Local writer and self-identified crazy cat lady, Martha (Mart) Allard loves stories. She loves to tell them and she loves to write them. She also likes to share them with her fellow writers at the Flint Area Writers Group.
The Flint Area Writers group started in 1942 as the Flint Writers Club. Allard joined the group at 16 years old. “My writing was terrible,” she admits. Her writing style was less detailed then and would have fit better in the Anime genre.
The writers group continues to be a motivating factor in Allard’s work. With regular meetings at Baker College every two weeks and the opportunity to share writing projects and progress, there is a positive pressure to keep writing. The group members “are ruthless and give honest critiques,” according to Marjorie Stedron, a Flushing writer working on her first novel. Current members of the group include award winning authors, first-time writers, and a novelist who published a new book every month in 2017.
Allard’s first novel Black Light is a contemporary dark fantasy that features a psychic vampire and a young gay man named Asia navigating a relationship with his high school crush. “He can’t say anything. At some point, the opportunity is gone,” she says. The story is one she wishes she’d had the chance to read when she was coming-of-age and learning about her sexuality. “I spent a lot of time in the 80s and 90s in the closet,” she says. “I was Asia, but he’s prettier than me.”
Like many of the other members of the Flint Writers Group, Allard’s oeuvre is not what you would call mainstream. “Most women who walk into a store want a book with strong female character,” she admits. “But this is the story I have. I want to write about fabulous monsters.” A recent meeting included readings from a video gamer fiction novel, an abusive father whose child has healing powers, historical fantasy, and a grocery store encounter that needed an ending.
As writers present their work, group members make notes on what they hear. Each member shares their ideas and suggestions while the writer listens, then the notes are handed off to the writer as a reminder of the input they received. Comments range from specific word choices, to grammar questions, content issues, and even character names or descriptions.
Allard is currently working on a prequel to “Black Light” that builds the vampire character’s backstory. The writers group gives her the opportunity to set interim deadlines that keep her on task. With Writers group looming, she always wants to have something to read. “You can read outloud to an empty room and catch things,” she says. “But when you read outloud to people, you can listen for reactions. It’s such a huge, huge help to me.”
The Flint Area Writers Group meets 7-10 p.m. every other Friday. Membership is $10 per year. The group plans writing retreats for members at least twice a year. Anyone can visit, but only members are allowed to read for critique.
For more information, check out the Flint Area Writers' Facebook
page or website