BOYNE CITY -- Eight people, eight writers and eight voices have all come together to collaborate in one recently published volume titled "Voices from the Boyne." This little book is a compilation of essays, stories and poems that smack of all things Boyne and Northern Michigan.
The participating authors present their work and open themselves to a readership outside of the Boyne Writer's Circle for the first time as a joint effort. Many of the writers are already published in other books and magazines, some have songs they have performed on other stages or sermons they have preached in other pulpits, one combines her painting with poetry, and several are fishermen who will let you join them as they walk in their waders. Whatever their "day job," they take pride and pleasure in their avocation as writers: they are puzzle makers, artists, ministers, singer/songwriters, authors of books, outdoorsmen and observers of nature and humanity.
The Boyne Writer's Circle began just three years ago in June of 2009 under the auspices of the Boyne Arts Collective. Founder Anne Thurston-Brandly, a Boyne City resident, published book author, newspaper columnist and fine arts major, was at the helm as the project took off and grew from two members to the eight represented in "Voices." She believes each member, upon his or her arrival, brought an additional contribution of knowledge, experience and a passion for writing to the circle.
"I assist members not only in their writing but also in any illustrating and book covers," Thurston-Brandly said.
She herself feels enriched by the friends she has made as part of the group.
"We have fun," she explained. "This past season we learned the 'how' of self-publishing."
In the collection, she shares an excerpt from her "The Book of Anne" (2008), a memoir of the raising of three orphaned grandchildren.
Phil Dickinson of Alanson creates intriguing aviation stories and clever crossword puzzles and was "drawn into the group by Anne Thurston's enthusiasm and passion for writing, I first met her at the kick-off meeting for the Writer's Circle in June, 2009. Writing can be a lonely affair and getting together twice a month with others in similar disposition helps in our need to share ideas and provide support for one another. We enjoy each other's company, as diverse as we are, to listen, to learn and to laugh as much as we can. Writing our book was a joy ... "
Betty Randall Farrier grew up spending her summers on Walloon Lake. She has found inspiration in combining her love of painting with writing. Her first book "The Whimsical World of Make-Believe" was published in 2011. She has found the Writer's Circle very supportive of her work.
"Our group is always ready to give praise where praise is due and critiquing when any one of us asks for help with their writing," Farrier said.
She enjoys the diversity in age of the members that comprise the group.
Retired Episcopal priest Jim Hempstead, a resident of Petoskey, expressed his participation in the Boyne Writer's Circle in this way: "I have learned important things, bits and tips and insights from each member of the group. I've come to trust each and all to be honest, kind and genuinely interested not just in me but in each other and each one's efforts. A gourd-green beginner, I've found freedom to write good, bad, or otherwise. I've had great fun in the company of all my writer friends."
Hempstead's writing gives the reader spiritual insight into questions and dilemmas that face us all. His essays include a reflection on his tenure as one-time chaplain for a professional baseball team.
An accomplished Boyne area singer-songwriter Michael Lee Seiler is a solo acoustic entertainer who takes on a variety of musical genres but blues are his specialty. He won at the Mid North Michigan Blues Challenge in Traverse City in 2008 and in 2009 the Northern Express acclaimed him as one of the "Best Acoustic Blues Artists in Northern Michigan."
"As a singer-songwriter, conveying ideas, feelings and emotions through music is very fulfilling, but you just can't write a song about some things," Seiler explained.
"Some ideas are much bigger. I wrote the occasional blog, but some things need to be articulated in a manner not conducive to four minutes of music. The urge to start putting these ideas down in a different structure was very strong and the Writer's Circle offered that opportunity."
For Jason Tucker, Northern Michigan resident who writes from the grassroots level as an observer of nature, being invited to join the Boyne Writer's Circle was a validation of his feelings as a writer.
" ... to be part of this group has meant a lot to me," Tucker said. "There is something tangible and satisfying to be able to sit face to face with other writers, to see that they are just like me, that they have the same hopes and dreams and this same inexplicable desire to put their thoughts in writing and to be read and appreciated by others ... I work in construction but for the first time in my life there is a large cross section of people who know me only as a writer."
Here is Tucker's advice as a result of his own experience: "I would encourage any artist out there, regardless of media, to network with their fellows. It's not just about camaraderie, but the need to share ideas, fears, hopes, dreams and to air out the laundry particular to their craft."
Hap Wright is an outdoorsman who lives on the lower Boyne River. His inclusion in "Voices" is a historical folk story recounting the Great Winter Storm of 1913 and how Theresa Walks-a-Lot, a full-blood Odawa, and her high school history classmate Lester Peaksville survived it ... barely. His story is an example of how the writers in "Voices" allow the reader passage into the world of their creation. Wright put his participation in the Writer's Circle simply: "We are friends that write."
Winner of the Michigan Hemingway Society's 2011 Short Story Writing Contest and published author of "Hawgeye," his first book, Chris Weston of Petoskey is an avid outdoorsman and draws inspiration from his environment "tucked in a remote setting of ponds, creeks and cedars." He is an enthusiastic member of two writing groups, Boyne Writer's Circle and the Charlevoix Writer's Group. In reference to the evolution of "Voices," Weston said,"It was neat to work collectively in the process from beginning to end. We'll put it out locally knowing there are readers who will pick it up and find something that strikes a familiar chord in their lives."
Boyne Writer's Circle meets 5:30 p.m. every other Monday at Boyne City Library. The eight members of the group welcome new members who are interested in writing and publishing. "Voices," published this year, is a collaborative effort, a sample of each member's work. It is available at Boyne Arts Collective and through Writer's Circle members. "Voices" will be for sale during the SOBO festival in Boyne City on Friday and Saturday, June 29-30.