Gaithersburg Creative Writers Group

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Visit our links page for members’ news. Also, please scroll down to see schedule for our new novel writing initiative. 

Impressions of our meeting on 11/16/2021 are below

On 12/7/2021 we will have a Zoom meeting, starting at 7:15 PM. Our next meet person will be on 12/21/2021 in a place to be determined. Send an email to silverpenken@aol.com to receive connection information or read below.


The information for our Zoom meetings is as follows:

Every month on the First Tue, until Apr 5, 2022, 7 occurrence(s)

Oct 5, 2021 07:30 PM, Nov 2, 2021 07:30 PM, Dec 7, 2021 07:30 PM, Jan 4, 2022 07:30 PM, Feb 1, 2022 07:30 PM, Mar 1, 2022 07:30 PM, Apr 5, 2022 07:30 PM.

Please download and import the following iCalendar (.ics) files to your calendar system.

Monthly: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/tZApdOiprTIpGNww51UHWc62XcobZTYjCXdF/ics?icsToken=98tyKuGsqjgrG9ecsxuPRpwIBojCd-vztlhejY1Ki0q0NghkYVWkDuFNMIhLKdLz

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84431139328: Meeting ID: 844 3113 9328


At the end of our meeting on 1/19/2021 we decided to write a novel communally. Mike Waters volunteered to head the effort and developed a schedule for each writer’s product. See the table below for information. Green signifies that the project has been completed to that point. The novel is completed and pending decision on next-steps.

Collaborative Writing Project
Chapter Writer Baton passed Due date
1 Suzyn 24-Jan 7-Feb
2 Kenneth 7-Feb 21-Feb
3 Mike 21-Feb 7-Mar
4 Melina 7-Mar 21-Mar
5 Cat 21-Mar 4-Apr
6 John 4-Apr 18-Apr
7 Lawrence 18-Apr 2-May
8 Karuna 2-May 10-Jun
9 Mario 10-Jun 24-Jun
10 Connie 27-Jun 11-Jul
11 Suzanne
12 Daniel

Our meetings in person will alternate with virtual ones. Please visit this page to know how the next meeting will be conducted or subscribe to our IO group, GaithersburgWriters. To join the group, send a message from the email that you want to receive messages to GaithersburgWriters+subscribe@groups.io

Our next in-person meeting will be on 10/21/2021 at 6:30 PM. We will meet at Don Jorge’s in Old Towne, 108 East Diamond Avenue starting at 6:30 PM. This restaurant is highly rated area-wide. The first 15 minutes, we hope, will be used to order food and drinks so that we can start the meeting promptly at 6:45. Please arrive early and order to receive special prices (I meant praises).

Please let Ken know if you are planning to read and bring enough copies to get comments. If you want the piece to be put up on this page send it to Ken (silverpenken@aol.com) or to Mario (mariosalazar@comcast.net).

We also have a members list serv at https://groups.io/g/gaithersburgwriters 

Join at the site or send an email to 

gaithersburgwriters+subscribe@groups.io

Visit our Facebook page Gaithersburg Creative Writers

Meetings summaries


Meeting report of our 11/16/2021, prepared by Ken.

Ten heads were warm last night but less so our twenty feet. Heater #3 at the Fontina Grill went wild and was promptly replaced. Heater #1 failed toward the end but, by then, the reading had warmed us. The place was more expensive than Don Jorge but was a good option given 47-degree weather outside and fears of COVID inside.
Our next meeting is set for December 7th, on Zoom. Plans for the 21st are uncertain, but sign-up for both is open now.
Mike spoke first with a partial rewrite and continuation of his exciting story of trying to open a hotel on the road to riches. His heroine is saved from ruffians by a lower class “Delver,” who is very good with a knife. Also, we see the Delver exercising authority over persons of a supposedly superior race. There were questions and comments but, I’m sorry, Mike, few if any suggestions.
Next, Bryan read part of a silent animated script that will lead to meetings in a nursing home between a young boy and Grace, an elderly lady. To us non-screen writers, his directions to the film maker seemed very clear, as they must be for a film. One suggestion was that he give a fuller description of Grace, and there was a question about the significance of the boy attending a Catholic school.
Then, Richard read an anecdote, or short memoir, about working in the U.S. Consulate in Paris in 1957. It showed how consular officers have power but are restrained by rules, and this leads to denying visas to some who deserve them and approving them for some who don’t. We would have liked more details of some of the cases, especially one of an attractive blond applicant who blew him a kiss.
Maryanne was ready with a poem entitled “Walking Up Lincoln Street.” It was a compelling description of the life and death of the 17-year cicadas. One bug landed on her, as if she were a tree that would last seventeen years on Lincoln Street. We could all identify with the cicada phenomenon, and we agreed that is hard to critique a poem. There is, after all, poetic license, which gives the author a lot of leeway.
Mario followed with more of his memoir about a trip into rural Colombia at age nine. He flew past the sex on an Army outpost and on to the soldiers being royally shunned as they approached a small village. The villagers know that any hint of cooperation could get them killed by guerrillas. Then, a bull rammed his way into a tent. The suggestions related mainly to grammar and word choice.
Awaiting the checks, we had time for Ethan to read a sort of poem about animals. It was from his newly published book, the second in quick succession, and dealt with “native Americans” returning to the suburbs They turned out to be squirrels and other four-footed creatures. We enjoyed the poem and thought about our cities being reclaimed by animals. Well, it is happening now, as with bears in Siberia.


Report of November 2 meeting. Thank you, Ken.

While people were busy counting votes here and there, our group was engrossed in members’ writing. We were ten, of whom five were able to read. Those who attended and couldn’t read will have priority the next time.

Mario was first with Chapter 2 of his story of a horseback/camping trip in rural Colombia at the age of 9. He described falling behind and riding through nests of snakes, then grabbed our attention with details of sex at a Colombian Army outpost. The group practically demanded more information. Also, we made grammatical suggestions and pointed out a transition that didn’t work well, a use of passive voice when active voice would be better, etc. We definitely look forward to the third chapter.

Karuna followed with a very touching story, or memoir, that began with her husband’s illness and death 13 years ago. Karuna explored the role of yoga in her recovery and her life, including starting her own business to help other people through yoga. That the main suggestions was to use fewer exclamation points shows the quality of her writing. She will perfect the story, and it will certainly be worthy of publication.

Natalie was the next reader and offered a poem about COVID, Zoom school and real school for her daughter, Paige. It is the kind of writing that can be presented as poetry as prose. It was clear that in-person learning is much better for Paige, but COVID could send her back to Zoom. There were suggestions about word choice and changing tenses too often but none regarding content. Also, there was a question about how she divided the piece into lines.

Daniel’s card came up next, to read Chapter two of a new story. We used to limit writers to two or three pages, but that is no longer workable. In Chapter one, Daniel introduced us to a young witch who must learn the ways of the world and, in this chapter, we met a warrior-turned-healer named Jan. They seem destined to meet and will probably have to confront a villain. Some comments were that a few words, such as “great,” were repeated too much and that known terms such as “Viking” stood out among the many fictitious names. It will be exciting to see this story as it progresses.

Connie ceded to Ken the opportunity to go last. He read a one-page memoir about a house he lived in for several months, in Honduras. The house had been the scene of a horrendous crime. Local people said it was haunted, and many would not go near it. Ken and his family poo pooed numerous small incidents but, when the anniversary of the crime arrived, they went out for dinner out and a night in a hotel. Some comments were that the introduction could be improved and that, as usual for Ken, more detail could be added.

Our next event is scheduled for November 16th. Our members, COVID and the weather will determine the location and the time. These will be announced in the middle of next week.


Report of Oct 19 meeting of Gaithersburg Creative Writers prepared by Ken.

We were a carton of eggs last night, a dozen writers in parallel lines at a long table. It was on the deck at Don Jorge’s with the temp a chilly 64 degrees. Ethan produced copies of his latest book, “Dreamscapes,” and money found his pocket. For info. and/or to buy this collection of vibrant vignettes, contact marianne.szlyk@gmail.com. Only $15 a copy.

Suzanne, the first up, read a memoir of a one-day stand as a hair model. Her description of the process was clear and compelling, as she found herself dressed in “super chic shabby,” “too large for the bottoms and too small for the tops.” In the end, her new short “do” was loudly cheered and she was compelled to parade before the audience. She is an excellent writer.

John came next with more of his story about the president’s copter being shot down near a bridge over the Potomac River. There were details aplenty to leave his credibility unquestioned, including even a copter blasting “Take Me Home, Country Roam” to woo voters as it flew over West Virginia. Members commented that this or that needed more explanation, but we thoroughly enjoyed the piece.

Then, Mario read the first pages of a memoir about a horseback camping trip in Colombia, when he was age 9, with adults who expected him to be one. We could feel the campfire and the saddle sores as the group ventured into former guerilla (the human kind) territory. There were minor grammatical problems and comments that the description of a land deal was confusing, but we were and are quite eager to hear what happens next.

Richard followed with a tale of the birth of his daughter in Baghdad, Iraq in 1964. With a normal birth in the offing, he and his wife chose a local hospital instead of traveling to Beirut. The baby came sooner than expected, but they made it to the hospital, only to find its maternity ward had been closed. To zip to another hospital, they rushed to their car, but its battery was dead. A taxi appeared, and all was well. We really liked the story, although there were calls for more explanation here and there and to consider rearranging some of the paragraphs.

Mike, the last to read, received few comments because the group had gone giddy to a great degree. We wouldn’t have had much to say, anyway; his writing is impeccable. In the early evening, Kaari and Ethan try to sneak by a pair of ruffians, but Kaari is discovered when her dog runs, barking, after a group of deer. That leaves her in quite a precarious situation. How, oh, how, will she get out of it? We will see when Mike wants us to see.

Others might have read but agreed to wait until the next time. That is scheduled for November 2nd at 7:30 p.m. on Zoom. You can sign up NOW. Beyond that, we expect to meet on November 16th at 6:30 p.m., at Don Jorge’s. The forecast is for 85 degrees with sunshine and a mild breeze/


Ken again provided the summary for out meeting on 10/5/2021.

Fifteen writers were with us on Tuesday including a newcomer, Alexander Zito. Welcome, Alex. Five were able to read, and all were well worth listening to. Others were ready, but time ran out. They’ll have priority the next time they attend. We plan to gather again, at Don Jorge’s, October 19th at 6:30 p.m. If the weather is bearable, we’ll be outside. Someone said last night that she was from Canada and could take it cold. She probably has a closet full of snowmobiling clothes. 

