In January 1989, the following item appeared in The Anson Record: “Anson County writers interested in forming a support group are invited to meet in the Pritchett Room of the Hampton B. Allen Library (Jan. 29) at 3 p.m.”
The invitation was issued by Sandra Bruney, who saw a need for aspiring writers to encourage each other in what is essentially a lonely occupation.
Charter members of the newly-formed Anson County Writers’ Club were Sandra Bruney, Helen Goodman, Helen Ingram, Mary Garris, Louise Thomas and Bobbie Gathings. Minutes from the first recorded meeting in April 1989 show that long-range plans for producing a book were discussed.
Bruney was elected to serve a two-year term as the first club president, and held the offices of publicity chair the first year and as the historian. Other offices were held by new and charter members (see box at left).
With the help of a grassroots grant from the Anson County Arts Council and the N.C. Arts Council, the ACWC was able to sponsor its first county-wide writing contest and to provide speakers and workshops that were open to the general public and club members.
The first prose and poetry contest honored winners in “Youth” and “Adult” categories. In 1990, the contest added a “Children’s” category – and that format has been in place ever since. (First-place winners in each category for 1989-2005 categories are featured on Contests page.)
In the meantime, grant-funded club activities included readings and workshops conducted by Ruth Moose (“Creativity in Writing”), Suzanne Newton (“Creative Writing as a Community Resource”), Grace Gibson (“What Judges Are Looking For”), Dannye Romine Powell and Phillip Gerard (N.C. Writers’ Network Blumenthal Writers and Readers Series), Stephen Smith (“Structuring the Short Story”), Dr. Leon Smith (“Preparing Scripts for Puppets”), Ron Bayes (“Poetry and Publication”), Dori Sanders (“Clover”), and Dr. Walter Woodson (“Simple Steps Toward Getting Published”).
After the 1991 contest, club members decided to publish the prize-winning poetry and prose in a spiral-bound book, and named a book committee – Walter Turner, Sandra Bruney and Elbert Marshall, chair. With grant funds from the Anson County Arts Council and the Grassroots Program of the N.C Arts Council, the first volume of Anson Pathways was published. The cover page was designed by Bruney and the volume consisted of 132 pages.
Ensuing volumes were published in 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2004. With the publication of Volume VI, the writers’ club continues its bylaws mission “to foster the art of writing in Anson County.”
At a club meeting in August 1991, members discussed the idea of writing an outdoor drama based upon the history of the vanished Anson County town of Sneydsborough. A committee spent hours going through musty records, library vaults, wills and deeds, and studying reels of microfilm. The research committee discovered that many of the tales about Sneydsborough founder Richard Edgeworth were myths, but uncovered a greater story in the people of the town itself.
A script committee submitted a proposal to club members in June 1992 that would cover the time period from 1795 through 1865, and
suggested that the main setting would be the Knox Inn and that the narrator of the drama would be the ghost of Richard Edgeworth, who died in 1796.
In August 1992, Bruney presented a tentative script. Revisions were made and other scenes were added by Betsy Haskell, Helen Goodman and Jinaki Hasan. Also in 1992, the writers’ club appointed a Sneydsborough Project Committee and named Elbert Marshall as chairman. The SPC would oversee an operating budget, write grants for funding and were charged with the full production of the outdoor drama.
The name for the drama, suggested by Bruney and Marshall, was a reflection of the storied history of the Pee Dee River town as “a ripple in the river” over the span of time.
The first production of “Sneydsborough: A Ripple in the River” was staged in May 1993 onthe football field at Anson Junior High School (now Anson High School). The drama was held to coincide with the Anson Arts and Heritage Festival and the Morven Homecoming Celebration. Bruney designed an official logo for the outdoor drama that was used in newspaper advertisements and on the cover of the first program printed for the drama.
After the 1994 production and in cooperation with Anson Community College (now South Piedmont Community College), a plot of land close to the chapel on the Polkton campus was set aside for an amphitheater. The SPC had the land cleared and asked Larry Coleman of Wingate University to design the set. In 1995, the production was held in the newly-constructed Helen Goodman Amphitheater (named in honor of the then-chairman of the Sneydsborough Project committee). Funding for the amphitheater came from a grant from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.
“Sneydsborough: A Ripple in the River” productions were staged at the Helen Goodman Amphitheater in 1996, 1997 and 1998; and in 2000, 2001 and 2002. (No production was held in 1999.) With the volunteer base, which the SPC depended on to produce a quality production on the decline, the writers’ club decided to end the project after the 2002 presentation.
Writers’ club member Betsy Haskell scripted a spin-off of the annual outdoor drama titled “A Christmas at Knox Inn.” The two-act play, which featured characters from the original drama, made its debut in December 1993. Productions were staged at the Little Theater in the Hampton B. Allen Library, and at Ansonville, Lilesville, Morven, Peachland-Polkton and Wadesboro elementary schools.
In 2001, a second spinoff, “A Wedding at Knox Inn,” written by Sandra Bruney, was staged as a dinner theater at First United Methodist Church. To kick off the Yuletide in 2001, “A Christmas at Knox Inn” was encored as a dinner theater at FUMC.
In November 1997, the Anson County Writers’ Club was presented the W. Dunlap Covington Award for Community Service by the Anson County Chamber of Commerce. The award, the first presented to an organization, recognized the writers’ club’s community projects – the annual prose and poetry contests and “Sneydsborough: A Ripple in the River” outdoor drama.