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Red Deer area writing group celebrates 30th anniversary

By Patricia O’Neill
Writers’ Ink, a Red Deer and area writing group met last month to celebrate its 30th anniversary. (Ray Holland photo)

By Patricia O’Neill

A special celebration took place in Red Deer on September 27. Writers’ Ink, a Red Deer and area writing group, celebrated its 30th anniversary. The group’s President, Patricia O’Neill, was the emcee for the night.

“Who would have thought a generation ago someone would have an idea that would reverberate down through the decades and enhance so many lives.”

That idea, to start a writing group, was the brainchild of Murray Fuhrer, the club’s founder, and special guest of the evening who has recently returned to Red Deer.

“Some of us joined Writers’ Ink to find out if we’re any good,” O’Neill continued, “others joined to hone their skills, while others joined for the connection to like-minded people. Whatever the reason, there was something that drew us in and, once in, kept us coming back for more. Why? Because there’s value in it for us and each of us gets to decide what that value is.”

Annette Grey and Carol Ritten-Smith, who joined Writers’ Ink twenty-eight years ago, are both prolific writers with multiple titles between them. Both credit joining the group for their success.

Other members, Richard McIntyre, and Mary Lou de Ridder, also credit Writers’ Ink with giving them the confidence to go after their dream of writing and publishing their books and, in McIntyre’s case, becoming a playwright.

New member Jennifer Sheppler said joining Writers’ Ink got her the title for the book she’s currently working on and said she can now imagine that book on a shelf.

The highlight of the evening was the talk given by Murray Fuhrer telling the audience about his decision to start the group.

Fuhrer was part of a fun and vibrant writer’s group in Medicine Hat. When he came to Red Deer in 1991, Fuhrer wanted that same experience. He checked out the only writing group in town but felt it wasn’t a good fit.

When one of its members learned Fuhrer was going to start another group, he told him, “there’s no need for a second writer’s group in Red Deer. A second group is destined to fail.”

Not if I can help it, Fuhrer remembers thinking. A year later on Sept. 23, 1992, Writer’s Ink received its Certificate of Incorporation. It later became a society, allowing it access to grants and funding that helped with publishing anthologies and hosting workshops which continues today.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for new, established and I’ve-never-written-anything writers,” he said.

Fuhrer is rightfully proud of his early contributions to Writer’s Ink but even he could not fathom how that one decision would have a long and lasting ripple effect.

“Our Mission Statement,” he said, “was to encourage friendship and fellowship while sharing our love and passion for the written word.”

Over the years, Writer’s Ink has met at a variety of locations including Red Deer Library, the Legion, Golden Circle and eventually settled at Sunnybrook Farm.

In closing, O’Neill reminded the audience, “we are here to celebrate us! Celebrate our creativity, our passion, our imagination, and our commitment to be the storytellers of our time.

We are ‘small g’ gods, bringing our characters to life through the breadth of our words. We are conjurers of emotions… creators of places and stories… Our poetry can bring joy or render tears. We are tellers of truth. And as fiction writers, at our best, we are clever liars. Simply put, we are amazing!”

In addressing the trepidation many burgeoning writers feel about joining a writer’s group, O’Neill likens it to what’s called the imposter syndrome. Who am I to say I’m a writer?

“Sometimes they’re intimidated by the skill they witness when other members share their stories. What they soon realize though is even the most seasoned writer, at one time, felt the exact same way.

Once they settle in and see the caring and sharing that takes place through constructive feedback, positive reinforcement, and endless encouragement, (and a bit of fun), they realize Writers’ Ink is the place to grow as a writer.”

Thanks were extended to the 30th Anniversary Celebration committee headed by Lauranne Hemmingway and all the volunteers who made the night a great success, to Writers’ Ink members and guests in attendance, and to the Golden Circle for catering the event.

Writers’ Ink meets every Tuesday, alternately via Zoom or in-person at Calder School at 2879 Botterill Crescent, Red Deer. For more information email