GROTON -- With the success of past years as inspiration, the Groton Public Library is preparing to launch its ninth annual "Groton Reads" program, which this year will be expanded to include a writing component as well.

According to Kate Engstrom, coordinator of the Groton Reads and Writes program, this year's book assignment will be Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft."

"We picked King's book because it was a perfect blend of what we were looking for," explained Engstrom. "The first part of the book is a memoir and the second half is focused on the craft of writing. It's King's thoughts on writing and living the writing life. We'll also have two other writers come in, one who wrote a memoir and the other fiction: Laura Moriarty, who wrote 'The Chaperone,' and Diana Renn, who is a young-adult writer."

In past years, reading assignments included "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, and "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman.

"People definitely like the program," Engstrom said. "It's been successful over the years and grown with time. From year to year the audience has varied slightly depending on what book is assigned. Last year, we had 'Moneyball' hoping to get more of a male audience. But we've had a steady, faithful following of people who just enjoy reading and who come year after year.


In general though, the program has been quite successful."

Groton Reads and Writes kicks off at the library's Sibley Hall on Jan. 13, from 2 to 4 p.m. with up to 85 free copies of King's book available for anyone who wants to take part.

"We're going to offer a variety of events, including opportunities to write," said Engstrom of the program's itinerary. "We'll be holding a series of three writing workshops with the first being a facilitated writing session hosted by a teacher from (UMass Lowell). The second session will just be a writing night possibly held at the Main Street Cafe and the third will be a feedback session where people will share what they've been working on. The goal for the end of the program will be putting out a small anthology of short pieces by participants who are willing to submit something."

Other events associated with the program to be held over the upcoming months will be a gathering of successful authors who will talk about their experiences as writers, a panel of writers' agents, an inspirational walk around Groton, and a climactic evening celebration that will feature readings by participants in the program as well as an open mic night for young adults to share some of their writings.

Writing will be a new component added to the Groton Reads program which organizers hope will help readers gain new insight into the magic of the written word.

"The idea of including a writing component to Groton Reads was decided before I came on board," said Engstrom. "Over the summer, folks at the library decided it would be neat to add a new spin to the program. It's really kind of looking at the idea of the memoir as genre. Author Mary Johnson, who wrote a memoir called 'An Unquestionable Thirst,' will be coming to visit to talk about memoir writing. The sharing of one's own stories is in line with what the current trends are. In Groton, there has been a resurgence of the storytelling phenomenon and it would be nice to add those aspects of writing to the program."

As part of the writing component of the Groton Reads program, free journals will be given out so that participants can jot down their own thoughts on King's book or anything regarding the craft of writing and the pleasures of the written word.

"What people choose to write in their journals will be pretty open-ended," said Engstrom. "There will not be a lot of limitations on what people want to write down. Mostly the journals are being used just to get people writing. It can be an outlet for anyone who has not really done any kind of writing before and an encouragement to get them to put their thoughts on paper."

And for those who believe that they can never think of what to write, each journal will include "writing prompts" to help get the old brain cells cooking. 

"They're to get people thinking about their own stories and wanting to tell them," said Engstrom. "The idea is not fully fleshed out yet, but the prompts will be open-ended enough to encourage people to tell their stories. There's going to be a lot of local flair to the program."

If the free copies of King's book run out, the library will also be making available 15 more to lend and even a half dozen as free Nook downloads.

The Jan. 13 initial event will also include refreshments reflective of King's home state of Maine as well as artwork by Maine artist B. St. Marie Nelson.