To get us started, Suzanne and Bryan spoke briefly about their new film, Anacostia Delta, about the D.C. music scene. Only Mario managed to see it last weekend. The rest of us will have to wait for another opportunity. Karuna, the first to sign on to Zoom, became the first to read. The work was part of her “morning pages,” a tool for helping writers be more prolific. We all liked the opening, the anecdotes, and what could have been her play list for the day. There were suggestions that she add information about herself and her origin. Also, she included names of several family members, from an area in India. We suggested that she keep them but add space between them by saying a little about each person. Next up: Michael. He read new material from his ongoing story that includes building an inn on a road that is, increasingly, traveled by treasure hunters. He has lovely descriptions of the physical environment and excellent dialogue. The themes of loyalty and discrimination were broached, as they are throughout the story. About the only suggestion was to add to the dialogue when the protagonist met a group of travelers. This new material is definitely a useful addition to the story. In another change of pace, Marianne described a literary event she and Ethan hosted last Saturday. It featured readings in three languages and sounded wonderful. Also, she mentioned a session she will lead for Montgomery College on October 29th. Then, she read her poem, “One Night at the Flamboyan, 1993.” The discussion was mostly about different perceptions of what was happening with a young couple in a nightclub. It was well written and thought provoking. She is a practiced and prolific poet. Then, Daniel took the floor with more of the first chapter of his story, or book, about the young sorceress, Kyna. On her sixteenth birthday, she overturned tarot cards one by one and began to glimpse her future, and what she saw was unsettling. When we left her, she had more cards to see and had accepted that she must see what life was like outside her realm. Daniel’s style and word choice are well adapted to his subject. We could almost see Kyna and her mother, Moira, who was watching as the cards were revealed. Suzyn capped the evening with a short memoir written after she attended a workshop that delivered a “five C” format for stories. The components are Content, Catalyst, Complication, Change and Conclusion. Susan’s story was about growing up with very different parents and forming a special attachment with each one, but sometimes each felt isolated as she related with the other. Gender differences were evident. The story led to rave reviews and applause.


Ken wrote the summary of our meeting on 9/21/2021 held at Don Jorge’s.

Last night, the no-shows and the drop-ins were even. We expected ten and had ten, of whom (Aren’t you impressed that I said “whom” instead of “which?”) – of whom five were able to read.
Kristin was first because Ken liked her self-introduction. She read a series of 50-word poems, or stories if you prefer. She is writing several and plans to enter the best ones in a contest. The group didn’t say much about the writing but did offer opinions about which ones the judges might like. If she wins, we will all celebrate.
Ethan was next because he had offered useful comments to Kristen. Did Shakespeare say, “On such small things are big decisions based?” He offered two stories, each one-third of a page. “Incompatibility” caught us off guard, as it zipped from philosophy to marital (or non-marital) relations. There were comments that the reader couldn’t always tell who was speaking. Then, “Movie” took the fake sister from the TV screen to the living room. It was engaging. There were one or two comments about the choice of words.
Then, our newcomer, John King, read the first three pages of a novel he is writing about the president’s helicopter being shot down. He is trying to change his writing style from professional (law enforcement) to novelistic, and there were comments that he still had too many facts and not enough story. At the same time, some paragraphs were a bit wordy. We loved the phrase: “That was because he was assigned back on the USA and in a real city, not that the people of New River, North Carolina are not nice people, but…”.
After John, Mario read a re-written part of his story about a man on the run. We liked the dialogue from a person who spoke little, if any, in the first version. Mario had tried to write it the way an 18-year-old with limited education would speak. There were grammatical suggestions and a comment that there was too much detail in some places. Mario, and others too, had to compete with freight trains but, thankfully, only short ones.
Big John finished the evening with a short tale of life in the planet of Jabra, where “squillers” were running across the lawn hunting for nuts. “Kormo” wondered how it would be if the squillers could teleport into people’s lunch bags. Then, time started to skip, and both the Yellow and the Green people were frightened. Some comments were that the opening was confusing, but it was probably meant to be. Also, the work “skip” might have been repeated too much at the end. In John’s defense, a stone can skip more times than the word was used.
We expect to follow our usual schedule in October: the first Tuesday at 7:30 on Zoom and the second at 6:30 at Don Jorge’s. You may sign up now. In fact, some people already have.


Ken Weiss wrote the summary of our meeting on 9/7/2021

Next Meetings on September 21st at 6:30 at Don Jorge’s and October 5th, 7:30 on Zoom. You may sign up now for either or both. Mario and John (see below) will read first.

Last night. Ah, last night. A newcomer, John King was first on the screen. Then, others dribbled in. John said he was a “free thinker” but only because thinking was free.

As others endeavored to find their masterpieces, Ken read an essay on “My Goal.” He wrote it to try to win free admission to the Maryland Writer’s Association Annual Conference. Our experts tore it limb from limb, and Ken was overjoyed. One comment was that the real story was the people he met on his journey. Also, he was advised to give each paragraph a topic sentence, add detail to the examples, and strengthen the conclusion. Thank you, everybody.

Connie’s neck was next in the writers’ noose. She read a series of haikus about cats, and we enjoyed them. Our main advice was to write as many as she wanted to and then keep just the most entertaining. Her haikus led to sightings of two members’ kitties. Then, Marianne read a poem about words and music. Some comments were that we liked the “sparseness” of it and, believe it or not, that it might be better if she removed the last stanza. We had recently circulated five of her poems that were recently published.

Mike followed with a new page or two from his ongoing adventure story of Kaari, Torran and Ethan. A highlight was when Karri returned from a quick trip to the woods and thought she saw Torran sitting by the fire. Then, he disappeared, leaving no trace of his presence. Mike’s writing is impeccable, but there were questions about how the “lower class” Ethan could be so perfectly loyal. There followed brief discussions of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and the word, “scatalogical.” Sorry, the details are classified.

Daniel ended the evening with part of a fantasy regarding the seven realms of man, Sillach the Sorceress, and other characters you will never meet in downtown, Gaithersburg. There was good discussion but little in the way of helpful suggestions. His first page was packed with information and led to speculation about where the story would go from there.

Ken wrote the summary for 8/17/2021.

The table was set, outside and under cover, and Don Jorge’s treated us well – all ten of us, including one who got a lesson in screen sharing on the spot (thank you, Mike). Newcomers, Marianne Szlyk and her husband, Ethan became full members of the group almost instantly. Not all wanted to read – just enough for the time available.

At the end, Ken broke through the jumble of voices to say we would meet September 7th at 7:30 p.m. on Zoom and Sept. 21st at 6:30 p.m. in Don Jorge’s. You can sign up now for those meetings, and some have done so. It takes just an email to silverpenken@aol.com.

Ken introduced Natalie, who could not find the next chapter of Alice, the French Robot on her laptop, so Marianne became the first reader. She offered a lovely poem entitled Sunset, Facing West (after Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings). It was in free verse. We all enjoyed it and had few, if any, suggestions.

Then, Natalie read part of her ongoing story about Alice. The robot was still hot-tempered and error prone but with a new dimension: she was learning to swear in English. There were suggestions about spelling words in French phonetically and saying more about the other robots whom, Alice felt, were invading “her” home. The big dinner party approaches. What barbaries will Alice commit? We are on pins and needles.

Next, Richard read a brief memoir about traveling by road from Baghdad to Iran in 1965. It described beautiful sights, friendly people, a flat tire, a robbery and more. There were suggestions such as spacing out the place names, combining some of the sentences, and including more examples and more detail abut, for example, the 14-hour segment from Tehran to Baghdad when he was ill and his wife had to drive.

Connie followed with a series of illustrated haikus about cats. All of us especially cat owners, enjoyed them and thought they could be turned into a children’s book. Rumor has it that Connie was encouraged by our comment and wrote 20 more haikus before going to sleep.

Then, Ethan was up with an exciting essay about diving in a trash bag to find his wife’s glasses so he could donate them to help “… restore vision to distant corners of planet earth,” (while noting that a round planet was corner-less). He swam as “… banana peels and apple cores drifted by … ” and began to find relics of earlier days, including a flip phone. He tried to call his wife to say where he was, but there was no service. We all enjoyed this piece and had few suggestions.

Batting cleanup was Mario with a rewritten part of his story of changing identities, detective work and more. There was a question about why Miguel treated Dionisio so well. Then, a new segment described how Detective Candace determined, with help from the Lewes Marina, that her quarry had not drowned in a ferry boat accident. She is one smart cookie, that detective. The protagonist, named Paco at that point, had better keep his guard way up.


Ken wrote the summary for 8/3/2021.

The group rode again last night, on Zoom, with readers and non-readers Our punctuality was not great but was good enough. Ken led with a small poem about poems, which was well received.

Next, Mario offered a revision of an earlier part of his tale of Francisco Gallo, alias this and that. Those of us who heard that part several months ago agreed that the changes were helpful. There were no substantive comments, but they were several about choices of words. “Inconspicuous” emerged as the best to to describe a house and yard that were intended to not attract attention.

Mike followed with part of a “translation” of the novel, Moby Dick, from Melville’s English to more modern English, while trying to preserve the meaning and the humor. It was amazing that events Melville mentioned 180 years ago, such as war in Afghanistan, are still occurring. There were interesting lines, such as, “I’m going to hell, but first let me collect my money.” When Anita mentioned that her favorite poem by Herman Melville was “The Maldive Shark,” Ken found it on the internet and asked her to read it.

Then, Connie came on with a poem written one day when she had not slept well. It looked at aspects of her life and was a bit dark, with references to dying. The rhyme pattern was a very unusual AAAA, but the rhymes did not sound forced. Connie said she had files of poems dating back to, was it, the 4th grade?

Ken took the Zoom stage again with an essay he was writing for a Maryland Writers Association contest. He received excellent small suggestions, such as adding information about the countries in Africa that he mentioned. Not everyone is familiar with the dozens of small countries there. He could have given more details about the contest, but, hey, why invite competition?

Anita would up the event by introducing a book she is writing about her non-profit organization in Uganda. It has provided school children in her hometown with one million cups of porridge. She read an excerpt that discussed four types of people who form philanthropic foundations and said she was none of those. We look forward to the description of another type –  herself. The main suggestion was that she follow the usual process of asking two or three people to read and edit the book before it is released.

