Novelists, playwrights, poets, journalists and anyone with a passion for writing are welcome to join the group’s weekly and monthly meetings.
Angela Ardrey committed “career suicide” on Sept. 20, 2018 and lived to tell about it.
If anything, what Ardrey did was leave behind the ashes of her old life as an accountant to begin a new one as a full-time writer. But the thing no one — herself included — knew when she handed her boss her two-week notice was that she wouldn’t be the only one affected by her choice.
Four months later, Ardrey’s found herself helping local writers chase their dreams, too.
Ardrey created the Writers’ Loft to fill a need she saw in Plant City. She was surprised to learn last year there were no local, organized writers’ groups for her to join, even though she’d always seen writers and artists working away at coffee shops in town. All it took was one conversation with Krazy Kup owner Wenda Trunzo to knock out two goals at once: start this group and find a home for it.
“With this opportunity, this is like a dream come true,” Ardrey said. “A dream I never had. I never, ever thought of doing this months ago, through the summer. But it just happened… this community needs this.”
The Writers’ Loft held its first meeting in Krazy Kup’s upstairs loft in December 2018 and a crowd of around 20 people, a diverse group of all ages, came to share their stories and connect with like-minded people.
Unlike other groups, which focus on giving experienced writers the ability to have their work critiqued and edited, Plant City’s group caters to beginners or people who have written but never shared their work in a group setting. It’s as much about giving writers confidence and support to get started as it is a way for them to refine their craft.
“I don’t want this to be for experienced authors. I don’t want that because I’m not that,” Ardrey said. “I feel a little like I’m a greenhorn, but I have a very deep passion for the written word. I want it to be for everybody and we’re going to learn together.”
Ardrey learned how to run such a group by joining Lakeland-based Writers for All Seasons and later recruited Emily Topper to both run social media for the Writers’ Loft and help her manage the group. After that first December meeting, the Writers’ Loft began hosting weekly “Shut Up and Write” events on Tuesday and Saturday mornings where anyone is welcome to join Ardrey or Topper and write, pitch ideas, read others’ work or whatever comes to mind. The “Shut Up” part is more of a fun addition to the name rather than a rule or a guideline.
The group held its first meeting of 2019 on Tuesday. Members discussed their writing goals for the year and were given a writing assignment: write a story of any length on any topic that must begin with the word “hello.” Ardrey said each of the 11 members who came to the meeting took a different, “beautiful” approach to the prompt and many read their stories aloud.
The Writers’ Loft’s website is in the works with no exact launch date set in stone, but the group is on Facebook at facebook.com/thewritersloftpc and on Instagram as @thewritersloftpc. As the group expands and finds its rhythm, Ardrey hopes to host open mic nights and to bring in guest speakers from time to time to talk about their own writing styles and experiences. One day, she said, she’s hoping to see writers who got their start at the Writers’ Loft come back one day as published authors, signing their own books and talking to the people in Krazy Kup’s loft about their work. Ardrey is also recording the group’s meetings and members’ shared content for an upcoming book about the Writers’ Loft’s first 12 months.
The group meets at 6 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month and hosts Shut Up and Write events from 10 a.m. to noon every Tuesday and Saturday at the coffeehouse. Anyone interested is invited to come as they are and get ready to write whatever ideas they have brewing.
“If you have the story, then we’ll help you get the words on the paper,” Ardrey said.