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Mace & Crown | March 21, 2018

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Local Literary Group Invites Student Writers to Attend Events

Local Literary Group Invites Student Writers to Attend Events

By: M. Tinsley

Hampton Roads Writers (HRW), a non-profit Virginia Beach-based organization, is broaden­ing its network by sharing with the ODU com­munity who they are, what it is that they do, their mission and how students can benefit from at­tending their events.

Lauran Strait, the president and founder of the literary association, gave us a little history about the HRW.

“The group formed in [February] 2008, was incorporated in April of that year and received 501c3 nonprofit status in June 2008.”

Strait later added that there are roughly 125 members as of today, who have “given donations to the group.” However, she mentioned that be­tween 300 and 400 people have participated in HRW’s “sponsored events since its inception in 2008.”

Strait and advisory Board members Dr. Tom Cheezum, Linda Cobb, Lisa Drago, Lynn John­son, Anne Meek, Cecilia Robbins and Valerie Wilkinson spoke in detail about why student writers might be interested in attending their Open Mic Nights, workshops, classes and et ce­tera.

“The annual writers’ conference is an excel­lent mix of craft and industry knowledge that will benefit writers of all levels,” offered Wilkinson, also a graduate student at ODU of the Master of Fine Arts program. “Open mics offer monthly opportunities to share writing with the public,” she said.

“Our organization strives to provide educa­tion, opportunity, and encouragement,” conclud­ed Wilkinson.

“Student writers can develop awareness of skills, critiques, feedback, standards [and] vari­ous genre,” stated Meek.” “Writers will be chal­lenged to write more often and to write better.”

Drago, also the treasurer of HRW, volun­teered, “All events are open to everyone.”

“Open Mic events are always free,” she said.

Meek said in detail that the events that they have “bring people together throughout the re­gion, contributing to networking with editors, publishers, [and] support groups throughout the nation.” “Open mics enrich connections among writers – of various groups – older, younger, Asian, black, white, Native American,” she said.

Meek went on.

“Open mics also create awareness of the HRW within all the communities, plus the HRW is the only literary arts organization represented in the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads, yet the literary arts contribute to the financial health of Hampton Roads through conferences, publi­cations, and events.”

“You discover fellow writers at varied levels of expertise, both less experienced and more ex­perienced than you,” she said.

Robbins shared her perspective on the Open Mic Nights, saying that she found them to be “challenging.”

“They’ve brought out my inner ham, and in­troduced me to a growing community of writ­ers,” she said.

Dr. Cheezum, Cobb and Johnson agreed that Hampton Roads Writers’ intended mission was and still is to serve the Tidewater. These areas include Hampton, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk and Ports­mouth.

“Open Mics are held in all cities in Hampton Roads,” said Dr. Cheezum, referring to a vari­ety of workshops, like The Traveling Pen Series (TPS).

TPS, according to www.hamptonroadswrit­, teaches writers how to find their voices when writing a story, proofreading and creating characters that are hard to forget, among other things. The instructors who teach the workshops are published and established.

Although the Open Mics are free of charge, Drago told the Mace that the classes are $13 for members and $15 for non-members. She contin­ued, explaining the goings-on at the HRW con­ferences and the costs to attend.

“The writers’ conference includes a keynote address each day, first-pages critique sessions each day plus 12 workshops and opportunities to meet with an editor and an agent.”

“The cost is $110-125 for the 2-day confer­ence,” said Drago.

Strait pitched in.

“Full time students can attend for $35 plus $20 for lunch. That’s the best bargain in Hamp­ton Roads.

One of the keynote speakers scheduled to speak at HRW’s upcoming conference, which will take place at the Double Tree Hotel in Vir­ginia Beach later this month, is local Benjamin Herson.

Herson, Cheezum said, was selected among others as the ABC News “Persons of the Week” in August.

Anne Meek shed more light on HRW’s annual conferences.

She said it “brings together a community of writers.” Meek also said the conference “fosters connections among writers, editors, publishers, and readers, while Cobb summed up what it is like in three words.

“Informative, motivating, creative,” said Cobb.

Cheezum gave last remarks on the writers’ conference, saying that it “provides aspiring writers the opportunity to learn from and net­work with publishing industry insiders and other writers. It also gives writers exposure to educa­tional seminars to improve their writing skills.”

For student writers interested in learning more information about Hampton Roads Writers, visit

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