Building A Community of North Fork Writers

The North Fork Writers Group
North Fork Writers Group members (l-r) Andrea Rhude, Susan Rosenstreich, Joyce deCordova, Gerard Meade, Helene Munson, Kit Storjohann and David Porteous

For the past eight years, a community of writers has gathered on the North Fork to help nurture each others’ craft, one sentence at a time.

The North Fork Writers Group was initially convened at Greenport’s Floyd Memorial Library at the urging of self-published author Gene Rackovich.

Since then, they’ve published one compilation of 25 pieces of their work, 2015’s “7 Voices,” published by The New Atlantian Library and have just released a second volume of the book this summer.

The writers’ styles vary widely — from short stories to literary fiction to fantasy and historical fiction — but what they share is a love of fiction and a commitment to helping each other produce great work.

“We focus on the craft of storytelling. We’re here to help each other write the best story we can,” said writers group member Kit Storjohann, who describes his work as literary fiction, at a recent meeting at member Susan Rosenstreich’s house in Cutchogue. “Because we’re all familiar with one another’s work, we can watch the stories grow and connect them with other things the author has done. It’s an important element of group cohesion.”

“It’s wonderfully friendly brutal honesty,” said member David Porteous, who spins his stories with a germ from real-life experiences.

The group, which meets the first Wednesday of the month at a different member’s house, currently includes authors Andrea Rhude, Helene Munson, Joyce deCordova, Gerard Meade and William Rue, along with Ms. Rosenstreich, Mr. Storjohann and Mr. Porteous.

While some writers have come and gone over the years, the core group remains around seven to eight writers, a tight-knit bunch that focuses on bolstering the best writing that each member can bring to the table.

Mr. Meade describes his work as “dark,” but Mr. Porteous jumps in and corrects: “but insightful!”

Ms. Munson writes fictional works based on genealogy and travel.

Ms. deCordova brings everything from short stories to a novel to share with the group.

She and her husband, Hector deCordova, own the deCordova Studio and Gallery in Greenport, where they see the way the community of visual artists support one another.

“Writing is a lonely craft,” said Ms. deCordova. “But there are a lot of parallels between visual artists and writers — knowing when to stop, having a community of like-minded people. Hector will come back from a drawing session with such energy.”

Ms. Rosenstreich’s husband, Saul Rosenstreich, is also a painter.

“It’s possible for artists to say things without words,” she said wistfully. Ms. Rosenstreich, a professor of foreign languages and literature at Dowling College, said she had initially brought her non-fiction academic work to the group, but now finds it more productive to bring short stories to be critiqued.

Andrea Rhude is both a painter and a writer of fantasy works that she calls “darkly eclectic.” Mr. Porteous calls her pieces “little treasures.”

She has found that finding the right medium to express her ideas is a little bit like turning on an Enigma decoding machine in her head.

“One helps the other. I try to put something on paper, but if I can’t get it out, I put it on canvas,” she said.

The group really sees the breadth of their ideas when they do a writing exercise, given a prompt for how to begin and end a story, filling in the details from their own creative wells.

“I see everyone go off in completely wild directions,” said Mr. Storjohann. Those directions range from an immersion in the act of falling in love to psychedelic lizards and time travel.

“We inspire and encourage each other,” said Mr. Porteous. “I’ve been through all sorts of workshops and nothing I ever saw was as subtly uplifting as this group.”

The group will be reading from the second volume of “7 Voices” at Burton’s Books at 43 Front Street in Greenport this coming Saturday, Aug. 18 at 5 p.m.

They will also hold readings at the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library at 27550 Main Road in Cutchogue on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 3 p.m. and at Greenport’s Floyd Memorial Library at 539 First Street in Greenport on Oct. 7 at 3 p.m.

“After Volume One, everyone expanded something [from that volume] into a larger work. I had to learn how to keep more than one project going,” said Mr. Storjohann. I’ve subjected these guys to hundreds of pages of my novel now. We know where we’re coming from. We can find commonality. We drop pebbles in the water and they ripple where they will.”

“I’m quite happy with Volume One and I’m more happy with Volume Two. We all know each other better,” said Mr. Porteous.

You can read more about the work of the North Fork Writers Group online at northforkwritersgroup.weebly.com.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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