Our next meeting is scheduled for August 17th at 6:30 p.m. at Don Jorge’s restaurant (outside if possible). This decision will be reviewed on August 10th. Comments are welcome, and you may sign up now.


From Ken: Fun at Don Jorge’s last night (7/20/2021)? Yes, for sure, with a glass of Coke and a poem by Poe. If ya missed it, ya missed. Eight of us did not miss it.

Daniel led with a robot story that would have been murder and mayhem, except that the robot-for-hire had developed a conscience and could not “terminate” the target. She was something like a Virtually Intelligent Droid Assassin, or VIDA, although there were probably other descriptors that I missed. She fell victim to a Rapid Erasure Probe (REP) to wipe out her memory but had back-up systems to partially save it, as she was jettisoned into the void of space. Wow! Pure adventure, that! There was praise from the group and a few constructive commentsere

Ken jumped in next with vignettes from a collection of 93 that he wrote in ’94, in Haiti. He would like to see them published, now that he is not an “official” American and Haiti is much in the news. The vignette that got most attention was about the bakery on a hill that had a bell rigged up so it would ring loudly when the electricity came on. At its sound, workers would rush to the bakery and mix dough, then bake it in propane ovens. Its loaves were in high demand. There were suggestions that Ken expand some of the vignettes and ideas about who might publish them.

Bryan was up next and read a “treatment” for a film he is working on. The writing was excellent, including the dialogue, as Dina Capresi got the job in the coffee shop because no one else volunteered, and there met Jupiter, and so on. A few of us were slightly confused but only because we were not familiar with the kind of writing that goes into preparation of a film. All agreed that the result will be fun to watch, and we hope to someday be able to do so.

Mario continued his story of a Uruguayan in the U.S., who does not want to be found, adopting his second false identity. He planted evidence to show that his first “persona” had died in a ferry boat accident, but, of course, the body was never found and, already, a detective was suspicious. Discussion centered on topics such as how long it takes to grow a full beard, to whom his motorcycle was registered, and how quickly a Uruguayan can pick up a Colombian accent. Is it “jo” or “yo”? We will look forward to the next chapter.

Natalie read last  – a story about a “pleasure room” in the house of a Chinese couple that loved cats. The walls were decorated with soothing Chinese proverbs. At first, there seemed to be too much detail about the couple, but then it fell into place amid their “no kill” rescue activities. There was discussion of the point of view and of Natalie’s writing style. We look forward to hearing the ending of another story she has in process, about an incorrigible French robot that, or who, seems about to totally mess up a major dinner party.

SCHEDULE FOR AUGUST: The 3rd on Zoom and the 17th at Don Jorge’s. Registration is now open for the Zoom event. 


Ken wrote the summary for the 7/6/2021 meeting. As usual, it was a work of art (with a little hyperbola).

After 10,259 last-minute emails, our meeting last night began and went well. We have become more than a writer’s group. Emotions and feelings are coming out, and they make for great writing.

We plan to gather again on July 20th, 6:30 p.m., Don Jorge’s in Olde Towne. Suzanne and Bryan are already signed, and Mario and Ken. If you would like to go, please let me know.

The first sound last night was Cat’s meow, from the far away Shenandoah. She offered the start of a story about a plant professional whose boredom leads her to dangerous cross-breeding and unexpected romance. Cat is a excellent writer and a wonderful reader. There were some comments about minor points, which she accepted gracefully. The story surely has potential.

Then, Suzyn continued reading her poems about colors. She lamented that none seemed as good as the first one, on “red.” Connie chose to hear “”Purple,” and there was a comment that it could circle back, at the end, to the beginning. With regard to  a line in “Blue,” Connie asked, “Who’s the virgin,” and Ken had replies that were, thankfully, left unsaid. We learned facts about colors, including that, in olden times, wealthy people who ordered paintings would specify how much of a canvas would be in blue. That color came from lapis lazuli, and patrons wanted much of it as a display of wealth.

Natalie continued with a poem that was quite different from what she usually writes. It was about words, direction, cooperation – a journey. It’s hard to make suggestions about modern poetry because it is meant to be read and enjoyed, not necessarily understood. We listened well and enjoyed it.

Connie was the next and, as it turned out, the last reader of the evening. She began by expressing “complicated grief” that her (recently deceased) mother’s house had been sold the night before. That led to a discussion of visiting the houses in which were raised. Connie summed it up as: “Houses are important parts of people’s lives.”

Then, she read a poem she had written just after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York. She admitted to being “less idealistic” now but did not speak of making changes in the poem. Discussion centered on where it might be published for the 20th anniversary of the September 11th event.

Then, it was “goodbye” until the next event (7/20/2021 at Don Jorge’s), which I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting.   Ken


We numbered nine last night (6/15/2021), and the meeting was among the best ever. Don Jorge’s was perfect except that they gave us an upscale menu. Richard found a solution – just ordered what he wanted. It was not on the menu, but it came with the other dinners.

Kirsten Ferragut showed us her new book of poetry, Escape Velocity, published by Kelsay Books and for sale on Amazon.com, and read an excellent poem from it. At least three of us became happy owners of autographed copies.

Somehow, we started talking about a poem Ken had circulated, from Poet Lore magazine. Suzanne read it from her phone, and a few members alleged that they understood it. “Fat chance,” says Ken (but he is wrong sometimes). Then, Ken read a sort of response to that poem, exchanging camels for giraffes and mentioning work by Natalie.

Richard followed with part of a biography of his wife, who passed away a few years ago. It was about how they met, in high school. She sat by the pencil sharpener, and he became an obsessive user of that machine. Then, there was an invitation to the 1955 senior prom, to which they did not arrive because they were in a serious traffic accident. This biography will be a good one. There were few, if any, negative comments except that we wanted more detail.

Then, Suzanne, a brave lady, sang the first part of a song she is writing. After applause, she read the remainder and said the song would be part of an album. The rhythm and rhyme lead to a brief discussion of their roles in poems and songs. The title is, “The Best Things in Life are Free,” and singing is among the best things. There was talk of Suzanne and Kirstin getting together to pay guitars and sing and how that would make for a lovely summer picnic.

Connie then recited, from memory, a poem she had written after the horrific attack on the world Trade Center. It was justifiably, strong on patriotism. Ken commented that, after such horrific events, many people express their feelings in writing, but most of that work is never edited or published. That lead to a small discussion of where to send our work, and Kristin suggested the Beltway Poetry Quarterly.

Mario, our last reader, continued his story of Paco García (alias this and that). Paco, fearing that his assumed identity had been compromised, saw a chance to make it look like he had died in a ferry boat accident. He managed to insert his name in the passenger manifest and plant his briefcase in the submerged wreck. Discussion centered on whether he had taken unnecessary chances in doing that and how the (very smart) detective might go about uncovering the fraud. She would surely be suspicious.

The meeting ended with a discussion of what to do about meetings in July. It is very nice to meet in person, but the virtual method has advantages too. The decision for July was to meet the first Tuesday on Zoom and the third Tuesday at Don Jorge’s. You may sign up now for the July 6th event.


Good morning. Our writer’s group will meet again on June 15th at 6:30 p.m., at Don Jorge’s restaurant in Olde Towne (outside, if possible). It looks like attendance will be good. If you plan to go, please let me know.

Last night (6/8/2021), we were five. After a late start, the reading went until midnight (kidding, of course). Connie led with a brief essay, inspired by death, that dealt with loneliness and related topics. It was similar to work she has done before but with emphasis, especially toward the end, on the healing power of nature. The piece was well done as Connies’ always are, and there was little in the way of suggestions.

Natalie read next – a story-poem about going to a restaurant (McDonald’s) for the first time after months of isolation. We could almost see her enjoying Chicken McNuggets and making up excuses for not going home. That led, unexpectedly, to a discussion of the harm that animal agriculture does to our precious earth. It made us wonder how many of our members are vegetarians or practice RIAP (Reduced Intake of Animal Products). Yes, I just made that up.

Then, Daniel came on with a story set in Kansas in 1966. She lost her precious baby in October but couldn’t bear to tell her husband until Christmas. Right after she did, outside the house, a loud noise, a flash of light, a crash. The couple went out to find a rocket, whose roof opened automatically and revealed … a baby. “He’s going to change the world,” the husband said, and they named him Clark Kent. The piece survived our eyes and ears largely intact except for questions from Ken about whether this or that was logical.

To wrap it up, Ken read his review of the book, Professor Grady and the Gravity Gun, by our member, John Hardison. Daniel, who had read the book also, explained some of the science. Someone opined hat Ken’s first sentence was bland, and Connie said she had gotten lost in the detail. There was; however, agreement that the review was interesting and gave essential information about the book without giving away the ending.

And, so it goes. We write, we read, and we keep on getting better.


From Ken about the 5/18/2021 meeting: Many thanks to Connie, Daniel and Linda for sitting in last night. They have priority to read the next time they attend. See a report on the meeting, below.

We are on track to hold a special meeting, in person, at Don Jorge’s in Olde Towne, on May 25th at 6:30 p.m. Ken will try to reserve a place on the patio. We have five members signed up. Others will be welcome.

The next regular meeting will take place on June 1st, with Zoom open at 7:15 and exciting reading as of 7:30 p.m.. Four of us are signed up to date. Thee is room for more.

The May 18 meeting

Conversation was flowing even before 7:15, about writing and other hot topics. Then, Ken begged for permission to read first. He had a memoir of a Mother’s Day automobile accident in which his car was totaled, neither he nor his wife was injured, and they were helped by a good Samaritan of Asian heritage. The group questioned the need for some of the material and asked for a bit more drama, more detail, and more about how Ken’s emotions at the scene.

Pablo was next with a story of a good Samaritan who helped a down-and-out fellow to get a meal and, in the process, helped him feel a lot better. It was sad but also uplifting. There were not many suggestions, but there was disagreement on the main point the author was trying to make. Natalie was next with more of her story about Alice, the foul mouthed French robot. We heard about preparations for the big dinner. Considering how Alice messed up that process, how will she do in the dinner itself? The story is intriguing. There were few substantive comments, but the text needed quite a bit of editing.

Then, Mario continued his story about how the protagonist, who changes identities every so often, asked a very smart former associate to help him hide his past from a very smart detective. We learned about the former associate and were duly impressed. We corrected a couple of words, and Mario tried to explain his somewhat complex plot to members who had missed meetings. The last reader was Mike, who offered a rewritten segment of his book about a society, in another world or reality. The text explained how Kaari and Toran met. Both came across as intelligent, caring, and now flirtatious. We all agreed that the current draft would attract the reader more than the previous draft did.


