NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - For those who enjoy writing, it can be even more fun when you share the interest with others, as Dick Byrnes has found. A published author, he helped start a writer’s group when he moved to Lantern Hill, an Erickson Living-managed community in New Providence.

Dick’s book, Christ With a Priest’s Face (Spirituality in Action: The Remarkable Life of Father Charles Hubert McTague), was published in 2002. The biography tells the real-life story of Fr. Charles Hubert McTague, the longtime chaplain of Stella Maris Chapel in Port Newark, N.J., who led an incredible life of service, working with refugees, in support of addicts, and on peacemaking efforts in the Middle East.

The writers group Dick started quickly gained interest, drawing up to 30 members at a time. Though members may choose to come and go, the imagination and creativity on display in their writing continues.

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“People here have such interesting life stories and ideas,” says Dick. “One person wrote about the Holocaust. Another wrote about their experience with Alzheimer’s.”

The group meets once a month and reads each other’s pieces aloud. They critique each other’s work in an encouraging and constructive way, and the group has writers of all levels of experience. People submit both fiction and nonfiction writing.

“Whether you are a beginner or seasoned author, and no matter at what stage your work is, you are welcome to join us in an atmosphere of support and camaraderie,” says Dick.

Members’ pieces are also published in “The Spotlight,” Lantern Hill’s resident newsletter. A recent issue featured “My Last Day in the Circus,” a piece by resident Helen Guzy told from the perspective of a performer in the Ringling Brothers Circus.

When Dick noticed that many people liked to write about their own personal life experience, a memoir-specific group became a natural spinoff. Members often inspired each other’s ideas. Once one person brought up a specific topic or memory that often triggered an idea in another, making for a truly collaborative group.

A career educator, Dick worked as a teacher, superintendent, and principal, including as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. With years of experience in public speaking, Dick also became interested in oral storytelling. After listening to a weekly podcast and a national public radio show called The Moth Radio Hour, Dick was inspired to start a storytellers’ group at Lantern Hill too. That group also meets monthly, and Dick finds that it’s a good alternative for those who may be intimidated by the prospect of writing because they think of storytelling as just talking.

“It really took on a life of its own,” says Dick. “People talk about all kinds of subjects.”

Lifelong learning

Dick writes every day, and he also belongs to a writers’ group in nearby Morristown, for which he writes something new every week. He’s now working on a new novel about an Irish family, which starts in 1828.

“I’m from an Irish family myself, and I started reading about the evictions in Chicago. I became interested in the subject and started doing some research,” says Dick. “Submitting something new each week keeps me accountable.”

In addition to heading up the writers and storytellers’ groups, Dick serves on the Resident Advisory Council and enjoys swimming, working out at the fitness center, and playing golf. When he’s not busy with one of his hobbies, Dick enjoys just striking up a conversation and getting to know new people on campus.

“Everyone here is so welcoming,” says Dick. “Here I can be whatever I want to be, and people are so easy to talk to and friendly.”

That goes for the residents as well as the staff. “Especially during the past year, I’m so glad I’m here,” says Dick.

“Executive Director Craig Karczmer’s leadership has been great and the entire staff has worked so hard to keep everyone safe.”

To learn more about activities at Lantern Hill, visit LanternHillCommunity.com or call 1-800-989-4951.

About Lantern Hill: Lantern Hill, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 26-acre campus in New Providence, New Jersey. The not-for-profit community of more than 500 residents and 300 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, Inc., who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Lantern Hill can be found at LanternHillCommunity.com.