Barrington group brings words to life

"Doc" Syverson, Becky Simms, and Donna Syverson read "Because I Said So," by Christina W. Stoval at Barrington Writers Workshop's event last year in the BCAC Gallery.
"Doc" Syverson, Becky Simms, and Donna Syverson read "Because I Said So," by Christina W. Stoval at Barrington Writers Workshop's event last year in the BCAC Gallery.

BARRINGTON — Just as Ernest Hemingway found Paris to be a writer’s paradise, many have found Barrington to be the place to create their own written works.

While the village is known for its great schools, beautiful homes and convenient access to Chicago, it also has a vibrant creative community with many outlets for writers to expand their craft.

One is the Barrington Writers Workshop. The group started 35 years ago as a part of the Barrington Area Arts Council, which shut down in July 2007 due to a lack of funding.

When the council closed its doors, BWW members decided they had to keep their writing group going. Nearly six years later, the group has more than 70 members from throughout the northwest suburbs and even a few from Wisconsin. They meet weekly.

Tamara Tabel has been the organization’s president since the group branched off.

“I would describe us as a critique group,” she said.

Authors bring in various kinds of written work, from poems to novels to screenplays, and provide hard copies to other members. The author reads his or her work out loud, and then other members critique it, as well as put comments on the hard copies. The writer then takes home all of the marked-up copies.

“You’re getting a very comprehensive feel from different writers coming in from different perspectives,” Tabel said. “It’s really scary to read your work in public for the first time. It gives you an honest perspective on your work from people that are writers like you. Nobody has an agenda.”

Eventually, after working with the group to perfect their pieces, some writers will work on getting published.

To help them develop further, BWW has partnered with the Barrington Cultural Arts Center and the TesserAct Theater for an event April 19, where writers will do live readings of their work. The performances will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at the BCAC Gallery in the Ice House Mall.

“When you write things and keep them in your file drawers, they never seem real,” Tabel said. “Getting that connection to people really brings it alive.”

Mary O’Donnell, the innkeeper at the Barrington House Bed and Breakfast, said she has a number of writers as guests. The historic home, where guest rooms each have a writing desk, provides a setting in the heart of Barrington’s historic district for people to get their creative juices flowing.

O’Donnell said Barrington’s appreciation of creativity is a reason people might choose to work here.

“When you have people that value creative expression, it kind of snowballs,” she said.

She added that having the support of the community makes it easier to be creative.

When she does have writers in town, she sends them down Station Street to TT Patton, a custom stationery and fine writing materials shop. Owner Theresa Patton provides local writers with everything they could possibly need, from imported, leather-bound journals to high-end fountain pens.

Going from elegant papers and pens down to the store’s basement, visitors are transported to a different world, where the walls are covered in a whimsical mural. This is where TT Patton holds its annual summer camps, where young writers also get the chance to thrive. They can learn to develop their storytelling in creative writing and short stories classes, or focus on developing the letters themselves, through cursive writing or calligraphy.

Adele Fredrickson, a seventh-grader at Middle School North in Hawthorn Woods, took both journalism and calligraphy classes when she was in fourth grade. She said both have helped her in school.

“The journalism helps because it helps me organize my ideas and put them into a story that makes sense,” she said.

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