Ken wrote the summary of our May 4th, 2021 meeting.

The writers were all business last night, except when we weren’t. One highlight was when someone misinterpreted the word, “go.” Did it mean “start reading,” or was it related to bathroom activity?

Our group, plus spouses and minus no-shows, came to nine. of whom five found time to read. Pablo and Ken will have priority at our next meeting, which is scheduled for May 18th. You can sign up NOW to attend and to read.

Bryan began with part of a screen play, about neighbors interacting, that clearly has potential. His writing is so good that we had little to say, except to ask for clarification. We learned that notes to the actors, in that kind of writing, are considered a “no no.”

Suzyn followed with two beautiful poems. She must have studied the art, sometime. The first was a mother-daughter celebration, in “forthythra,” from birth to death. Is that description vague? Yes, but the poem was clear and meaningful. The second was all about the color “red.” It was beautifully summarized in three one-word lines: “danger,” “problem,” and “love.”

Then, Mario read a short memoir about how he was drafted into the U.S. Army, partly because the “facts” he was hearing were not facts at all. “I will not make that mistake again,” he said, but, of course, getting drafted into the Army can be a fatal mistake. We encouraged him to, somehow, make the ending more powerful.

Natalie continued with her her story about Alice, the misbehaving robot, that uses all the dirty words in French. Heaven forbid: there are plans for Alice to drive on errands and for another robot, or maybe two, to help serve in a major dinner party. Natalie was urged to add more dialogue. We are all eager to see how the big party goes.

Then, Linda wrapped it up with more of her story about an unwitting subject of some kind of experiment. He has regained consciousness, after six months, and wants to get out of there, and find his family, but sedatives and his handler make it impossible. We know he has been given super-human abilities but don’t yet know what they are.


Cat, again, wrote the summary and Ken did the editing. Thanks for an excellent summary.

Yes! the writers were riding high. Eight people were present, and we found time for five to read. An (almost) newcomer, David Griffith, is clearly an excellent writer. See a meeting summary below.

We will gather again on May 4th – Zoom open at 7:15 and reading as of 7:30. Please register with Silverpenken@aol.com. Logon info. will be sent on May 2nd to persons who ae registered.    Ken

Gaithersburg Creative Writers Meeting April 20, 2021

Eight of us appeared in the Zoom frames last evening, and those of us who appeared early got to hear an inspirational quote from Admiral Grace Hopper: “Ships are safest in port, but that’s not what they’re for.” Inspirational, indeed.

Cat shared first from her manuscript, The Martian Experiment, begging for help on how to help a character go from hearing a crazy idea to taking it up and wanting to go for it. The “Greenies” had to find a way to make life on earth more livable, without getting arrested. We discussed world building and the need for Cat to show more history of the crisis besetting the world of her story, to make the urgency apparent. It was a lively discussion.

David’s video was working this time – hooray! – and we got to meet him (virtually). He shared an essay of his fan fiction on RWBY, an anime web series. His goal is to write fan fiction using the world of RWBY, but with original characters in an original plot. We learned about that strange world and shared thoughts about the tenuous use of racial tension in a story. We agreed that, if it’s done well, there is huge potential for making a powerful statement, but it’s easy to make mistakes. David described it as a “minefield.”

Suzanne followed with a continuation of her memoir on the odd jobs of her life as a struggling artist. This chapter documented her time as a role player in Capitol Police training. She would be a criminal, crouching in a corner with a paint gun, or a victim waiting in a smoke-filled room. It was a first draft, with a few easily-fixed mistakes. We discussed various ways Suzanne might tie in the introductory paragraph with the meat of the story and whether switching often between tenses was more effective or more distracting.

Mike went next and read to us a poem from his days at University of Maryland. It was based on the farm animals he would pass on his way from the parking lot to his classes. We discussed the evocative language of a flashback during a crisis and slowing down the event to bring a colorful and insightful moment to the story. We noted that a lot has changed since he walked between the fields of tranquil cows and excitable horses.

Mario resumed his story of our man of mystery, Paco. An exchange with a detective puts Paco on high alert, and he decided to dip into his dwindling supply of identities to disappear again. Some of us agreed that Paco might have acted rashly in changing identities so quickly after his conversation with the detective, but we felt it was true to his personality to be paranoid. Also, he did not act irrationally. The detective is sharp, she asked a lot of questions, and Paco has reasons for not wanting to be unmasked.

As Ken departed (early bedtime) a lively discussion of our cooperative book ended in scheduling a meeting for those who want to join in. It will probably be on April 29th. Some feel the need for more structure as the story advances, while others would like to maintain the free flowing spirit of the work. Some inconsistencies have been observed. All agreed that a meeting would help us channel our opinions into making the story more beautiful and exciting. Stay tuned!


The writer’s meeting last night was ideal. Couldn’t have been better. Please see the summary, below.

The next one will take place on April 20 – logon at 7:15 and reading from 7:30 p.m. Already, Suzanne, David, Ken and Mario are signed up. Why not put your name in, now?

Writers group summary from April 6, 2021, written by Cat and edited by Ken

Six of us appeared in our Zoom boxes, five ready to read, and one to take notes.

Ken went first and shared a description to be used in promoting a workshop that he will conduct for Sparkle, a program of Silver Spring Town Center. We all wanted to hear the story of his “… tattered trip to Topolobampo, Mexico …,” which he might read to the group. We enjoyed the rollicking nature of the writeup, and the hook at the end made us want to sign up! Sparkle may gain a half dozen new members.

Janet followed with a start-up mystery about John, from Jamaica. John traveled with a missionary group to Japan where he met a tattoo artist, who taught him the trade. Then, we met Esther, from Cuba, and learned about her and John’s budding relationship. We were curious about how John came to be a doctor AND a tattoo artist and were excited to hear that his perfect life with Esther was about to be disrupted by an impending mystery. Then, we got to talking about swimming in the ocean and the number of people and marine animals who, umm, relieve themselves there. Natalie did not approve of all our jokes, but, well, they were funny.

Mario took over after that, starting with Paco’s close encounter with the attack on the New York World Trade Center. Seeing an opportunity, he fled with new identity, cash, and clothes that he had ready and waiting. Some of us had questions about the importance of Paco’s attaché case being left in the destroyed WTC, and Mario revealed that its presence there could lead to his being declared dead. Then, he could start afresh in a new town. We left Paco with an imposing visitor on his doorstep: the whip-smart and alluring Detective, Candace Augustine.

Natalie returned to her story of Alice, the French robot who became rebellious and even frightful. After she was disabled, male and female scientists arrived unexpectedly to work on her programming. The robot’s owner is asked if she wants Alice taken away but says “no,” admitting that Alice’s cursing was endearing (but could be turned down). Alice will be serving at a formal event, and we bit our nails with trepidation, wondering how she would perform at the fancy dinner the owner was planning. Natalie asked if she should add more dirty words in French, and we kind of liked the idea.

Mike wrapped up the reading by taking us outside the mainframe of his story and into a brief but important subplot. We learned about the adventurers, John, Thomas and Vesta, who had risked their lives to steal from the monsters. John woke up in the Inn of the Hungry Traveler, recovering from serious wounds. Delvers had stitched him up. We wanted to know more about the Delver society and about the mysterious monsters that had supposedly killed Torran. Then, Mike broke down and gave us a preview of what might be the main plot for the rest of the story. On the other hand, it might not be.

Once the reading was complete, we talked briefly about our cooperative novel. We discussed multiverses, uses of Andrew, Andy, and Andrea as versions of the same name, and whether we should have a meeting to discuss the project. Cat asked that no one tell her mother about some of the language in her chapter, lest she lose pound cake privileges for the rest of her life!


Ken again was kind enough to writer the summary for out 3/25/2021 Zoom meeting.

Greetings, writers. Our “extra” meeting last night was excellent – well attended, relaxed, productive.

The Beginning; Most people arrived late, which gave us time to ask Suzanne to grab her guitar and sing one of her original songs. Suzanne, we want more. The next time you plan to sing in public, please let us know.

Ken: Ken grabbed the Zoom stage and read a short essay about a good friend who had died from COVID-related pneumonia. Everyone seemed touched by it. There were opinions that Ken should have put less emphasis on his moves from place to place and said more about the person who passed away. Comments well taken.

Natalie: A prolific writer, Natalie was next with a short story about Alice, the robot, who was exiled by the French space agency and became Natalie’s maid. Alice got way out of hand, so was turned off. A few days later, people from the space agency appeared at the door. How did they know? What will they do? We don’t know. There were comments about one of the agent’s contact lenses and some discussion of – ugg – grammar. Natalie has a unique style that might add to the enjoyment of some readers but distract others.

A Welcome Newcomer: At this point, a newcomer, David, introduced himself. He was a writer in high school; now has a PhD and works at NIST. He is beginning to write novels using a studied systematic approach. We look forward to hearing him read.

Bryan: Bryan offered the superbly-written beginning of a story about traveling, as a photographer, to the Khyber District of Afghanistan. We could visualize his car’s wheels, inches from a cliff and the aged rifle pointed at his belly. Written in the present tense, the story contains arresting expressions such as “pant wetting,” to mean frightening. There was discussion of his reference to Barnie Fife, a character in an old TV show whom some young-uns didn’t know and some oldsters didn’t remember.

Mario: Our co-organizer gave background on Francisco Gallo, the protagonist in his story which, spies tell us, might get into trouble with a drug-running, gang banger. Francisco, known as “Paco,” was too good with computers and spotted things that he wasn’t supposed to know about. One comment was that the story seemed to have some duplication and could be tightened.

Janet: To wind us up, Janet read a lovely poem written recently when her sister passed away. It contains nice line such as “How deep does love go” and “cannot be contained.” Then, she explained that her origin is the Bahamas and Jamaica, and her father in Jamaica immersed her into a fantasy world that inspired a lot of writing. Unfortunately, her collection was lost during a change of location, almost 20 years ago.

The Grand Finale: We finished with a discussion of Dell OptiPlex computers that have been made continuously, in different models, since 2001. David and Mario still use old ones, so they must be good.

Our Next Meeting: The next will be on April 6th. Zoom open at 7:15 and reading as of 7:30 p.m. A few members are signed up; there is room for more.


