Local poet does well in contest

Peggy Revell

The New Year got off to a great start for local writer Judy Johanson, who recently earned an honourable mention in the 2009 Winnipeg Free Press Writers’ Collective Poetry Contest.
“Love in Three Acts—A Requiem” was one of six poems she submitted to the contest.
“It was written from the perspective of an elderly woman, very elderly, who was looking back on her life and her love of her husband,” Johanson explained.
As an honourable mention, Johanson’s poem appeared in the Friday, Jan. 2 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, and also will appear in the Winnipeg Writer’s Collective next quarterly, called “The Collective Conscious.”
“It’s always great to see your work in print,” said Johanson, noting she has had some of her work published elsewhere.
“It kind of validates that you’re doing something that’s worthwhile, and this is always very exciting to have happen,” she enthused.
Writing has been something Johanson has made more time for since retiring from her position as an assistant in the local elementary schools for the library and speech language.
She has been able to branch out, joining organizations such as the Manitoba’s Writers Guild, as well as the Northwestern Ontario Writers Group in Thunder Bay.
Johanson also is a member of the local writers’ group, which meets every second Wednesday of the month at the Fort Frances Public Library. All local writers are welcome to join, regardless of whether they are published or not.
Whether it’s an interest in getting published, or just wanting to create a private family memoir, there are many reasons why people come out to the local writers’ group, Johanson noted.
“Some people are writing novels, some people are writing poetry, some people are writing children’s stories,” she said. “Basically, we support each other, which you need in writing because it’s very difficult to get published.
“It’s one of those kind of ‘catch 22’ situations, where you need an agent to get published but you need to be published to get an agent.”
Generally at meetings, members bring along a piece of writing that they’ve been working on and share it with everyone else, asking for positive and sometimes negative criticism, and how their writing could be improved.
What other writing groups are doing, such as contests, also
is discussed.
The group currently is made up of all women (although men are certainly welcome), with members ranging in age from being relatively young up to the oldest writer who is in her 90s, Johanson said.
“There are probably six or seven who are hard-core members who come out all the time, and we’ve had other people kind of come-and-go over the years,” she added.
“We’re not a particularly formal group, that is we don’t have minutes and fees and all the rest of it. We’re generally a pretty relaxed group,” she said. “But it’s been a very positive experience.”
Sometime this spring, the group also hopes to have an evening of reading open for people in the community to attend.
“I think everyone who is writing, and is serious about writing, needs to expose their work to other people’s opinions because it makes you stronger,” Johanson stressed. “And in a group like this, you get positive criticism.
“It’s not negative criticism like you sometimes get from editors, and it helps.
“It’s good to be able to express your feelings about writing to other people who understand what you’re talking about,” she reasoned.