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From yoga to story writing, library offers volumes more than books

What do writing workshops, book talks, roundtable discussions, concerts and yoga dance classes have in common? They are all being offered for free at the Warwick Public Library.

While some meet only once, others gather more often.

“A little over a year ago we made a serious effort to try and have some ongoing programs that meet bi-weekly throughout the year,” said Wil Gregersen, the Library’s community services librarian who arranges programs for adults. “My goal is to have as many different kinds of events as we can and to serve the community. There are more than 80,000 people here and certainly more than 80,000 interests, so I try to keep it diverse.”

The events are mostly directed by volunteer community members, including Barbara McKerracher, RN, who leads Writing from Memory: A Self-Discovery Roundtable. The group meets every other Tuesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. through Oct. 29.

Each session begins with a writing exercise that asks participants to remember a part of their life. Then, they are invited to read their story to the group but are not obligated to. The next roundtable is Sept. 17. Arrive ready to write with paper and pen.

“Barbara loves what she’s doing,” Gregersen said. “She’s thrilled to have a place host her.”

McKerracher, who has been published in Nursing Magazine and other publications, started the group out of her Warwick home about 15 years ago. As the group grew, they began meeting in local eateries. She is pleased to hold the roundtable at the Library, which she has been doing since last spring.

“We have so much fun,” she said.

McKerracher has worked at Army hospitals throughout the world and various nursing homes, providing her with an array of ideas for stories. After earning a diploma from Children’s Hospital in Boston, she received a degree in U.S. History from Rhode Island College, as well as a certificate in Thanatology, the study of death and dying, from the University of Rhode Island.

In 2002, she won a scholarship through the Cremation Society of Rhode Island to study with Dr. Alan Wolfelt, the world’s leading thanatologist.

“Part of the reason I won was because I said I wanted to start writing groups in funeral homes,” she said. “My thought was that everyone who comes to the wake write a quick story about the person that’s in the casket. Then, I would take the stories home, type them up, put them in a book and give it to the family.”

While she is yet to formally set this idea in motion at funeral homes, it’s been successful in other areas. For her 60th birthday party, everyone who attended wrote a brief story about their relationship with her. She realized the stories highlighted each segment of her life.

“Every person has a story to tell, and everybody’s story is important,” she said. “We need to write about the common person.”

Aside from McKerracher’s group, the Library will host a Poetry Writing Roundtable by the Ocean State Poets, scheduled to meet bi-weekly from Sept. 11 to Dec. 18 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The group also holds roundtables at schools and prisons throughout Rhode Island.

“We’re just a very small part of what they do,” Gregersen said, noting that the group aims to provide poets with inspiration, suggestions and artistic rapport.

Another event is Writing Teen Fiction: A Workshop for Adults, to be led by Rebecca Maizel, best-selling author of teen novels “Infinite Days” and “Stolen Nights.” This six-week workshop gathers on Thursdays, including Sept. 12, 19 and 26 and Oct. 3, 10 and 17 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

It invites participants to work on and develop a short story or a chapter from an anticipated teen novel. Each member is to bring six copies of a 10-page chapter or story, double-spaced in a 12-point font, to the first class on Sept. 12. It is limited to 10 writers, so register online at warwicklibrary.org or call 739-5440, extension 4, as soon as possible.

Maizel, a graduate of Boston University, Rhode Island College, and Vermont College of Fine Arts, teaches literature at the Community College of Rhode Island.

“Last year, Rebecca did a program for four weeks where she got people started on writing teen fiction,” said Gregersen. “She went through the basics – what you want to think about, how to structure things, character building and that sort of stuff. This time around, she’s coming back with a more intensive program where they are going to sit down and workshop it. They can really dig into the writing and get going as writers.”

On Sept. 24 at 7 p.m., Paul Lonardo, who co-wrote “From the Ashes: Surviving the Station Nightclub Fire,” with Gina Russo, will visit the Library for a talk on the fire, which claimed 100 lives.

Lonardo, also the co-author of “Life, with Cancer: The Lauren Terrazzano Story” and “Caught in the Act: A Family’s Fight to Save Their Daughter from a Serial Killer” and the author of “Strike IX,” will not only discuss the fire, but his participation in “The Station,” a documentary film series by local filmmaker David Bettencourt. Participants must register in advance.

Other events include Café Socrates, a current issues discussion group taking place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 9 and 23 and Oct. 7 and 21, as well as Good Knitting, A Get Together for knitters that meets bi-weekly through Dec. 16, with the next session on Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Music and dance events are also available, such as a concert of original acoustic folk jazz with singer-songwriter Megan Gilbert and saxophonist Mitch Kaplan on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. Gilbert is the lead vocalist and songwriter for Providence pop-jazz trio Megan and the Dream Casters, while Kaplan studied with Greg Abate and Mark Earle and has played at the Newport and Kool Jazz Festivals.

And discover how to live in the present moment with a yoga dance workshop held Oct. 1, 8, 15 and 22 at 7 p.m. with Mary Scannell, a certified Kripalu Institute yoga dance instructor who will teach participants how yoga dance can encourage mindfulness and how gratitude, journaling and a focus on the inner child can help increase awareness.

Yoga dance uses a blend of guided and spontaneous movements to boost concentration, promote fitness and relieve stress. The class starts with planned steps and eventually sets dancers free to create their own patterns of movement. Dress comfortably and bring a yoga mat, journal and water.

Other events include Boston singer-songwriter Thea Hopkins, who plans to visit the Library in late October. In November the Library will host a screening of second season of “Downton Abbey,” as the Library showed the first season earlier this summer.

The same month, Dr. Stanley Carpenter, a professor from the U.S. Naval War College, will visit to talk about the war for American independence, while another professor and Indian classical musician, Srinivas Reddy, will be visiting for a performance in December.

For more information on these events, call 739-5440, extension 221, and register via extension 4. The Library is located at 600 Sandy Lane.


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