CEDAR RAPIDS — They write about love and loss. About happiness and sorrow. About procrastination and staying connected.
And, now, the Witwer Creative Writing Class could write about being homeless.
For 10 members - from their 50s well into their 80s - hold the weekly meeting in a small, crowded room at the back of Panara Bread in Southwest Cedar Rapids. They lament the loss of a meeting space at the Carl and Mary Koehler History Center.
"They politely asked us to leave," says Donna Barnes of Hiawatha, facilitator of the group. Or, she adds, if the group wanted to stay, it could pay $35 per meeting.
"We couldn’t afford that," Donna says. "We meet weekly and we want to continue to meet weekly to keep the creative process going."
Loosely formed in the 1960s, the group took shape a decade later at the Witwer Senior Center in downtown Cedar Rapids. After that facility was damaged in the Flood of 2008 (it has since been sold into private hands), the history center freely opened its doors to the group.
"It was such a nice place to go," says Helen Christophersen of Cedar Rapids. "It was a nice room, there was parking and they had handicapped accessibility."
The policy at the history center had to change, though, as other groups wanted free use of space, says interim executive director Caitlin Treece. "We decided we couldn’t offer free rent to some and not others."
The Witwer Creative Writing Class doesn’t collect dues, so it has no money. It has met from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. every Wednesday since folks can remember. It has had 30-plus members at one time but now hovers around a dozen and would welcome more.
"We’re always open to new members," says Jim Hayes of Solon, the only man at last week’s gathering. "Especially male members."
Anyone wanting to join can contact Donna by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If someone has a suggested (and free) meeting place, please do the same or contact me.
"We need something that’s centrally located," says Donna, since members come from the entire metro area.
They’d like to be in a room where they wouldn’t bother anybody else. Free parking. Handicapped accessibility.
"And a place to plug in a coffee pot," Donna adds.
"We write stories every week and read them out loud," Helen says. "If there’s laughter involved, we laugh."
If there are tears, they shed them, too. For the emphasis is on writing about their experiences for future generations.
Panara Bread’s offer is wonderful, they say, but with 10 people, the room is too small. Ironically, that seemed on topic for the week’s exercise — "So many ..., so little ..."
They’ll meet at Panara Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon, but hope a new place can be found soon."Really," says Carol Wild of Robins, "we need a good senior center in Cedar Rapids."