By Eila Algood
In 2010, I read about a weekly gathering of writers in the next town of Waimea on the big island of Hawai’i. I did not consider myself a writer, but decided I could go observe. I walked into the stark white room and was greeted with aloha by the eight people sitting in a circle. As I sat and listened, I felt surprisingly comfortable. I went back to the group two weeks later with a recent poem I’d written. As a Hawaiian man gave me positive, detailed feedback, I felt a deep sense of value. I became a regular to the group. A few months later they invited me to be part of their annual public reading.
I was excited to have the opportunity to share a poem. Three years of Toastmasters prepared me feel confident speaking in public. I went the extra yard and memorized my piece. When I spoke, I visually connected with the audience. Unfortunately, there was no one acting as emcee or keeping the readings on time and the scheduled two hour event became three hours long. At the next writer’s group meeting, I offered to organize a future public reading event to keep us on time. They were thrilled for the help and passed the baton to me. I decided it would run best if I was emcee and included a printed program with the writer’s names and title of the pieces they would be reading. My first crack at it was a success and I’ve been asked to lead the public readings ever since.
Two years into the writer’s group, I was asked to co-lead weekly meetings. I felt honored and enjoyed the opportunity to keep the group moving forward. I learned a lot about giving feedback, which was a key component of the group. I observed that telling someone who shared a four-page piece of his or her novel, “that was really good”, is quite useless. It is most valuable to be specific as to what works or does not work and what might make the piece more interesting or compelling. With that in mind I provide the best feedback I can and as a facilitator of the group, I ask questions to help other members define their thoughts. Ultimately, all feedback is opinion and up to the writer to use it however they want.
The group in Waimea is a forty-minute drive from my home, over a scenic, but long mountain road. In 2014 I began two writer’s groups in my small community of North Kohala on the northernmost tip of the big island of Hawai’i, which are currently active.
I’ve been thinking about going for a Master’s degree ever since I received a Bachelor of Science degree in business in 2006. The Transformative Language Arts degree offered at Goddard called to me. Rather than dive into an advance degree program, I began taking online classes at the TLA Network towards certification. I feel a kinship with the people of the TLA community. Being involved with TLA connects the dots for me of what I do as a leader of writer’s groups, a facilitator of readings by writers, as emcee of writer’s book launch events and as radio deejay. On my community radio show, Women’s Voices, I give airtime to sung and spoken words by female artists from my small community and around the world. The radio station can be streamed live on knkr.org thereby connecting Kohala to other communities around the world through women’s voices and vice versa.
TLA has confirmed the value of me as writer, the varied events I mentioned and my role within them as a way to connect community members, locally and globally.
Editor’s note: This blog post was submitted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the TLA Network Certification program.
A native New Yorker, who’s now living her dream of a sustainable life in Hawai’i with wife, Holly, Eila Algood has been expressing herself through writing since childhood. Her published works include, “On The Road To Bliss, A Poetic Journey”, “Rhapsody in Bohemia”, pieces in Frida Magazine and Think Pink Anthology.