Summary of Gaithersburg Creative Writer’s meeting, March 16, 2021

We were ten in all, and five of us read. Most of the ole regulars were there, along with long missed and brand-new faces. The continuations of familiar stories hit like comfort food, and we were delighted to have new pieces to digest and interact with.

Our first reader of the evening, Bob, gave us a window into his poetry of the early 90s by sharing some of his romantic encounters. We were swept off our feet by the lyrical nature of his poems and the sentiments, and some of us found ourselves surreptitiously wiping our eyes along with him as he shared..

Mario’s novel in process is a thriller about an agent on the run whose current alias is Paco. Mario read the first chapter of the novel, and asked for impact on the reader. We watched Paco “accidentally” take down and take out a sketchy looking called Scarecrow, who was taking a concealed gun to a public gathering at the VFW hall in Rehoboth. We liked the quick action sequence that kicked off the chapter.

Cat shared the final pages from a chapter in her SciFi dystopian novel about colonizing Mar. Only the best and the brightest can go. There was an unfortunate encounter between the protagonist’s husband, Cal, and Cal’s boss. Also, we talked about her how our group can be helpful to Cat, given her 580 pages and our limited time.

Mike’s fantasy story continued with Kaari and Ethan meeting with the Chahoy. They found a translator in Esteban, whose insult to Ethan’s skill in battle earned him a punch, a slap on the head, and a choice he must make between serving Ethan and losing his trade connections. The plot twist of Regular folk serving a Delver was delightfully surprising.

Anita shared a piece of an essay she is writing, which tells how her non-profit was inspired by a petulant child who wouldn’t eat his breakfast and whose hunger distracted him so much that he failed an exam. She shared that the foundation she set up is geared toward feeding students at schools in Uganda and has now served THREE MILLION cups of porridge!

The members who did not get to read will have priority at the next meeting they attend. We discussed holding an “extra” meeting on March 25th and possible an in-person meeting toward the end of April. Note: Since March 16th, the extra meeting has been announced and is quite popular.


Gaithersburg Creative Writers Group

Summary of our Zoom meeting on March 2, 2021

Prepared by “Cat”

Screenshot 3/2/21 only ten of eleven participants.

 Our evening opened with some catch-up chatter. Mario described his experience from his last vaccine shot – so far, so good! Cat had gotten her braces off, but there were still no new teeth to show off. Mike’s job had picked up to a full forty hours a week, and congratulations went echoing through the nine Zoom panes. 

 

In all, eleven people were present at our meeting, which proved to be a highly productive and engaging time of critiques, ideas and sharing from our personal lives.

 

Suzanne started with more from her autobiography, opening a window in time from her stint as a hair model. A chance meeting with Cinderella at a theme park unearthed a secret desire in a tomboy of seven years old, to become a model. The group commented on transitions and how long autobiographies as a part of creative writing have the freedom to exist, and we spent much of the time sharing ideas for tweaking sentence structure.

 

After Suzanne’s sharing, Natalie stepped up to the plate with a prose-poem about a space-robot-turned-housekeeper, named Alice. She is a proper French robot, very fastidious about manners. We all thought it was fun and creative, with requests for more detail of Alice’s appearance and adding hints of conflict in her precisely ordered life! Suzyn’s perception about Alice’s emphasis on polite manners made us reflect on how we treat automated systems. 

 

Ken took the reins then, and the scene changed from a cooking robot to an old hotel in Haiti on a rainy night, where a demonstration of voodoo dominated our minds’ eyes. The piece was colorful and vibrant, and Ken admitted to having felt a little afraid during the ceremony. Connie made a comment about fear that took us one step further into the sensations of the story. We were all fascinated with the taxi’s lazy windshield wipers, and Suzyn raised the question of what we could learn about Ken from this piece: how he knows Creole, what his purpose in Haiti was, and what, if any, impact this episode had on his life to embed this story so firmly into memory.

 

Suzyn took a break from knitting a hat to read a piece from her book about communication. The story behind this book started with a big promotion, where, just as the champagne was popped, she found that a committee member shared her enthusiasm for her forthcoming business book. After permission from her boss to write one – if desired – she had developed an introductory chapter to share with us. We loved the updated version and discussed the poetic feel of the chapter. Suzanne brought up an excellent point, that the term “communications” isn’t solely limited to a department of people who send emails to others in the building, but also includes an enormous group of creatives in the arts world, in film and in radio. Connie suggested adding an example of non-verbal communication to Chapter 1.

 

Connie closed us out with a raw and powerful two-part poem about her mother’s passing. They came from two perspectives, a “yin and a yang” as Suzanne put it, of anger and grieving. The poems were written in third person as a way to depersonalize the pain of loss, but the change in perspective didn’t take away from the power of the sentiment. Mike reflected on how death is the loss of potential for change in a relationship. We discussed the poems, and all agreed they were thoughtful and reasoned, not a hurricane of emotion that can sometimes dominate the written word after such a loss. We were impressed that Connie was able to summon so much creativity in the wake of such complicated grief. 

 

Overall, the conversation was lively and full of helpful critiques, and we closed the night by sharing dancing experiences. Suzyn described dancing in a black dress to the Mambo No. 5 with her husband in a white linen suit. Mario wistfully recalled the days of disco, and a few bars of aged music punctuated his recollection.


Summary, by Cat, of our meeting on 2/16/21

Our evening began with good news: Mario and Ken were scheduled to get their second COVID vaccine shots in another week! Mike and Cat are near the bottom of the vaccine totem pole, it’ll be a while before they get the jab, but the relief of the end being in sight was palpable.

Lynda came to the Zoom meeting ready to celebrate Mardi Gras with a bag of popcorn. Not a few of us were jealous of her preparations. 

An idea for a list of favorite books was proposed. Perhaps we’ll form a thread and share our favorite reads from our quarantine time!

 

Lynda kicked us off with an early version of an intriguing SciFi story about a superhero waking up in a basement hospital, not knowing how he got there. A doctor with a dual PhD in zoology and ophthalmology delivers an astonishing message that turns his world upside down. Readers did not take the news as well as main character, Makoto, did.

 

Mike shared next from his story of Kaari and the Delvers at their work site encountering a strange group of armed, tattooed Regular folk. The people spoke in a strange tongue and, by pantomime and thoughtful observation, they started to understand each other. The feedback was varied and intense as we met these new characters in the novel. Then, Mike performed a disappearing act from Zoom, and we wondered if we had been too mean, but our fears were assuaged when he reappeared a few minutes later.

 

Bryan read a section of his new screenplay. Readers picked up on the delicious breadcrumbs of character description of Stuart and Robin. Through tiny details, we see Stuart is a shell of his former self, while Robin is a teenager unloved by his father. We’re all excited for Robin and Stu to meet and form a friendship around airplanes.

 

Connie went next and read a poem she wrote in the aftermath of discovering a dear friend of over sixty years had passed away unexpectedly. We shared our condolences and provided feedback on the finality of the subject of her “proem” (coined by Connie, it means a poem made of prose).

 

Mario’s memoirs continue to be wild and adventurous! We are all impressed he made it through such turbulent years. Some questions arose about how the word “paydirt” applied in the story, and we tossed around our thoughts on the drama and tension of learning the final details of the bank robbery.

 

Cat wrapped up the reading with more pages of her dystopian story, as her protagonists hold a fifth anniversary celebration with hints of darker days to come. We’re all still wondering what kinds of technology the Earth has salvaged. The group awarded points for interesting details and suggested new hybrid vegetables for the wife to grow. 

 

Before we signed off, Mike gave an update on our collaborative book, a Yet-To-Be-Named SciFi story about a man who has found himself lost in a strange place. Mysteries abound as we all wonder, with bated breath, what has happened to our hero. Mike is the third member of our group to write a chapter – we are on a roll!


Ken, again, wrote the summary for our 2/2/2021 meeting

Natalie led off with another in her sequence of poems about her autistic daughter’s struggle with on-line classes. The poems show clearly how hard this is for the kids, their teachers and their parents. The parents have to find an invisible balance between helping their children and letting them, and their teachers, forge ahead and find their own way.

Daniel was up next with the final part of his story about a duel with swords. There was nice phrasing, such as, this can no more happen than “…the sky take back the rainfall.” The conclusion of the fight was unexpected, and what happened after that was totally unexpected. Our suggestions included that Daniel try to clarify the last few paragraphs, about who did what and whose sword did what.

Then, Mario continued his story about Miguel and María, who went from two days of making love to trying to unravel a mystery that could affect Miguel’s chance of staying alive. There was good dialogue and good use of the active voice. We were somewhat confused because Mario started reading the story several months ago, and we didn’t remember it clearly. There were suggestions that he put more detail in some places and less in others.

Suzanne wrapped up the reading with a memoir of her work in a Giant supermarket, at age 18 and 110 pounds. We agreed that she was courageous, and the text showed she was strong enough to beat the boys in chin-up contests. There was a wonderful line about how long it took her to acquire “… a two-year degree and a two-year husband.” There were some positive and negative comments, but discussion was mainly on the situation in which she found herself.

The session finished with discussion about our group project, to write a novel with each  chapter by a different author. Natalie asked to be included (sure thing), and Suzanne suggested a degree of cooperation among writers. In the end, I think the man in charge (Mike) was like old Omar Khayam, who said, “When I was young, I did eagerly frequent doctor and saint and heard about it and about, but, evermore, came out through the same door wherein I went.”


Our next meeting will be February 2nd – Zoom open at 7:30 and meeting at 8:00. If you’d like to go, let me know. If you plan to read, let me know that too.

Ken again wrote the comprehensive summary for our meeting on 1/19/2021.

Last night, we had a good group of people, of whom six got a chance to read. Ken led with a poem written for the Maryland Writers Association’s “Fun With Words” activity. It involved a crab festival with red and blue crustaceans, whose groups bore a resemblance to political parties. Natalie followed with another poem about striving to not help her daughter with learning on-line. It was “hump day,” or it wasn’t and “the camel” finally made an appearance.

Brian gave us something we hadn’t seen before, a script (really, detailed instructions for actors) in a silent film. In a senior citizens home, a volunteer and a resident formed a strange relationship with each other, without saying a word. It was excellent. We could see the scenes in our minds.

