Above: Aimee O’Grady and Lachelle Yoder of Allegro Community School for the Arts
Allegro School of the Arts’ Inklings Society creates space and programs for writers young and old
How do you become a better writer, or publish a book? Many writers depend heavily on, and learn from, the advice and suggestions of other writers, both published and unpublished. The give-and-take conversations, the teasing apart of themes and paragraphs, and the friendly camaraderie have long been a tradition among writers as they develop their craft and weave their stories. Sometimes writers formed formal or informal groups to discuss works in progress. One such group, the Inklings Society, originated in the 1930s and ’40s at Oxford University and was comprised of a group of about 20 literary friends which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They often gathered for libations, sharing written drafts, and lively conversation. The Lord of the Rings was one of the works shared and discussed at their meetings. Since then, other groups of writers have formed similar informal groups and resurrected the Inklings nickname.
Now Allegro Community School of the Arts has started their own Inlinkgs Society for the community. Although it doesn’t serve beer like Lewis and Tolkien enjoyed together, the camaraderie that is offered and the opportunity for local writers to congregate, critique, encourage, and connect exists all the same. The addition of this new program will expose both new writers and seasoned published writers of all ages to an audience for collaborative feedback. Board member Aimee O’Grady explains that even simply reading your own work out loud can really change how you see it and the effect it can have on your readers as an audience.
The writer’s retreat for Inklings Society is designed to be available for anyone who needs somewhere to write or even do homework. The relaxed, comfortable atmosphere in the Allegro basement at 5 Culpeper Street is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with Thursday night meetups from 5:30-6:30 p.m. so that writers can meet other like-minded individuals and present their work for critique and encouragement.
The Inklings Society is a new venture that will include speakers and workshops from both local and regional authors. O’Grady enthusiastically explains that writers can even request a workshop or speaker on any specific topic that interests them. “If someone requests it, we will do our best to find a speaker for it,” she says.
While the program is not specifically designed for just the young writers, O’Grady says that providing this type of literacy education can help kids to become more deliberate about what they are writing, not just limiting it to a certain number of words or letters for social media. Writing stories forces them to develop characters, situations, and resolutions while also encouraging them to add descriptions and emotions to their works.
In fact, Allegro has formed a partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs to enhance these children’s lives by meeting with them monthly to write parts of a story together. While kids more often than not see writing as a form of punishment, these visits have changed the narrative into something they enjoy. Their first story began with writing first-person scripts from the mind of a soldier and then somehow moved on to sea monsters. Each student writes from their own character’s point-of-view and each character has a chapter. O’Grady explains that this partnership also allows them to develop talents of kids who have an affinity for drawing too so illustrating the story can be their specific contribution to the book. These kids could quite possibly go on to be published in the future. What a positive experience for kids in our community.
No matter how the Inklings Society evolves and takes shape, it is sure to produce a whole new generation of new authors and new stories to captivate those of us who get lost in a book.
The addition of this literary arm adds to the already impressive list of creative programs offered at Allegro, including recording and visual arts, music therapy, choirs and vocal ensembles, orchestra, vocal theatre, dance, and even creative aging and music academy for the blind. With the theatre program giving kids and adults an outlet for creative talents behind the scenes with costumes, scenery, and lighting and even props and woodworking, those who do have the courage for the stage will hone skills in public speaking, confidence, and simply standing in front of an audience. Twice a year — once in the fall and once in the spring — thespians act out their characters on stage for the community.