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With Golden Pens: Seniors participate in writing class

Seniors express themselves during their creative writing class

Posted: January 18, 2009 9:51 p.m.
Updated: January 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Dena Miller shows examples of poetry and stories about love which she wants to collect from fellow members of the creative writing class for Valentine's Day.

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"Who did their homework?" Alexandra Tozzi asked her classmates as they waited for their instructor to arrive. "Who wants to share?"

Elaine volunteered first, and passed out copies of her homework assigned last week. Once everyone had a copy to look at, Elaine read it out loud.

"Christmas - joyful
For kids - toyful
For parents -

Everyone laughed, commenting on her cleverness.

The assignment challenged the writing class to write a poem in terse verse: a concise form of poetry, using two to three (no more than four) words per line.

Alexandra Tozzi and her husband, Bill Tozzi, shared their terse verses next.

"I wrote about love, are you surprised?" Alexandra Tozzi asked.

"No!" various people responded with a smile.

Alexandra Tozzi read her poem titled "Is it Love?"

"We can't print this!" Richard McNally said after she finished reading it. "We need to drop this conversation, it's getting risque!"

"Well, at least we're not a bunch of old fogies!" Alexandra Tozzi said as the class burst into laughter.

"Homework is assigned every week, but it's really up to the students," Judith Cassis said, the instructor for the course. "They can come in with whatever they'd like. There is no rigidness here. No judging."

The class is officially known as the "Creative Writing Class of the Newhall Senior Center," but these writing guru's decided the name was a bit bland for their spicy taste buds and voted on changing it.

They are known as the "Golden Pen Writer's Guild."

This is no typical writing class though. It is much more than learning how to express one's thoughts and innermost feelings with a pen.

For these students, the two hours they spend in each other's presence once a week is an escape.

For some, it's an escape from the often overwhelming and hectic world. For others, an escape from loneliness and sadness.

Terry Wald lost her husband in November of 2007. She joined the class after months of hiding from the world. "I was dead inside," she said. "I'm healing now. This class helps."

With the inspiration she receives from Cassis and her fellow classmates, Wald writes more than ever before. She recently finished a novel which is currently being critiqued.

The Golden Pen Writer's Guild also acts as a support group.

"When I think I'm not worthy, they make me feel worthy," Wald said. "I love it here."

It was only Phyllis Josephson's second time attending the class, but she quickly realized the value in staying and participating.

"It helps the brain being here," she said. "It's also very inspirational to be a great writer."

Jane Hills is also a newbie. Recently retired with more time on her hands, she saw the class as an great opportunity to focus on herself and joined the group.

"It's therapeutic and self-expressive," she said. "I enjoy the down-to-earth atmosphere."

Bill Stehle started reading at an early age. It was an escape for him from his unhappy childhood. As a young man, he wrote for the Pittsburgh Point and authored several screenplays. As the years passed, he thought he lost his writing capabilities. "I didn't think I could write anymore at my age," he said. "This class inspires me to write again."

Dena Miller is a lifelong writer. Her relationship with her pen started in high school. With four novels and some short stories under her belt, writing is a part of her every day routine. "When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing," she said.

McNally keeps coming back for the camaraderie. "I really enjoy the group," he said. "I look forward to Tuesdays. We've grown close. It's come to be a therapy group."

McNally likes to talk about writing and enjoys reading other people's work, but he confesses he's not the biggest fan of writing himself. He doesn't think he can.

The entire class objected to his remarks, complimenting him on his previous pieces.

Alexandra Tozzi writes a lot of poetry. "I think in rhyme, all the time," she said. "See?" she asked, realizing she had just proven her point. "I like funny poems, romantic poems. I am currently writing a book."

Alexandra Tozzi is one of the original Golden Pen Writers. She joined 10 years ago when the class first started, and she absolutely loves it. "I wouldn't miss it for the world," she said.

Bill Tozzi moved to the Santa Clarita Valley a few months ago after marrying Alexandra Tozzi and has enjoyed meeting people who share his passion for writing. "I find it very enjoyable," he said. "I met a lot of nice people here."

Elaine has been attending class for the past six years. "We really have a family feeling here," she said.

Ruth May, The Golden Pen Writers' oldest author at 90 years young, comes to class because it teaches her to be more open.

"I'm very happy to be in this class because everyone encourages me to express myself," she said. "And I enjoy hearing everyone's self expressions. Everyone is at ease, and I'm learning to be more at ease myself."

Jeanne Wray likes to write mysteries and poems. She's also an oil painter and uses her art as the front cover for the class' published poetry books. The guild is also published in The Mighty Oak, the monthly newsletter printed by senior center, and in Tidbits, a free newspaper distributed in the Santa Clarita Valley and Frazier Mountain communities.

"This class to me is family," Cassis said. She has been moderating the group for the past eight years. "I love teaching it. We bond because we share something from the heart and soul. I am privileged to hear it every week."

Cassis enjoys watching her students learn and grow into sophisticated writers. "I've seen five self-published authors come through this class," she said. "I'm excited to see more."

The Golden Pen Writer's Guild meets every Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in room A1 at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, 22900 Market St., Newhall, CA 91321. For more information, contact Judith Cassis at (661) 373-7429 or e-mail her at


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