The Tillsonburg Writer’s Circle met for the first time on March 19, 2015. There were 20 people in attendance with a wide range of skills and backgrounds from farmers wanting to document the history of an organization, to writers, poets and songwriters who had published books and even a few of his former students. Robin, who had organized and led the group, asked members how the group was to run. It was decided to meet biweekly for two hours and to have a writing assignment to complete and an opportunity to share their writings for the group to provide creative feedback. Robin told the group that “we are all story-tellers” and suggested to write a page each day, about 570 words.
One goal of the Writer’s Circle that Robin suggested was paying dues to have a 50 – 50 draw and to raise money to either send a student to a Writer’s Conference or for a bursary. I’m thinking that a bursary for a student would be most fitting in honour of Robin Barker-James.
Robin Barker-James was an extraordinary man. Not only was he the author of the book The Last Trench Fighter that he made into a play in 2012 called “1914: The Last Trench Fighter” he was a military historian who was the founding member of the Tillsonburg Military History Club in 2007 and the former President. He so much loved the history of World War I that he dug trenches on his Tillsonburg property, the Bill Findley Outdoor Education Centre (Barker-James Outdoor History Site) where for 18 years he ran educational programs for students to experience first-hand what life, death, combat and the horrors of the First World War was like with his Trench Tours.
Robin was a retired history, English and Drama teacher at Glendale High School who was well-loved by his students. (Read the following article entitled Robin Barker-James "a legend of a man" from one of his former students, Leslie Waghorn.) For his dedication in bringing outdoor experiences to his students, Robin Barker-James received the Diamond Jubilee Medal on June 25, 2012.
("Created in 2012 to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, this commemorative medal served to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians. During the year of celebrations, 60 000 deserving Canadians were recognized.") (Both text and image cited from website: https://www.gg.ca/document.aspx?id=14019&lan=eng)
The Woodstock Writer’s Circle
A memorial service will be held for Robin at the Lions Auditorium, Tillsonburg Community Centre, on Saturday May 30, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. Author and former Woodstock resident Vicki Van Sickle spoke on April 16, 2015 about Getting Published at the Woodstock Public Library. Who knew that that would be the last time we would see Robin Parker-James alive? He was present when Darlene Pretty, Manager of Public Services at the Woodstock Public Library, announced that Robin would be starting a Writer’s Circle on May 6, 2015 and showed the book mark with his picture on it. Five days later, Robin James-Barker died in his sleep of sudden cardiac arrest.
Fred stated that everyone was asking him why he doesn’t write a book. So he did. Called Grandpa Fred and The Shinplaster is a collection of 28 articles that Fred Freeman has written over the years. He writes “about anything and everything.” One example is an article on Home Children, in 1910, 100,000.00 children from England came to Canada to work. Fred said his father-in-law was a Home Child. He also passed around one of his latest articles from his column entitled Big Becky the first power plant at Niagara Falls. You could hear the passion in Fred’s voice as he provided the history of the plant.
Over the last two weeks Pete wrote about 200 pages. Nevertheless, Pete reported he was not satisfied with his progress. I informed Pete that given his situation and how far he has come, it was phenomenal! His story was amazing and many of the other group members told him they could not wait to read his finished product.
In an attempt to "open the door" to her grandchildren about death and dying, Wendy Cooper wrote her book My Heart Will Sing. Other members of the Writer's Circle shared their "homework" assignment with the group. The topic was red hat and everyone who contributed had good stories. People felt this was a safe place to read their writing, something they would not have imagined doing before.
Group Facilitator, Jackie Thompson, Information Services at the Woodstock Public Library, shared her research on finding an agent and on writer’s block. Just like Robin Barker-James stated, "all that is required" to attend the Writer's Circle "is a desire to write." It is no wonder that Oxford County has numerous authors like Brian Reynolds, a member of the evening book club, who published his first novel entitled Mouse with Smashwords, an on-line publishing website. Also, author Elaine Cougler who will be at the Norwich Public Library on June 16th at 6:30 p.m. to talk about her book Loyalist Luck Book Two of Loyalist Trilogy.
Other Writing Clubs
Norwich Library Writing Club - meets the 1st Wednesday each month
Time: 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. at the Norwich Public Library
Next meeting: Wednesday June 3, 2015
Tillsonburg Writer’s Circle - meets the 2nd & 4th Thursday each month
Time: 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. at Tillsonburg Library's Program Room
Next meeting: Thursday June 11, 2015
Woodstock Writer’s Circle - meets the 1st & 3rd Wednesday each month
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. in the Meeting Room at the Woodstock Public Library
Next meeting: Wednesday June 3, 2015
Contact: 519-539-4801 Ext. 3001