Kate Deeks moved to Astoria about four years ago and began working with local writers through her job as a writing instructor assistant at Clatsop Community College. About three years ago she joined the Astoria Library Advisory Board and began facilitating a bi-monthly writing group called Write Astoria at the Astoria Public Library.
“Writing has always been a passion. I was a bookworm as a child and wrote stories, then I learned the business of writing by working with Wordstock Literary Arts. Now I procrastinate writing by teaching writing. I tell my students that the best way to procrastinate is to teach,” says Deeks.
Approximately four years ago Deeks met mayor-to-be Arline LaMear at the Pacific Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Astoria. LaMear convinced Deeks to join the Library Advisory Board, and Ami Kreider convinced her to pick up a writing group that used to meet, but was not active at the time. “It was something that I was always interested in doing,” Deeks adds.
Portland has Dangerous Writers. Astoria has Write Astoria. At the first meeting of Write Astoria two years ago, five people attended. Now the meetings regularly have between five and fifteen participants, and several of the members have been involved since the beginning. Anybody is welcome to join the group, and people are allowed to attend meetings as they wish. The tag line for the group is, “We’re very serious about not taking ourselves too seriously.”
Deeks starts each meeting with an introduction, and everybody is introduced to the group. Then Deeks offers a recap from the previous meeting before offering a brief meditation to set the tone. Next, individuals have eight minutes or less to frame or introduce their work and read their writing. Finally, the group offers feedback. Most of the time, it is just a couple of minutes of feedback, but other times the group gets into a discussion.
“I have had people tell me that it’s easier to read their work aloud in this setting compared to other places. I pick people to read based on eye contact. The meetings have structure, but they are also relaxed,” Deeks explains.
Deeks guessed about 40% of Write Astoria participants write poetry and 60% write fiction and non-fiction. “There are no genre snobs in our group,” she adds. Participants have won awards for their writing, and some have published work that they shared with the group. Participants build relationships and find reliable beta-readers for their work. Deeks sees this as an important benefit of the group.
Write Astoria held their first showcase in October and plans to hold two more in 2018. At the showcase, the majority of the writers who shared their work were doing a public reading for the first time. Deeks defines one of the successes of the group as when people are inspired and encouraged by other group members. The showcase was a chance to demonstrate some of that success.
Deeks enjoys this work and feels that there are a lot of spiritual perks that come with it. One of these perks is building community. “Connecting with other people can be hard in town; Write Astoria brings people together,” she explains. One of her goals is to get young women writers involved with the group and encouraged to write. “Everybody has a story to tell, but this group is my special passion.”
Beyond her work with Write Astoria and at Clatsop Community College, Deeks is passionate about getting people involved with the community and is an important person at the Astoria Public Library. She has been the chair of the Library Advisory Board for over a year and is also on the Astoria Public Library Foundation board. “If I am here, hopefully I can get young people involved.” Deeks talks about the importance of getting young people on boards and involved with the community. “Being on a board is a good way to learn how things work. We need people to be involved to make things happen in our town.”
Write Astoria meets two times each month — the first and third Wednesdays — from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Flag Room at the Astoria Public Library.