what I wrote. I started getting in the paper on a regular basis, and a fire burned to do more. 

Writing changed my life and gave me a voice. Looking back, I can’t believe all of the incredible experiences I had. My first interview was with Ron Santo, a former Cubs third basemen who at the time was retired from the game but still working as a radio analyst for the Cubs. There I was, sitting in the radio booth overlooking Wrigley Field, asking questions to a future Hall of Fame baseball player. I couldn’t believe it, but that was only the beginning. 

I also had an opportunity to interview my all-time favorite athlete, Ernie Banks, when I ran into him at the park on a night he was scheduled to throw out the first pitch. I have seen incredible games, befriended Cubs manager Dusty Baker, and interacted with legendary athletes including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. 

The life I had an opportunity to experience came about because of writing and all of the windows it opened for me. That’s why I want to give back to future generations, so they too can experience the joy of writing and see what possibilities can come from it — even if those opportunities don’t present themselves early on. 

Charlotte Writers Club
In April, CWC hosted a community conversation about immigrant and refugee stories called How Stories Can Save Us. Pictured (from left): Gilda Morina Syverson, Diya Abdo, Joseph Bathanti and Banu Valladares. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Kenna)

Words matter, and having the opportunity to let young voices be heard matters, which is why the Charlotte Writers Club is so excited about our future writers and hearing what they have to say as it moves into its second hundred years in existence. 

The CWC Centennial Gala is scheduled for Sunday, May 22, from 6-9 p.m., preceded by a short-story workshop featuring Ruth Moose from 4:30-6 p.m. Tickets to the gala are $30 per person, and the workshop is $40 for non-members to attend. Guests must register by Saturday, May 14, to attend

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