History of the Village Writers Group
The Village Writers Group began in the fall of 1978 with a class at Evening at Emory, called "Unblocking the Writers Block," taught by Neil Shulman, an Emory University physician, and Spencer Ragsdale, Editor-in-Chief of the Dekalb News/Sun. When the class was over no one wanted to leave, so they formed a group of six people, who regularly met around a table in Ed Green’s restaurant in Emory Village and called themselves the Village Writers Group. By spring of ’79 the group had grown to about 25. The first critique group was started that summer. The Village Writers Group incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in October 1979.
Over the next ten years VWG had a total of 537 dues-paying members. In that same ten years we had 113 speakers—editors, authors, and publishers including nationally known writers such as novelists Bill Diehl, Terry Kay, Pat Conroy, and Ferrol Sams; nonfiction writers Melissa Faye Greene and Middle East expert Sandra Mackey; and local favorites such as Atlanta Journal/Constitution critic Eleanor Ringel (Gillespie). The nonfiction group, hosted by VWG's mother superior Helen Friese, flourished for more than two decades and its members had many books and articles published. Award-winning poet Dorothy Worth hosted and led the VWG poetry group for many years. Several novels have emerged from the novel group, which often has a waiting list. Additional critique groups form according to interest and participation.
On the tenth anniversary, Governor Joe Frank Harris issued a proclamation of our tenth anniversary with past presidents Chris Valley, Helen Friese, and Debbie Bowling present. AJC Columnist Joe Cumming Jr. wrote, “The Village Writers Group is doing more than any writers’ organization in Atlanta.”
After we outgrew Ed Green’s restaurant, we met on the Emory University campus and then at Decatur Federal's Sky Room, where it was not unusual to have 100 people in attendance at a monthly meeting. For a while we met under the Budweiser sign at Manuel’s Tavern. Finally the Dekalb Library became our home, first at the Central Library and then at Avis Williams/Toco Hills branch on McConnell Street. When the library closed for rebuilding, we moved to Wordsmiths Books.
Other VWG events have been several writers’ workshops, short play contests, and social events. For years we had a picnic at Mathis Dairy in Dekalb County, now we have members’ holiday readings and an August social at a member’s home or a restaurant.
The Village Writer was published by VWG as a newsletter almost from the beginning. It grew to be a 16- to 20-page monthly. The first desktop published edition of the Village Writer, as opposed to typeset, came out in 1989. Then for a while it was more of a literary magazine managed by some Georgia State University students interested in writing. Today the 4-page monthly publicizes members’ news, thoughts, and work as well as announcements of speakers and upcoming events. It’s still the glue that holds us together.