The unofficial motto of the Aspiring Authors of Pekin is that everyone has a story inside them, and its mission is helping local writers let those stories out.

The free group for creative writers meets at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday every month at the Pekin Public Library. The next meeting will be Sept. 11. 

While the group was formed a year ago, Rebecca Brooks, Aspiring Authors of Pekin facilitator, noted that the Pekin Public Library has hosted creative writing groups for several years, and the current group is merely the newest incarnation of a well-established concept. 

“Some of the topics we’ve come up with in the past have been overcoming adversity, stage fright, the wrong cookie, or what happens when members submit writing samples to the wrong editor,” said Keith Dunkelbarger, a member of the group.

The group is open to prospective writers of all ages and skill levels. 

“We’ve had an eighth-grade student attend who was a phenomenal writer,” said Dunkelbarger. 

One group member, Keith Wagner, has had two science fiction novels published. Brooks has worked for several magazines and, as a student at Illinois Central College, served as editor of The Harbinger, the school’s weekly newspaper.

“I’ve been writing my memoirs for 15 years,” said Dunkelbarger. “They’re mostly humorous, because I’m writing about funny events in my life. I think the group has improved my writing, and I really enjoy being part of it.”

The circle is open to playwrights, poets, bloggers, freelance writers, children’s authors, graphic novelists and nonfiction writers. The only requirements for membership are an enthusiasm for writing, ideas, a pen, and a notebook. At the beginning of every meeting, members receive a writing prompt based on a topic chosen at the end of the previous session. Upon completion of the monthly assignment, each member receives feedback from facilitators and fellow potential authors. 

“It’s non-judgmental,” Brooks said. “You’re not getting criticism, you’re getting creative feedback. Anyone of any level of experience can come in and feel comfortable and feel like they’re gaining something from it. I try to make sure that nobody feels left out or that their work is being picked apart. That’s not the point of this group.”

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