Follow Rita Hartert to the salon...she's got words to groom.

Although Hartert said writing a book was never on her "bucket list," an unfinished story her mother wrote inspired her to write her own. Now, the Spring Valley resident will be among the authors participating in a "Gathering of Writers" writers' workshop at the Creative Salon in Rochester on April 5, sponsored in part by the Rochester Downtown Alliance and Rochester Women Magazine.

Hartert's mother started writing her own story in longhand in 1970, but the years chronicled in the story of her life only made it until about 24 years of age.

"She wrote 90 pages in a school wire bound notebook. She never finished, although she had many healthy years ahead of her," said Hartert. "While I read the beginning of her story, I decided I'd write my story, especially for our grandchildren. I wanted to do this while I was healthy, and able to do so,"

One motivation is there have been frequent times that she would have liked to ask her mother questions, but that is impossible now because she is gone. So just over a year ago, she sat down at the computer and started her own life story. It wasn't a tremendous task, explained Hartert, because she wrote chronologically, and the writing would take place "every now and then."

The book went to press late last fall, and she gave books to her four daughters, siblings, and nieces and nephews. She also had a book for each of the 10 grandchildren, but asked their moms to put the books away until the children were older. Right now their ages range from 3 to 15. The oldest, Anna, did read hers, and she had quite a few questions.

Workshop co-organizer and writer Debi Neville stated, "We have leaders and panelists who will share at the Creative Salon, and Rita Hartert will discuss her recent writing endeavor which is a book about her life. Mariah Neville Mihm, editor of Rochester Women Magazine, will discuss writing for magazines and how to submit a story idea. I will share information on freelance writing for newspaper, magazines, corporate and individuals, and Tom Driscoll, a Lanesboro publisher and literary magazine editor, will talk about fiction.

"The group of leaders and panelists will be from southeast Minnesota to relate to who we are and what we live, what we do...some have written books, published poetry, or work in the news industry as editors and publishers. A representative from SELCO will be there to invite submissions for their publication, and a SEMAC rep will discuss grants available for writing projects and writers. We have a total of about 16 resource people. This is an opportunity to share knowledge, experience and network resources."

Neville and workshop co-organizers Joan Sween and Michael Kalmbach collaborated to bring together the writers of the area, as "writers traditionally don't have an office building or little individual cubicles where we go to write, so we write at home, in our own environments...with obstacles such as money, finding the time, finding a venue for your work, how you think about yourself as a writer - if you think 'I am only a poet,' maybe try to write a short story, or vice versa."

She elaborated, "I have chatted with several writer friends and other acquaintances and we all felt it would be great to have a get-together where we share ideas and concerns, some 'how-does-this-work-for-me' types of things, and even what doesn't work. Three of us decided to pool our brainpower and contacts to put it on. This (workshop) will open a few doors, I think, other possibilities and help us explore our own capabilities and talents, as we'll be doing some hands-on with some short writing exercises maybe to try something different.

"Meeting people in the publishing business is a great opportunity. We will have a list of resources for everything from self- and traditional publishing to local magazine and newspaper editors, as well as information on poetry slams, which are becoming very popular."

They hope to encourage others to start a writing group or a shared editing group in their town, neighborhood, or just a get together that would be beneficial. Neville would like to see writing groups spring up all over, encouraging each other with their desire to write, as there are several writing groups already. One meets monthly at the Rochester Public library. An offshoot of that is an informal writing group that gets together once a month. Also, there is an open writing session at The Salon in downtown Rochester weekly.

"We hope people come away from the workshop with a sense of inspiration, encouragement, empowerment," said Neville. "That can be a tall order, but knowing there are others out there to help and provide a format to discuss what we do is the main thing."

The workshop is for everyone - all ages, all abilities. Organizers hope to have students and elderly, middle-aged and young adults. Everyone is welcome. The workshop received a grant from Rochester Downtown Alliance and Rochester Woman magazine to help with expenses.

"It is wonderful to have the support of business and individuals," she said. "We hope this might be something we do again in a few months. There's been a lot of interest."

The "Gathering of Writers" writers' workshop is set to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 5, at the Creative Salon, 324 First Ave. SW, Rochester, with an open discussion morning session - addressing why writers write, what they should write, finding time, mistakes they make, contact with authors, finding the right advice and available grants - slated for 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. With a lunch break, there will be networking and book fair from 11:30 1 p.m. Options for early afternoon sessions from 1 to 3 p.m. are storytelling in fiction, memoirs and journals, or freelance writing. From 3 to 5 p.m., attendees may choose between sessions on traditional and self-publishing or on poetry. From 5 to 5:30 p.m., the wrap-up session will be held. Registration is $40 per person. For more information, contact Debi Neville at (507) 951-4394.