A group of writers in the Pratt area meet once a month to share information and encouragement and help each other become better writers.
Members of Pratt Area Writers Society will present a program at the After Hours @ Your Library program for adults at 7 p.m. on Jan. 21. Louise Pelzl thinks the audience will be people who write or want to write and those who are just interested in the writing process.
The evening will provide a showcase for local authors and "insider" information for anyone who wants to become an author, library director Rochelle Westerhaus said. The members will talk about their writing journey and answer questions. They can sell books if they want, and will be happy to autograph copies.
There are four core members of PAWS: Pelzl and Kathryn Pritchett, both of Pratt, Donovan Harrison of Attica and Pat Taylor of Kingman. Others attend meetings occasionally, but the four of them are regulars on one Thursday night a month — they just don't know far ahead of time which Thursday it will be because of work and travel schedules.
Donovan, Pritchett and Pelzl have collaborated on "Baby Makes 3," which Pelzl described as a take-off on the life of Anna Nichole Smith, featuring murder and mayhem, motivated by millions of dollars. Unlike the real Smith story, however, it all comes out well in the end.
Pritchett has written a couple of contemporary suspense novels, "More Than a Point of Honor," and "The Judas Seat." Donovan is the author of a series of books, based on the wanderings of Chief Black Kettle.
Taylor writes a column, "Observations of a Sheriff's Patrolman," that is published in the Cunningham Courier, the Kingman Leader-Courier and other small area newspapers.
Pelzl has just sold a historical romantic fiction set in 1820s England. Getting a publisher is often harder than writing the book, she said, which is why many beginning authors self-publish or publish electronically. She has an agreement, she clarified, but not a contract yet. The publisher can change the title, change the character names and require her to make editorial changes. Once everything is to their liking, the company has a year to publish the book.
Pelzl made connections with the publishing house through her membership in Romance Writers of America. She also belongs to two writing groups in Wichita, in addition to PAWS.
The members have different strengths and perspectives, which benefit all. throughout the book. Pelzl described Pritchett as a grammarian. Taylor's strengths include spelling and punctuation.
He described a history class he took at Friends University, where students were required to write two 750-word book reviews.
"If you had punctuation problems, you dropped a grade point," he said. "If you had spelling problems, you dropped a grade point."
His early experience with the Wichita Police Force honed another skill — officers had to dictate their reports over the telephone, which required him to "get the outline down to a science."
He estimates he has written the newspaper column for about 24 years. His philosophy is first, "do no harm," but he said his goal is to deliver a message to wrong-doers, and sometimes that's enough to stop the wrong.
His law enforcement experiences are valuable to other writers. Reading the work of one aspiring writer, he noted that the story included information that the Highway Patrol had worked a deadly wreck. Taylor knows who else might have been there — sheriff's officers, emergency personnel and hazardous material personnel.
Somebody will catch the mistakes that writers make, Pelzl said, and the friendly group helps them avoid errors in the final copy.