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Putting Pen To Paper: Snowbirds Share Their Creative Talents

Jennie McKeon

During the winter months, Friday mornings at the Destin Library are dedicated to a writers group for snowbirds who get together to share their latest ideas.

It could be a funny song, a poem or a work of fiction. It doesn’t matter as long as you bring something to the table.

Friday’s meeting was followed by a presentation of works from group members. It was an eclectic mix of creative pieces from some who have been writing for years and a couple who have stepped up to the podium for the first time. 

“I’m not a writer writer, I’m a hobby writer,” said Janet McMillan of Blue Ridge, Ga. 

McMillan started writing as a way to capture her family’s history. Her story on Friday was about her great-grandmother, known as Granny, who delivered all of the babies in her community. McMillan said she writes from what she and her mother remember and fills in the rest.  

McMillan admits it was uncomfortable to stand in front of a couple dozen people to share her writing, but she credits the group for encouraging her.

“What the writers group has done for me was give me discipline to write on a regular basis,” she said. “If I was left to my own devices I would put it off for later. It’s nice to come here every Friday morning.” 

Credit Jennie McKeon / WUWF
The Destin Snowbirds Writers Club is a space for writers of all levels to share their work and get critique. Friday afternoon, the club shared several pieces for the public.

The Destin Snowbirds Writers Group was founded in 2014 by Pat Hager and her husband. They visit Destin every winter from Bismarck, N.D. The club is open to anyone with a Destin Snowbirds membership. 

“We typically get about eight to 10 people from all over the United States and Canada, and we see new ones cycling in. Everybody does their thing — the sky’s the limit.”

At home, Hager is a medical social worker and a French horn player in a symphony orchestra. She started playing guitar in her 50s. At Friday’s showcase, she played a song called “Grand Canyon” about a man who paraded around in colored thong bikinis at a campground where she stayed. 

For her, the writers group is a playground where people can try new things without judgment.  

“I’m not a stellar singer, but I have a really good time and don’t judge myself. It is what it is,” she said. “As you get older, you don’t care so much what people think. If I could give advice to young people it would be to just go for it. Don’t care or judge yourself; don’t let others judge you, either. Let the creative flow just come out and it is amazing what comes out when you give yourself the freedom to do that.” 

Credit Jennie McKeon / WUWF
Pat Hager, founder of the writer's group, shares a song she wrote inspired by a colorful camper.

And while some members are new to writing, some are established writers who just relish the creative freedom. Dick Ault started writing stories in the third grade and has not stopped. As a consultant, his writing consisted of nonfiction articles. Now, he’s having fun in the fiction world and is working on his third novel. 

“I just honestly love to write,” he said. “I have more ideas than I have time to (write). I don’t have writers block. I get up first thing in the morning, make a cup of tea and start writing.”

Ault shared a story he had written last year. When he made some edits, the group encouraged him to read it again. One of the members even offered to read it with him, acting as the inner monologue of the protagonist. 

Like any writer, Ault admits the story will never be completely finished. 

“I edited it just this morning,” he said with a smile. 

By the end of February, most of the snowbirds will head back home. But they look forward to coming back with more stories next winter. 

“They’re just good people and they’re talented and that challenges me,” Ault said. “They’re interesting fun, supportive people.” 

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.