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Writing leader thinks on feet for Great American Think-Off

Marie Anderson
Photo courtesy of Marie Anderson

Marie Anderson of La Grange was named first runner up and silver medal award winner of the 20th Annual Great American Think-Off, held Sat., June 9, 2012, at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, New York Mills, MN.

Anderson, who has entered the essay contest for the past seven years, received the call this spring that she was one of four finalists chosen to be invited to Minnesota for a live debate. Anderson was to go on stage, switching repertoire from writer to orator in defense of her stance on the side of goodness, in this year’s topic, “The Nature of Humankind: Inherently Good or Inherently Evil?” Her essay can be found at: http://www.think-off.org/

Anderson displayed much of the same written, verbal, and analytical prowess in her arguments at the debate, as she does as organizer and member of the La Grange Library Writers Workshop.

“My opponents look tough!” Anderson had stated in an e-mail announcement to the writing group. She proceeded to gather a folder of thoughts; ideas, sound bytes and arguments that she hoped would be of help during the debate, in standing by her stance that humankind is inherently good.

“I was happy when I got the phone call telling me I was one of the four finalists. Then I got nervous about the next phase, …” Anderson said. “The only debate experience I’ve ever had is arguing with my three kids. I spent two weeks preparing for the debate. I felt like I was back in law school studying for finals. It was very intense.”

The contestants were judged by live audience vote on their thinking skills used in response to panel questions in several rounds of competition at the debate.
“I’ve done a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking since the debate,” said Anderson. While she felt she did well in the first round, by the championship round she said she was ready for it to be over.

One thing she said she would have done differently in order to win the very top spot would have been to “take a deep breath” in response to some of her opponent’s comments at the time, rather than sticking only to her prepared points, yet in keeping with her theme.

But she added, “It was a fabulous experience. My favorite part was meeting all the people.”

Anderson also received $500, an all-expenses-paid stay at The Whistle Stop Inn, and a goody bag of wine, "Philosopher" coffee beans, and a coffee mug with the message “Awaken the Philosopher in You.”

Anderson started the La Grange Library Writers Workshop about four years ago, and said she is very happy they agreed to host. She is also a member of the Brookfield Library Writers Group.

Anderson said she started getting published after joining the Brookfield Library Writers group shortly after the Millennium. She has since had 16 short stories and nine essays published.

“My goal is to get at least one thing published each year,” she said. She has a great batting average so far, and is very prolific.

In addition to The Great American Think-Off and an upcoming Fall, 2012 issue of The Liguorian, Anderson’s works have been published in Downstate Story, Woman’s World, St. Anthony Messenger, Vestal Review, Morpheus Tales, The Doings newspaper, Writing on the Wall III, The Storyteller, Writer’s Digest, 400words.com, The Writer, and SFX Book of Reflections.

“I think all public libraries should host writing groups in their communities. My goals are to keep connecting with other writers. Group wisdom is powerful. I've learned so much from other writers. And I enjoy reading and critiquing other writer’s work, getting to know them and interact with them,” she said. "I like entering writing contests, especially when there is no fee to enter and the prize is money and publication. I plan to keep entering the annual Think-Off competition, mainly because I like kicking off the New Year with a specific writing assignment that requires a lot of thought and a little research."

The La Grange Library Writer Workshop is an open group New writers are constantly joining, with a steady attendance of at least 10. Anderson arranges the critiques according to when each author hands in a piece of work. Items range from stories, poems, essays, non-fiction, memoir, experimental, and science fiction. Pretty much anything goes. An author's piece is read aloud by another writer in the group, and then critiqued by each one in attendance. They’ve all usually had a chance to read the work over a couple of weeks' time, in order to provide a comprehensive snap analysis. The group’s members range from published authors, including several on Amazon, to novices, a Silver Quill award winner, and Illinois Poetry Society officers, such as John Quinn, who formed and heads the Brookfield group and a book club that meets at Panera Bread Co. in Oakbrook, launched off of a Downers Grove Library writers group. The book club is original because it is comprised mostly of writers, offering a writing group critique style discussion.

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