Returning to our usual fare, Daniel continued his story about an impending duel. We began to see into the duelers’ minds, and we learned about one person’s weapon of choice, a “light saber.” Daniel showed a weapon, and, if he had pointed it at his camera, I would have jumped back several feet. Neither of the men wants a fight that could be fatal, but odds are it will go ahead. We will find out on February 2nd.

Cat read next, jumping back to an earlier chapter of her story about bleeding Earth dry to populate Mars. We start to see the family life of Cal, who has been selected to go there. We also see, for example, that working automobiles are a thing of the past, as they have been scavenged for parts that would be useful on the Red Planet. Some of her descriptions were vivid, like “windows were glum eyes” and “plants leaned into a home made fence.”

The clean-up hitter was Mike, with more of his story about building an inn on a rustic road that carried treasure hunters to and from the west in a strange land sometime in the past. A problem between the entrepreneur and a workman led to a revelation about how the people in positions of prestige and authority were invaders, and descendants of the original inhabitants still seethed with anger. How this will affect the business venture remains to be seen.

Our writers have gotten so good that it’s hard to find fault with their work, but, of course, the group made several suggestions.

At the end, enthusiasm burst forth, and we decided to write a short book collaboratively. Ken thought the idea would die for lack of a leader, but Mike jumped in and took it on. Please see his message, below.   

From: Mike Waters 

Friends and neighbors – 

We had an amusing proposal at the end of our meeting tonight.  The idea is a collaborative book in which each writer who would like to participate writes one chapter.  We would stitch the chapters together (somehow) into a coherent book.

In a moment of weakness, I agreed to coordinate this.  Let me know if you’d like to participate.

  • I will offer up a writing prompt to get creative juices flowing.  Chapters should be kept to about 5 pages (unless the muse demands 6-7).
  • In the spirit of improv, keep in mind the process of “Yes, and…”   That is: you cannot negate what the writer before you has written – you can only take whatever you have been handed and run with it.  That will be part of the fun and challenge.
  • Do not think you cannot participate if you think you “only” write poetry.  All the sagas were poems.  The Illiad and Odyssey were poems. 
  • …more details to follow as they develop

Let me know if you have ideas and would like to participate.

Cheers,   – Mike 


Ken Weiss wrote the summary.

Our writer’s group last night (1/5/2021): ten people, six who had signed up and four surprises. The walkins were Natalie VanRossum, Karuna Kristjnson and Bryan and Suzanne Brindamour. These last two are new to the group.

We will meet again on Jan. 19th. You can sign up now, to attend and to read, by email to silverpenken@aol.com. Persons who didn’t get to read last night will have priority.

Mike Waters read first this time, continuing his tale of exploration and prejudice. His protagonist needed land to build a new inn, two days’ walk west of the city. This required going through a bureaucratic process that sounded much smoother than many today, while helping a city official confront a deep-seated prejudice. Mike’s story moves on. We all like it.

Karuna followed with an article on Coronavirus, for the present and future generations. As one can imagine, the group quickly identified with everything she said. Admittedly, it was a draft, and we gave several ideas as to how to modify it, if she wants to.

Suzanne had a very well-written piece about (finally) being selected as a model in a hair styling exhibition. She was on stage and couldn’t object when the stylist reduced her hair length by half. The spectators loved it, and she was asked to walk the runway, in boots that were a size too large. Suzanne included at least three metaphors about birds. She is clearly an excellent writer.

Then, Connie McX read a traditional poem – clear rhythm and rhyme patterns – about the plight of too many animals. Animals should not be homeless, should not have to suffer. Ken asked her to read it a second time, and we offered praise much more than suggestions.

Daniel Sullivan was up next with a tale about an impending duel via fencing. Will the protagonists use foils, epees or sabers? We will soon see. Will the wise old hand come out ahead, or will the younger, more studious one find vindication? Our group asked questions, but most of the comments were positive.

Finishing the evening, Mario Salazar offered another memoire from his years in a military boarding school run by nuns. This one kept us more than interested by its focus on sexual experimentation among the cadets (and something beyond experimentation by one of the nuns). Suggestions were mostly on word choice and punctuation, not on the subject matter.


Ken again wrote the summary for our meeting on 12/15/2020. Thank you Ken.

Last night, seven faces were on our screens. We welcomed Karuna after an absence and new member Nathalie. Four members read.

Mario led with more of his adventures at a military school in VA. It was a tale of visitors’ Sundays, uselessly hiding candy, and parading for guests, whether the students wanted to or not (they did not). It was clear that none of us would have opted to study there.

Then, Catherine continued her tale about an experiment to send people from a deteriorating Earth to colonize Mars. Nora visited her friend, Mia, and they discussed how people in the past led pleasant lives but ignored important things, like preserving the environment.

Next, Nathalie read her poem about having an autistic daughter and being unable to intervene, because of school rules ,as the girl struggled with on-line lessons. It was excruciating! The poem was circulated in advance to our io Group and drew numerous favorable comments.

Mike finished the reading with an early chapter of The Inn of the Hungry Traveler. Young Kaari went to track down a foreigner from whom her father had bought some valuable stones, and she might have been in a tough situation, had a handsome young man not intervened.

We thought the meeting had ended until Mario asked each of us what was his/her favorite movie. That started quite a discussion.

Ken announced our next meeting for Tuesday, January 5th. Registration to attend and to read is open now. In the meanwhile, let’s keep chatting in our io Group.

There was some talk of holding a Zoom happy hour over the holidays, but no conclusion was reached. We could do it, say, from 5:00 until 6:00 p.m. almost any day, including New Year’s Eve. If this interests you, please let me know.


Ken graciously wrote the summary for our 12/1/2020 meeting, he hit a homerun!

On the first of December, Ken pulled rank and read first. His short memoir about getting mugged in Panama definitely held people’s interest. It was nice and descriptive. However, our eagle eyed (and eared) members found ways to improve it and even noted two grammatical errors, which is unusual for ken. Mostly, they asked for a more uplifting ending. Point well taken.

Cat mewed into the #2 reader position, continuing her story about moving some “qualified” people from a depleted Earth to the Red Planet. She took us on a bicycle ride through what probably used to be a nice street. There were suggestions, of course, including that she clarify whether the top dogs in the experiment were Martian natives or were people from Earth who had been transplanted to Mars.

Then, Mario took over and got Miguel and Maria out of a hot tub, into a shower and then – surprise, surprise – into bed. In the meanwhile, Dio, driving Miguel’s car, ran into someone who had a major grudge against him. That was, and will be, more than interesting. The group suggested putting in dialogue to increase clarity and make the text more lively. We also pointed out minor grammatical errors such as using “laid” instead of “lay” (no relation to sentence 1 in this paragraph).

Our clean-up hitter was Scott, moving on with his novel about a young Roman gentleman, in the year 58 BC, who cavorted with the wrong loose lady and was sent to join the army in Gaul. There, he found many attractive ladies. As always, there was little fault to be found with his work. It was, after all, just the first part of a chapter and was setting the stage for adventures to come.


Lynda graciously agreed to prepare the summary meeting for 11/24/2020.

Participants 11/24/2020 meeting

11/24/2020 – Gaithersburg Writers sum up

A mighty five were ready to meet and discuss for the most recent Zoom meet up.  Ken, Mario, Cat, Lynda and Scott attended, and only Ken did not read.  Some members had logged on early, and Lynda and Cat discussed Lynda’s wedding, honeymoon, and writing in general, as well as Cat’s new house she bought with her husband this year.  Lynda’s husband joined the meeting briefly to discuss The Witcher TV show and thank Mario for the purchase of his novel, Better the Millstone.

Lynda read first from her Nanowrimo first draft, currently untitled.  It was a science fiction work taking place in 2420 or so, and the characters are able to travel place to place on the astral plane – a different dimension where only the consciousness travels and the physical body was left behind.  Overall feedback was to add more dialogue and action at first, and insert exposition in smaller bits in between.  It was also suggested that medical technology, such as an IV bag, would have a different name or would have evolved from today’s technology.

Scott then read his ongoing fictional memoirs of a Roman soldier from Caesar’s time.  It was well received.  Sentence variation was the primary suggestion for improvement.  Also, the length of time to learn a new language and how it should be simple to master one’s native language.

Cat read a reworked version of the first chapter of a novel about a dystopian future where Earth is dying and Mars was considered a “great experiment,” but only a few select Earth citizens are chosen to travel to Mars.  Everyone agreed that POV was very clear and much improved this time as compared to the last reading.  More questions were asked than suggestions given.

Mario was allowed to read last (as a humorous penalty), since he was NOT presenting a continuation of the hot tub incident from last meeting (to which this writer was not privy 2 weeks ago).  He read an interesting section from his memoirs about a street fight in Colombia where Mario was walking with his father an took part in the fight.  It was suggested that we find out what his father had been doing during the altercation, to better show the father and son bond.

As an administrative note, the group is returning to meeting on Zoom every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month.  The next meeting is to be held on December 1, 2020 – in less than 1 week.  This meeting was ended as the group wished one another a Happy Thanksgiving.  Happy Thanksgiving 2020!


Ken wrote the summary of our 11/10/2020 Zoom meeting.

The Gaithersburg Creative Writer’s Group. All of our meetings are useful and fun. Sometimes, they’re exciting as well.

On November 10th, just-married Linda and Daniel dropped in for ten seconds. Well, we know they’re busy. Six of us were there much longer, and four were ready to read.

Mario added to his story of Latino intrigue. He broke it off when the protagonist and his former employee (female) were naked in a hot tub. What will happen next? Only Mario knows.

Then, Suzyn read excerpts from a book in process about communication. She related communication of a virus with that of thoughts, feelings, moods, attitudes and sometimes even information. The writing is extremely good.

Next, Mike was up with more of his story, set in the past, about social classes and a wild frontier. Kaari and Ethen are off to see if she can open an inn – a sort of halfway house – for hordes of treasurer hunters.

Batting cleanup was Larry, advancing preparations for a trip by balloon to capture wild beasts in Africa. Two new problems emerged: What will happen if the venture succeeds and the London Zoo doesn’t have money to build cages and how will British military formality get along with easy-going expedition members.


Lynda wrote the summary for the 10/20/2020 meeting. She is getting married Saturday, congratulations.

Larry reading his Steam Punk piece.

Last night, 5 of the writing hive joined for literary discussions.  These included Ken, Mario, Cat, Larry, and Lynda.

