The piles of old literature in The Book Hound were pushed aside last week to make room for a fledgling writers group.
The narrow front room of the downtown used book shop was stocked with designer coffee and apple bars, creating a setting designed to bring out the intellectuals.
Friday was the first meeting of what store owner Dan Weaver described as a creative writers support group. Puttering around his shop the day before the meeting, he explained that writers need a place to hang out and bounce ideas around.
“When you don’t have encouragement, you don’t write,” he said, which is a fairly recent change of heart for Weaver.
Back in college he was turned off by the negativity of class-required workshops.
“They could be brutal,” he said.
For the next 20 years, he avoided workshop groups altogether, writing poetry, essays and opinion pieces for The Sunday Gazette with little input.
Recently, he felt the lack of writerly conversation. He attended a short-term group in Middleburgh, but couldn’t find one closer to home. A few of his friends had the same thought.
“We live in the Amsterdam area,” said Douglas Davidson, who attended the first meeting. “It’s not exactly an intellectual hub of ideas.”
He pointed out that there are still many “idea people” in the area, but that they feel isolated and “a little under siege by the digital age.”
“People who love books love to talk to other people who love books,” he said.
Eight such book and writing lovers turned out to join the new group.
Weaver suggested a few simple writing exercises for the next meeting, but the group’s main purpose is for writers to connect on a personal level. “This is just a place to hang out for people who don’t want to go to a football game or watch TV on a Friday night,” he said.
At future meetings he plans to bring in interesting people to talk about interesting things — even if topics stray away from writing.
Eventually, he’ll set up an old film night, using an 8 mm projector bought at a garage sale for a quarter.
At some point, Davidson will give a talk about the heirloom apple orchard he runs in the town of Florida.
Once people are comfortable around each other, Weaver said, writing critiques will be more productive. “When you have someone you know well enough to read your work and tell you honestly what they think,” he said, “that’s valuable.”
Weaver’s writers group will run every Friday starting at 6 p.m. in The Book Hound in downtown Amsterdam. Writers of all experience levels are welcome as long as they have a positive attitude.