After a break from meetings over summer months, Pensters Writing Group members say they're ready to get back to business as usual every second Saturday. Or, maybe business as unusual would be a better description, as each meeting brings a different …
After a break from meetings over summer months, Pensters Writing Group members say they're ready to get back to business as usual every second Saturday. Or, maybe business as unusual would be a better description, as each meeting brings a different author, writer or poet with his or her own style, instruction and skill set.
This month's meeting, 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 14, will feature songwriting duo Frye Gaillard and Kathryn Scheldt.
Pensters President P.T. Paul said this team should set off the season with a bang, or a few chords, at least.
“I’m excited about our first program of the 2013-2014 Pensters season because I’ve always been interested in how musicians choose the words and music they combine into songs,” she offered. “I am especially interested in the process by which Kathryn Scheldt and Frye Gaillard combined their efforts, because I know Frye as an award-winning journalist and non-fiction writer, not as a songwriter.”
Paul said that, “Of course, I realize that his scholarship includes exhaustive research for his classic 'Watermelon Wine: Remembering the Golden Years of County Music,' but writing about music is not the same as writing music. However, immersion in the history of country music might well result in a better understanding of how that music came about and make one more open to the process so that when the opportunity presents itself, one is ready to take advantage of it. I like to think that’s the way it happened when Frye met Kathryn, an award-winning musician, and I can’t wait to find out if I’m right.”
And Scheldt's description of the upcoming event sounds pretty spot on.
“First of all, the audience can expect a great show,” she divulged. “We will read essays and stories from “The Quilt” that focus on the tradition of songwriting here in Alabama and I will sing some original songs that tie in with those readings. We will also open the floor up for questions about the creative process behind them and about the poetic and lyrical elements of songs.”
“We'll talk about the poetry of (the) songwriter – particularly Alabama songwriting – and Kathryn will sing some original songs to illustrate the point,” he explained. “It'll be fun.”
Pensters Vice President, Susan Martinello, recalled the slant through which the team will present to the group.
“Having been invited to speak to a writing group, the emphasis of their presentation tilts toward the writing of lyrics and Gaillard's interest in the fine tradition of great lyricists,” she said. “In his words, they will 'look at songwriting through the lens of literature.'”
Scheldt said the two hope to inspire those in attendance, just as she found inspiration from those around her.
“It’s hard to pinpoint what or who originally inspired me to write, but I imagine it was my family growing up as I started reading and hearing stories and realizing that I wanted to write things down that kept going through my own head.,” she revealed. “My parents both had beautiful voices and they loved singing songs for us. They also had amazing imaginations and wit and were great storytellers.”
She said she comes from a long line of writers.
“My mother enjoyed writing poetry and reciting it to her children. Her mother was an elocutionist and we have collections of both of their writings,” she said. “I have always kept a journal and I started writing poems and stories in grade school and songs in college. Writing has always been a fundamental part of my life, but it is only over the past 15 years that I have considered it a profession and coordinated it with my music career. As far as who or what continues to inspire me, that would be life – everyday life and people and what happens to us all, and what we do with it.”
Gaillard said he was driven to write this project in particular, because of his passion for history and respect for great songwriters.
“For me, it was the fact that there were so many human stories out there that needed to be told,” he reflected. “I worked as a journalist for many years, but I admired – and wrote about – some of the great songwriters like Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris. I never expected to write songs myself until I met Kathryn, and she convinced me I could do it.”
He said that Scheldt made the project a pleasure.
“It was actually pretty easy in terms of collaboration, as it always has been with Kathryn, primarily, I think, because we respect each other's ideas and work,” he noted. “I think that mutual respect and trust is key to any collaboration.”
Scheldt agreed that working with other artists brings a breath of fresh air to otherwise lonely work.
“Artists tend to work a lot in isolation, when it is the sharing of one’s craft that is the reason we do it – this is where collaborations can be most fulfilling,” she offered. “I think that collaborations work when there is a natural give and take; that the reason for the collaboration is beyond ego or personal interests or needs, that it is for the sake of the artistic expression and that the collaborators understand that without question. Then it is like chamber music – it is interdependent, each person has an integral part which is fed and supported by the other members, the very soul of the work can come alive under these conditions and it is a beautiful and exciting and surprising process that is far greater than each individual part.”
And she said Gaillard was the perfect other half.
“Working with Frye on 'The Quilt' was a natural progression for us,” she began. “We had been writing songs for several years and it is our passion for songs and their lyrical content that made it possible for us to dial in on each other for 'The Quilt.' We wanted to put a face on songwriting as an art form. We also collaborated with Rick Hirsh on some of the songwriting for 'The Quilt' and on the musical interpretation, and with Nall for the dynamics behind the visual expression for the cover art.”
Pensters member John Stump suggested the duo as workshop speakers, because, he said, “Knowing them and their work inspired me to be more diligent in my writing, also, to be aware of the great story that is happening right here in the South, especially Alabama.”
Pensters meetings are held from 10 a.m. to noon every second Saturday of the month in Room 11 of the University of South Alabama Baldwin campus at 111 St. James Street in Fairhope. Meetings are always free and open to the public.
For dues paid members, the group offers monthly writing contests judged by our speakers and, beginning in September, will offer monthly readings at Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope, according to Paul.
For more information, contact Paul at 251-625-3504 or at PTPhantazein@gmail.com. Follow the group on Facebook at Pensters Writing Group or on Twitter @pensterswriting.