Whether leaving written legacies for the next generation, or just writing for the sheer joy of it, the prolific community of resident writers at Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach Virginia is expressing themselves in their own personal way, and giving back to the world with their talent.
For almost 20 years, a rotating group of nearly 20 writers has been gathering to explore and creates using the written word. Initially starting with a group of retired professional scribes, the Atlantic Shores Writer’s Group has grown to encompass a wide variety of authors in a variety of genres.
Meeting twice monthly, the first gathering is a free-form session, with each member reading something they’ve written on a subject of their choice. Leaning to the personal strengths and interests of each member, styles range from memoirs and poems to short stories and fiction — including the ongoing adventures of “Three-Fingered Jack.”
At the second monthly meeting, members lend their personal styles to a single common topic, chosen to challenge their creative juices. No topic is too off-beat to be tackled, including identifying their signs from the Chinese zodiac calendar, and expressing how closely the descriptions match their individual personalities.
This diverse group spans a wide range of writing abilities but shares a common love of writing. Some members come from career paths involving writing, from technical writers to textbook publishers. Others have taught writing to the next generation, serving as English teachers and college Communications professors.
Some are discovering writing as a new creative expression for the first time, evolving from prior careers as diverse as scientific lab professionals, military engineering psychologists, ministers, and interior designers. The group’s “non-critiquing” format allows members to write for the sheer joy of writing, and to build great friendships along the way. They also learn about life through each other’s words.
Shirley Dowdy came from a career publishing textbooks on math and statistics. A resident at Atlantic Shores for less than two years, she enjoys time with her fellow members as, “a great way to get to know each other.” Her favorite thing about the group is the motivation it provides her with. “I’ve been writing short stories on and off for years. Being in this group is a great encouragement to consistently write. The need to produce something for the next meeting really keeps me on track!”
Each year, the group self-published two short compendiums of member’s work, as a tangible way to share and carry forward their writing. Each chapter begins with a bio of each writer, followed by their chosen composition. All group members receive copies, which are then given as treasured gifts to family and friends, placed in the Atlantic Shores library, and circulated throughout the neighborhood.
Residents throughout the community with a love for writing are also producing published works that explore their passions, or monumental times in their lives. Some are also using sales proceeds from their works to support causes important to them.
Former group member Doris C. Baker served as teacher and principal of the U.S. Army Elementary and Junior High Schools in Bad Tolz, Germany, the first overseas assignment base for the 1/10th Special Forces Group Airborne (Green Berets). Her experiences served as the basis for Doris’ book, The Originals – the only book about the Green Berets written by a female author, which chronicles an American woman caught in the dangerous lives of these extraordinary men. Sales of autographed copies benefited the Colonial Chapter of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, an organization that educates children on the principles of citizenship, leadership, and honor.
Resident and retired Virginia Beach City fishing blogger Mike Halperin turned his love of Virginia saltwater fishing into a popular fishing memoir, True Tales of the Tide: An Angler’s Lifelong Quest. In its pages, readers discover the adventure of fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, and Mikes’s thrill of catching a 673-pound, Virginia state-record dusky shark. A portion of the books’ royalties is being donated to the Healing Waters Fly Fishing Project, which teaches wounded veterans and PTSD victims to fly fish as part of their recovery, at no cost to the veterans. The book is available on Amazon.com, as well as on Virginia Living Magazine’s online store, VirginiaLiving.com.
Using his writing talents to benefit a charity that is close to his heart, according to Mike, “is meaningful and makes me feel fulfilled. As a Navy veteran, I have empathy for vets that return home injured. This organization provides a marvelous way for them to heal surrounded by the beauty of nature.”