Locals celebrate literature through Scrabble


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Teens, adults, the elderly, and small children gathered around tables with Scrabble boards set up in the center at the bustling Bread Garden Market & Bakery on Sunday. Some laughed and talked between plays, while the more competitive Scrabble Club players were silent — thoughtfully contemplating which letter they would set down next.

"In general, Scrabble players are readers, and I think everybody is really, really excited to be participating in this," said Gary Sanders, the creator of Scrabble Club. "I think that the Scrabble Club is indicative that we are a literate city, that people here read, and that people here enjoy words and are knowledgeable. I think that's what the Scrabble Club shows."

Scrabble Club met as a part of its monthly gatherings at the Bread Garden for the Day in the City of Literature, celebrating Iowa City's role as one of the four UNESCO Cities of Literature during the Iowa City Book Festival.

"As a teacher and as a reader, I was thrilled to have Scrabble Club as an event for the Day in the City of Literature," Sanders said. "I mean, I was hoping to have somebody like [Fyodor] Dostoyevsky guest appearance, but I couldn't get him. I also tried [Honoré] Balzac and [Jack] Kerouac, but they weren't available either. Go figure."

Roughly 30 people participated Sunday, building such words as "Boxy" for literature. The Scrabble Club, which began a year and a half ago, invites players of all ages and abilities to join the free monthly meetings, in which members socialize through Scrabble.

"Scrabble Club keeps the brain going, and it makes you think," said Marjorie Garlow, who has been a part of the club for approximately five months. "I love making friends who are so wonderful and can teach you so much about Scrabble."

Elena Beachy, a French teacher at Kirkwood Community College who has played Scrabble since she was 10 in France, and her 7-year-old daughter, Lilou Beachy, use Scrabble Club to spend time together.

"Scrabble is a game of words, and words are what create books, so it fits with the Day in the City of Literature," Beachy said.

Matt Schaefer, an Iowa City local, participated in Scrabble Club for the first time Sunday. "I thought it was a nice tie in to the Day in a City of Literature," he said. "It gave me a chance to fill that time between noon and 1 productively, as opposed to, you know, panhandling."

And Scrabble Club is branching off from its local roots.

Dori Butler, a children's book writer, who has been a part of Scrabble Club since it first began, decided to open another extension of the club in Coralville, which met for the first time July 2.
Another branch is also set to begin this fall in Cedar Rapids, Sanders said.

"We certainly welcome university students," he said. "We're not just a bunch of geezers."

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