Larry welcomed us to the chat with the information that most if not all poetic verses written in iambic pentameter can be sung, if one wishes, to the theme tune of Gilligan’s Island.  He also said that Tom Lehrer made all of his music public domain – an even that occurred earlier this year.

Cat read to us from her new manuscript, The Martian Experiment.  A tantalizing hook was suggested since Cat wants to have her novel published with a known publisher.  We discussed which POV she was writing and if she had conflated a narrative 3rd person POV for the character’s own POV.  It was also suggested to use formal writing without contractions in a narrative POV, and opposing opinions were given concerning capitalization of the word “god.”

Mario read a continuing chapter titled “Maria Does Maryland” from his self-described thriller.  We suggested using the word “very” less often.  Also capitalization of the entire title and the necessity of spelling out the word “okay.”

Larry read more from his steampunk/Holmesian era fan novel.  The toughness of bamboo and the method of caging the mysterious large beasts the characters are after was discussed.

Ken read a short newsletter article about the offer of food assistance to those in the community – Jack and 3 grandads.  An exclamation point was suggested and inserted at the end.

Everyone wished Lynda and her groom Daniel a happy wedding on October 24, and Larry was sent good wishes for upcoming cataract surgery.  Something he has waited for a long while.  We decided to skip meeting on election night, but look forward to our first meeting on Nov. 10! Sign up today!


Ken wrote the summary of our 10/6/2020 meeting.

Last night, Ken had trouble holding the group down until 8:00. Then, Mario began the show with more of Jon A’s transition to the “Middle.” It included a description of how writers might ply their craft in the 23rd century technology.

Ken followed with a short memoir about whether he was too old to ride a bicycle. The answer was “yes,” as he nursed an injury for several weeks. So, what should he do next? Skateboarding, perhaps? Scott followed with part of his story about a long-ago playboy who gets his jollies with the wrong young lady and is sent to the war in Gaul. The comparison between what he thinks and what he says, in a critical situation, is fascinating.

Connie judged her work not ready to read, so Mike provided the grand finale. It was a revision and continuation of a story of “superior” and “inferior” races in a time of taverns, war and treasure hunting. Did the heroine’s husband survive, or did the monsters (or his own men) do him in? We will find out sometime down the line.


Meeting on 9/15/2020

Lynda and Ken wrote separate summaries, so Mario integrated the two versions.

Some of the participants in our Zoom meeting of 9/15/2020

Mario Salazar led off by telling of An Ambush Patrol, about a very scary event that he lived during the war in Vietnam. All was well in the end, at least that time. Mario was encouraged to show more than tell in his story about Viet Nam. Scott Fazekas followed with Trebonius’ Memories – My Time in Gaul, taking us back to a time when Romans ruled.   There was a respectful, if slightly loud discussion about whether footnotes should be added to Scott’s historical fiction book about a character during and after the time of Caesar.  Perhaps an appendix for Scott. Then, Cat Burgess continued her story about a German soldier in the trenches in World War I. She finished it, although some of us wished she would add more words (or pages). Then it was suggested that since Cat’s piece is also a historical fiction (from WWI), and since hers is a shorter work, a footnote would be more appropriate there.

Lawrence Tagrin told us more about the extensive preparation to try to capture at least two pre-historic monsters and take them to England. There was talk of whether bamboo cages would withstand their ferecious jaws. Larry would like to make his story sound more formal, so it was suggested not to use contractions and to use another word/working than “went through” such as reviewed.

Tina Osborn went deeper into trying to measure the intelligence of monkeys and stopped reading right after her protagonist got a burst of inspiration. Tina’s piece was an interesting review of her fictional character’s analysis of primate choices.  There was some discussion over whether most in the field of science would understand what “inference” is, or if the main character’s voice was music to her colleague’s ears.  Maybe those 2 will get together. To finish the session, Michael Waters described the growing up of his protagonist Kaari, and how she came to appreciate a downtrodden group in society, the Delvers. There was discussion of whether or not he should find another word to distinguish “regular people” from Delvers, who are definitely not the same type of humanoid.


Ken wrote the summary for our meeting on 9/1/2020.

Screenshot Zoom meeting 9/1/2020
Zoom meeting 9/1/2020

Sometimes it happens – a group of people come together for the benefit and/or enjoyment of all. Last night, it happened unexpectedly.

Mario and Ken were there as well as Connie, Michael, Lawrence, a newcomer named Scott Fazekos, and Lisa Martin from the organization, Downtown Silver Spring.

After introductions, Lawrence read more of his lively story about kidnapping monsters. The protagonist recruited a very strong lady to join the expedition. Then, Connie offered a rhyming poem about cats. It was good enough that Lisa asked if she could include it in a mailing, to 5,000 people. That will give a lot of exposure.

Then, Mario read an eye-catching memoir about a trip to a city in Peru, 14,000 feet high, in a USG vehicle designed to thwart attacks. The story ended, after a frog dinner, with a pistol-packing soldier breaking up a fight that was causing a traffic jam.

Mike was up next with an improved version of his intriguing story about the owner of an inn, in who-knows what year, as a battle raged to the west and dozens, or hundreds, of valuable items were left in abandoned cities. Mike appreciated the group’s comments on V.1 and will surely make good use of those on V.2.

Ken forewent reading from his father’s recently-discovered memoir, and somehow, the conversation went to the dogs (and the cats). Inevitably, there was talk of excrement, referred to by various names. Neither dog people nor cat people were converted, but we learned some history of our feline and canine companions, and we laughed a lot. No one seemed to want to sign off.


The summary for our meeting on 8/18/2020 by Ken follows:

Last night, Linda led with a string of haïkus about her upcoming wedding. They showed vividly what’s on her mind these days. Then, Mario read about his two difficult years in a military school in Virginia, run by Catholic nuns. There were rules about everything, said Mario, including how to go to the bathroom. No, he didn’t read us that regulation.

We switched to Connie, who read a poem composed after the World Trade Center bombing in 2002. It was raw emotion, put into rhyme and rhythm. Lawrence followed with more pages of his well-crafted story about a mission to capture prehistoric monsters, using the best technology available at the time. We are eager to see what follows.

Then, Tina read a captivating fictionalized memoir about her experiments with monkey’s intelligence. Thurman passed easily. If he’s still around, we should invite him to join us on Tuesday, the first of September. Registration is open, starting NOW.


The summary for our meeting on 8/4/2020 by Ken is very short.

Something went wrong night; attendance was low, but that gave us time to look well at Ken’s poem about a boy and a man, at more of Cat’s story on soldiers in the trenches in WWI, and at Mario’s frightening tale about being sent to military schools. All was interesting and worthwhile.

Ken and others had an in-person meeting on Friday 7/31/2020 in a park in downtown Gaithersburg. They talked about how to get published. It was well attended. Ken and Bea, his wife; John; Kristin and his son Ethan and Cat attended. They kept their social distance and no one got sick.


The summary for our meeting on 7/21/200 by Ken follows:

Thee were comments galore on our meeting last night: Looks like our group has found its niche, and it is …, it is …, well, anyway, we have found it.

–  Suzyn’s poem, soon to be published, was superb.

–  Mario’s essay on a flower vase that started a revolution- interesting and  informative.

– Connie, a newcomer. Her  poem, old and new versions was so good we made her read it again.

Lawrence, his story continued -impeccable writing about a search for an ancient beast.

– Michael, a newcomer – the beginning of a fanciful take: The Inn of the Hungry Traveler.

Kristin, back with us – a surprising end of her tale of spiders and a hidden greenhouse.

– Cat, Lynda and Ken enjoyed it all. They will have priority ro read the next time.


The summary of our meeting on 7/7/2020 follows:

Last night, Lawrence, Mario and Ken, whose average age is 39, like Jack Benny, talked and read and talked and read again. Lawrence continued setting up his story about capturing prehistoric monsters. Mario described “The Condom Incident” – could be re-titled “The Condom Caper” – from his high school days, and Ken had an article about mother and son sharing their respective technologies. There were three no-shows, but we understand. There are sooo many virtual meetings.


The summary of our 6/17/2020 by Ken Weiss follows:

A very good Zoom meeting last night. A cancellation and a no-show left us with a perfect group of four: Kirstin, Larry, Mario and Ken.

Kirsten continued her story of young lovers and large spiders. Her protagonist is now desperate, scratched and bruised as she hobbles from the woods toward a 7-11 store. Will she find help there?

Larry – let’s call him “Steampunk Larry” to distinguish him from “LarryTT” – began a new version of a story set in the past, of which he read several chapters some months ago. We partly remember what happened then and are eager to see how the story has been changed.

Mario read more of his futuristic tale of two different civilizations, with people able to travel from one to the other, within limits. His protagonist is now on the “transport” to the “Middle” colonies, and his reason for going there is unclear.

Ken offered a short article about receiving a debit card in the mail and not knowing whether it was from the USG or a scammer. He was encouraged to try to get the article published – the first time that has happened to him in our group. He is happy.


Ken’s summary of our meeting on 6/2/2020 and some screenshots.

Very nice? Our meeting last night was enjoyable and helpful. Kirstin led off with more of her story about a young couple, a dark greenhouse and large spiders. We are eager to know what happens next. Then, Mario read a factual piece about environmental problems. It was written for a newspaper and will be published soon.

Who was next? Oh, yeah, we call her Cat. She continued her story about soldiers in the trenches toward the end of World War I. It featured a debate about whether it was too risky to retrieve and bury their dead. Then, Suzyn read a very nice poem about lovely yellow flowers – dandelions. Ken finished with a humorous short essay about whether to visit his barber shop or keep cutting his own hair.

A newcomer, Russell, logged in from his place of work – a firehouse. We could hear the chatter on its PA system. Also, Larry, a long-time member and dedicated steam-punker, showed a steampunk mask that we all envied.

 Kristin

 Russ in the firehouse

 Steam Punk Larry

 Ken our leader

 Cat

 Suzyn


Lynda wrote the excellent summary for 3/3/2020

Eight Is Enough when it comes to holding our usual Gaithersburg Writer’s Club meeting at Don Jorge’s Restaurant.  This was a Super Tuesday on which we met.  Attending members were: Ken, Lynda, Cat, Mario, Richard, Janet, Daniel, and Connor.  Each person read, 7/8 of which were responses to the group writing prompt:  An Unexpected Side Trip.

Lynda read her offering first.  It was an untitled piece set in Earth’s future, 2064. The idea was that a human and an alien were on an errand to pick up groceries, when an animal is spotted in the distance, and they take a small side trip to see what it is.   There was discussion of what makes a side trip a true side trip and about how to make the audience feel connected to the animal in the story.

