This is the second post in the story of Green River Writers, a long-lived, successful writers’ group based in Louisville, Kentucky. In my last post, I introduced the president and founder, Mary “Ernie” O’Dell, and shared a little of her writing journey. Today I’m sharing the story of Green River Writers: how it started and why it’s thrived so long.
The group was born shortly after Ernie met her second husband, Jim (she calls him her “real husband”).
We were both writers; he was living in North Carolina and I was living in Louisville—and there were no writers in my life except him and a few people that I met at writers’ conferences, so I thought, by golly, I need some other writers. So I called up a few of the people that I knew that wrote, and I said, let’s get together. Jim came up from North Carolina for a four-day weekend at Rough River State Park in Kentucky. We decided to have a real retreat in the summer of that year, 1986, I believe, and we couldn’t find housing cheap enough for all us poor people, so we rented a girls’ dormitory at Campbellsville College in Campbellsville, Kentucky, for a week at $5 a night per room. We changed from Rough River to Green River because the Green River flows right through Campbellsville.
At that time, we had 12 or 15 members. Campbellsville College (University now) was fairly conservative; they frowned upon us having men and women in the same building, much less on the same corridor. I went into the office and said, “I need to make something clear to you. When we come here, we no longer have men and woman, we have writers, and there are times when are up all night, there are times we need to consult with a fellow writer, and we don’t want to have to go down a floor or to a different building, so please put us all on the same corridor,” and they did. But they were watching us carefully. I got called on the carpet because downstairs in the public restroom, someone had left a beer can. I said, “Are we the only people in this building?” and they said, “Well, no,” and I said, “Well, we didn’t do it.” Another time someone went outside to smoke and came back and exhaled smoke into the hallway and they called me on the carpet for that. So I had to be righteously indignant many times while we were there.