Writing group


Char Torkelson Howard provides coaching on the writing and publishing process through a weekly writing group and workshops. She is pictured (front right) with members of the group during a book launch party in 2017 for Andrea Hayes’ book “A Slice of Magic.”

As the days become shorter and cooler, people are beginning to look for hobbies that can be enjoyed indoors.

Local author Patricia Ronchetto suggests writing as a “wonderful outlet for those looking for something to do during COVID-19 or anytime.”

“I have spoken with many people who would love to write stories, either their own memoirs or many other subjects, especially during COVID-19,” said the Plymouth resident who is working on her seventh book. “It is a positive way to avoid depression and keep your mind on other things.”

As a self-publisher, Ronchetto has been working with Golden Valley resident and author Char Torkelson Howard, who has served as her mentor through the writing, editing and publishing process.

Howard has been teaching writing classes each week in her home and works with a group of five to 10 writers during a weekly writers group, offering guidance with the process.

After Howard wrote her first book, “Get Fit While You Sit,” which was published by Hunter House (now Turner Publishing) in 1999, she decided to share her writing and publishing experience with other writers.

She began teaching writing classes 13 years ago through community education programs in Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Wayzata and Golden Valley.

A few years back, she made the decision to consolidate all of her classes into one class that meets at 6 p.m. every Monday evening in her home studio in Golden Valley.

Several years ago, Howard was inspired by a local author, who had self-published a trilogy that became so successful she was approached by a traditional publisher with a multi-million dollar signing deal for her next series of books.

Using that same publisher and learning the process, Howard was able to write, edit, format and publish her own mystery series for free all on her own.

“I began to pass along the process to other writers, and now our writing group has published many, many books, as well as magazine articles and poems,” she said.

The classes have evolved from her community education writing classes to guidance on editing, formatting and cover design (she has an art degree), and uploading to the publishing site.

“The really big thing now is to do something that is safe,” Howard said, noting writing is also another hobby that can be done at home.

Her classes also allow for social distancing and the members wear masks if indoors. They meet outdoors if the weather permits.

Howard said she is impressed by the diverse group of writers who attend each week.

For instance, some write novels or memoirs, while others write poetry or short stories.

In addition to the weekly writing group, Howard hosts workshops on topics related to the writing and publishing process and includes exercises and sharing of experiences.

For example, the August workshop was on how to motivate yourself as a writer.

Her next workshop will be 4-5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, on promoting and marketing.

Group member Kate Towle has been working on a novel about interracial friendship and wanted to explore paths to getting her work published.

“Char understands not only the strength and vibrancy that comes from putting our stories to words, but also the liberation that comes from having a path to get them into print,” Towle said. “Working with Char and her writing course frees writers like me to honor the value of our own story and the confident steps needed to bring it out into the open.”

Plymouth resident and author Andrea Hayes, aka AG Mayes, has been a part of the writing group since 2014 and self-published “A Slice of Magic” in the fall of 2017. The book was picked up by a publisher the next year.

For Hayes, being a part of the weekly writing group is inspiring because she can hear so many different works, which sparks creativity and helps build confidence as a writer.

Hayes encourages anyone interested in writing a book to start writing any scenes that are in their head.

“Don’t worry about the whole book. Don’t worry about the plot. Start writing scenes, and you can put it together later,” she said.

If the blank page is intimidating, Hayes suggests trying a voice-to-text app and start telling your story.

“It’s good to get words on the page, no matter how you do it. Remember, the first draft can be absolutely terrible. It’s through editing that you can really make your story sparkle, but you need to get it down first,” Hayes said.

“I also think it’s important to connect with other writers,” she said. “Find a writing group, take a writing class, follow other writers on social media.”

To learn more about the weekly writing groups or upcoming workshops, contact Howard at tctork@msn.com or call 612-709-6399. More information at chartorkelson.com.

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