The Chattanooga Writers’ Guild (CWG) was organized in 2001 with around 20 members. Founding members were Rebecca Cook and Jennifer Hoff, both graduate students at UTC, and Helga Kidder, a graduate of Vermont College, who was approached to help the women organize the CWG. She agreed to help and then created a poetry group. Prior to launching the CWG, the women organized monthly poetry readings at UTC (called Poetry Mondays) to see if there would be an interest in opportunities for writers to share their work. “Because of the success of Poetry Mondays, we decided to explore the possibility of a larger writing group to serve all genres – modeled after the Knoxville Writers Guild,” said Ms Hoff.
To make things more complicated, the first meeting, which was held in the Faculty Club at UTC, was on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. “Amazingly, we had over 30 people attend the meeting, and many commented that it provided them an outlet to escape the tragic news,” stated Ms Hoff.”
Ms Cook served as the first president and Ms Hoff as vice-president and with two groups – poetry and fiction, the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild was founded. “We were advised against organizing, not because it wasn’t a good idea, but because there was fear there wasn’t enough interest in the Chattanooga area,” stated Ms Kidder. “They were wrong.” She added. And they were. The CWG has grown to support nearly 350 writers in our community serving experienced and new writers in a variety of genres with a goal to help all improve their writing and achieve their writing goals.
Soon the CWG needed to hold their meetings in a larger facility and so they partnered with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month except for September and December. This partnership has proven a very healthy and good thing for both parties so far. As the CWG grows, future boards will have decisions to make on parking and space issues, but for the time-being, the CWG has a home in the auditorium of the downtown library.
In 2004 the CWG was designated a 501(c) (3) not-for profit organization. This gave them the ability to look for grants and seek alternative means of support for workshops and future writing contests. It also brought the CWG to a new level of organization in writing bylaws and forming a board of directors elected by the general membership. The CWG also began an aggressive plan to offer free writing workshops for the general with the first being held in 2009 along with the St. Andrew’s Center; in 2010 at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Library; and two workshops in 2011, the first at the John A. Patten Recreation Center in Lookout Valley and the second in conjunction with Dalton State College in Dalton, GA.
In 2009, the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Newsletter was first published. This emailed message reaches any person who signs up to receive it and is sent out usually once a week. It was also this year that the CWG Board of Directors held their first long-range planning session that led them to begin rebuilding the CWG website. A work in progress, the goal is to have it all in place by September 2011.
Currently there are seven writers groups in the CWG. Any member interested in forming a new group is welcome to do so. Membership in a group is contingent on being a paid member of the Guild. They include: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, writers for the Christian market, memoir, science fiction, and screenwriting.
Each year, the CWG provides excellent programs during the year. The annual meeting is held each September, a pot-luck picnic; a Christmas party is held in December; poetry month is celebrated in April; and in 2011 the first annual Celebration of Publication was held in August to honor those members who had been published during the year.
Each year with the election of new board members and new officers, the health and energy of the CWG continues to grow just as the membership. As each day passes, the needs of local writers are being met in increasing ways just as the three founders wished for so many years ago.
Priscilla N. Shartle