Married 42 years, Dennis and Beverly Kotch have long shared one particular passion: creative writing.
He writes organized crime and historical fiction stories; she tends toward memoirs, short stories, poetry, and historical fiction. The longtime Merrick residents have both had work published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and describe their work as inspired by life experiences.
"I've known a lot of characters," Dennis said.
Beverly added: "I think that's the thing both of our stories share. They're character driven."
However, it's the couple's unwritten contribution to the Long Island writing community that led the Long Island Writers' Guild to award them each a 2009 Diamond Leadership Award.
"We're looking for a strong leader who is a role model, who is out there supporting the Writers' Guild and helping our members be successful," said LIWG President Peter Garenani, who founded the LIWG 17 years ago. "They're the people out there cutting the path in the forest, spreading the word, helping people find their voices and express their souls."
Dennis, 66, who serves as the guild's vice president and treasurer, is also the creator of a series of annual summer events at Governor's Island, which brings together featured readers and members for a day of entertainment and enrichment.
He also serves as the LIWG's liaison to Channel 21, longtime LIWG suppporter Springfield Gardens Masonic Lodge, and to a number of local authors and guest editors of the guild's own projects, and is co-editor of the guild's forthcoming anthology From Sunrise to Sunset. He assists Garenani in leading the guild's evening workshops in Levittown and Bethpage, offering writers advice and guidance in their creative journeys.
Oftentimes, Dennis finds himself repeating the same advice to writers: "Put your butt in the seat and write. I say that in various forms. That's the main thing."
Beverly, 69, serves as the guild's director of program development, and is responsible for quadrupling the number of libraries that host LIWG events, according to Garenani. She is the architect of a series of forums called "LIWG Reads!" in which members can share their work in more depth than the guild's regular meetings typically allow. Beverly also leads the guild's daytime workshops in East Meadow.
"I find myself telling [members] to read their work aloud to themselves so they can circle where the glitches are," Beverly said. "Read into a tape recorder – it helps."
Dennis is a five-time consecutive winner of the guild's Diamond Leadership Award, while this marks Beverly's second. Both are also winners of the LIWG's Lifetime Achievement Award and Member of the Year Award. The LIWG was founded in 1993, and both have been members since 1997.
Dennis, an accountant, and Beverly, a retired real estate agent, have lived in Merrick for more than 30 years and have four children from Beverly's previous marriage. His influences include Mario Puzo, creator of The Godfather, while hers include James Michener's historical works.
As serious as they are about their art, Dennis and Beverly are each still possessed of a vibrant sense of humor. Take, for instance, the question of where they see their work taking them within the next several years.
"Epitaphs," Beverly said.
"Eulogies," Dennis added. "We're getting very into eulogies."
In the quest to become published writers over the years, they have established a strong sense of support for one another's work.
"The blessing is that our main interests are just enough apart that there is no competition," Beverly said.
Competition with each other, that is.
The rest of the writing community? Well, that's another story.