Ken read to the group next.  His piece was titled “Topo, A Memior (sic) Of An Unexpected Side Trip.  This story from his past began with a church work group trying to complete mission work.  The author (presumably Ken) stayed in Mexico after the group left, and tried to find the elusive town of Topolobampo.  There was a discussion of how others had had somewhat similar luck on their adventures.

Third on the reading list was Mario, with his mixed fiction/non-fiction work titled “A Beautiful Evening.”  This occurred (or not) at Mario’s home.  He was making use of his outdoor hot tub when unexpected visitors arrived to take him on a trip around the world.  Or did they?  The group requested some details that might throw more suspicion on the story; or confirm it.

Next to read was Cat, and it was her first time reading aloud to us.  She titled her piece, “Survival Tactics.”  This vignette was biographical fiction in that it was a fictionalized version of experiences Cat went through with her husband.  The story described finding unique items or circumstances to help get through long wait times at the airport.  Five finds in the right place on the “card” meant that the player had “bingo.” Some group members were able to share similar experiences, and we asked for more description of the homemade Bing-o cards.

Then, Richard read his piece titled, “An Unexpected Side Trip: A Personal Memoir.”  It was a true tale of how Richard was stationed overseas, but not necessarily at the post or posts he expected. After an assignment in Baghdad, he was told Cairo, Egypt was the next stop. That was canceled for Paris, France; but only after planning for and purchasing furnishings for the abode in Cairo.  He had to learn French in record time because of the switch.  The vignette was an interesting view of “being owned by the Junior Officer Division.”  Everyone wondered what happened to the Cairo furniture, and there was discussion of each country where Richard’s three children were born. Ken expressed interest in knowing where the children were conceived.

Janet read from her phone and we all leaned in to listen to her autobiographical history.  She described her journey of friendship with a close friend who developed cancer; this led her to see the bigger picture of helping others to make the world a better place, and cultivating and cherishing the friendships one has on an intimate scale.   The group wanted to hear more about Janet’s friendship, and her journey, along a side trip of illness, as Janet supported and encouraged her good friend (who is much better, now).

After Janet, Connor read more of his tale about Wulfric, and his adventures against the evil Vorcalthus There were an evil horse and a trip to Asgard after a dangerous chase through the woods.  This was a continuation of prior readings, and not a prompt response.  The group was able to give feedback regarding the use of flashback, point of view, and other aspects of the writing.

Finally, Daniel read his prompt response.  This untitled piece was a fan fiction nod to the TV Show “The Good Witch,” since he used the locale, the B&B, and a character from the show. Mainly, the tale was of a man on a motorcycle who is stuck in traffic so he takes a break to refuel, landing in Middleton (no state name), and meeting a fellow rider who was a woman.  The woman knew the town and was able to guide them both to Middleton’s Grey House Bed and Breakfast.  There were questions about why a woman would ride through the night to reach Middleton, but many agreed that if she wanted to, why not?  It seemed a miraculous coincidence that the two motorcyclists met at a gas pump in the mysterious town of Middleton.

Minutes later, we gathered our things and said our goodbyes, chuckling about the idea of knowing where one’s kids are conceived.  The side trip to Don Jorge’s was at its end.  The group had written seven lovely responses to the prompt, but it was not decided whether to repeat the exercise.  We might try it in April but not at the next meeting, which will take place on St. Patrick’s Day.  Anything can happen on the evening of St. Patty’s!


Lynda and Tina will colaborate in preparing the meeting summaries. Our luck, they are both great writers.

Summary of our meeting on 2/18/2020 by Tina.

Our Feb 18 Writers’ Group meeting boasted eight eager participants:  Janet, Pat, Lynda, Daniel, Catherine, Ken, Mario, and Tina.  As we were getting settled, ordering our food and drinks, we discussed Pat’s idea of choosing a writing prompt for our next meeting.  Our choices were to write about a decision we had to make, a summer of change, a loss, or an unexpected side trip.  After an initial vote and a subsequent runoff vote, we ended up with a tie.  Since Daniel hadn’t arrived yet, we decided that he would be the tie-breaker who would decide our collective fate.

We then plunged into our meeting.  Ken started with a trilogy poem about aging, in which he muses about forming a pain-of-the-day club where members do not need to pay dues but have the right to complain until their first cup of coffee.  We were enthusiastic about this new club and wanted to join.  We praised the poem’s humor, and Catherine noted the sprightly, youthful approach to a normally somber topic.

Lynda read another installment of her ghost story, which included the interesting device of having the ghost communicate with the protagonist Annie through her television and cellphone.  This excerpt included the unique but oddly relatable technical troubleshooting that Annie had to do before getting the ghost to transfer from the TV to her phone.  Some of our discussion centered on whether Annie could be characterized in more detail, such as how she feels so comfortable watching TV with a ghost, and whether Annie would be curious and ask the ghost about the afterlife.  Overall, it was well written, with clear dialogue and descriptions.

Daniel read us the prologue to his scifi novel, a vivid description of a futuristic luxury spaceship, which, in an unexpected and highly dramatic twist, explodes in the last paragraph.  We were all swept along in the narrative until its tragic conclusion.  Some of us wanted a more descriptive taste of the ship’s luxury from the passengers’ perspective, and others would have liked clarification on the timeline of docking and then leaving, but we did not have much to criticize in the writing itself.  We enjoyed hearing the back-story of the ship’s imaginative name, the Abraxas.

Pat read us a thoughtful essay exploring the question of when an autobiographical story becomes more of a selfish indulgence and does not serve any useful function.  This led to a good discussion of how far one should take honesty and at what point is only serves as a burden to the author’s family or other readers.

Janet read us a short but beautiful piece about aging, similar to Ken’s, but touching on how young children simply accept their grandparents as they are, without judgment or the label of being “old.”  We discussed how being “old” is a relative construct, as well as its interrelationship with health, such that an older person in good health can have greater vitality than a younger person with more health challenges.

Tina read a fictional excerpt portraying two schoolgirls, who, during recess, attempt to prove the existence of God in the school’s chapel.  Some questions ensued regarding what would have happened if they had been caught and whether the use of a literary device to indicate sentience (or lack of it) was effective.

Finally, Mario read the continuation of his detective story;  in this excerpt, two detectives collaborate on intersecting kidnapping cases.  The writing was clear and methodical, which was excellent at portraying the detectives’ approach.  Some of us wanted confirmation that the detective techniques were realistic (they were), and we also enjoyed the imagery of Pepe’s gold front teeth, which added a lighthearted and vivid touch.

Toward the end of our meeting, we prevailed on Daniel to break our writing prompt tie.  He decided to flip a coin, which ended up in the basket of tortilla chips amid much laughter.  The coin flip nevertheless fulfilled its purpose and led to the choice of an unexpected side trip as the writing prompt for our next meeting.  So, dear members, consider this your invitation to take a spontaneous side trip in the coming week, and describe your resulting adventure!


Thank you Lynda for an excellent summary of the meeting on 2/4/20.

In drips and drabs ten grand friends crossed the threshold of Don Jorge’s Restaurant to join in our Writers Group meeting on February 4, comprised of: Ken, Lynda, John, Melina, Catherine (who was new), Pat, Richard, Suzyn, Daniel, and Connor.

Our newest member is one of our youngest (we’ll keep exact age out of it), and her name is Catherine; nickname Cat will serve.  She joins us with a lifetime love of writing, and horticulture, in which she has a degree. She lives with her husband in Gaithersburg, MD; and after working at Butler’s Orchard, has retired from that occupation to give writing her full attention.

Our first reader was Richard – his first time sharing.  His subject was part of a true story or memoir-in-progress titled, “Two Women.”  He related what he knew of his father, his grandmother, uncle, and aunts emigrating to the United States of America from Turkey.  The family’s emigration was sometime between 1907 and 1914, coinciding with the early years of the Armenian Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire/Republic of Turkey.  Discussion revolved around good places to begin and end the section.  Some of us were unaware of the Armenian Genocide, and once aware, found the piece more striking.  We wanted more description and detail regarding the “harrowing” parts of the family’s journey.  The form/format for publishing was also briefly discussed.  We look forward to learning what happened next for Richard’s progenitors.

Suzyn then read from her general fiction story, “Juniper,” about a young woman who was a recent college graduate, trying to be the best adult she could be.  To her that means having an apartment and job, and hoping for a marriage proposal.  This is told from the first-person point of view of the main character, Juniper, or June. The section read involved the big reveal of a billboard created by the small ad agency for which June works.  The group discussed that although the characters had convincing dialogue and names, they lacked descriptions.  Several agreed that more description almost never hurts.  There was also discussion of the story seeming lighthearted at its beginning, but turning toward a serious subject matter at its end. We hope to hear more of June’s trials and tribulations soon.

Following Suzyn, Connor read a revamped beginning of his short, medieval/fantasy realm story titled “Berserker: Odin’s Fury.”  Main character Wulfric spent some time on a boat,  in flashback first sparring and bantering with his older sister; and then with the story’s villain, Rothar.  The villain wants to know the secrets of Mjolnir, while the group was trying to discover – what IS the riddle of Mjolnir?  We also discussed the use of Dungeons and Dragons terminology in a mixed group of readers, with some who played and several who did not – and all were wondering what on Earth a dire bear was.  We may find out, next time.

Next was Daniel, who read the final pages of Chapter 3 of his sci-fi novel, “Better The Millstone,” in which Scamper, is led from Lady Skellex’s lair.  The skinny, mistreated young girl is ridden with parasites, and objects to vaccinations, hardly knowing what they are.  She objects also to seeing a doctor at all.  The girl knows a doc in Lower D, and as they make their way, Bailey and the captain exchange banter before the chapter closes.  We debated whether there might be some slang among the denizens of D-Ring – something for a doctor instead of that title, and perhaps the doctor, or the clinic, is not 100% above board.  We also discussed how the author could be sure the ruse from the previous part of the chapter was ongoing (in the audience’s view) until out of earshot of Skellex’s henchman/henchmen.  We excitedly await the next part!

Toward the end of our meeting, Pat suggested that we have a few writing prompts available, and that the authors work on a two week deadline to write from one of them.  Thus, every other meeting would be dedicated to reading these prompt submissions.  The author would choose a prompt and write whatever they wanted – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, biography, etc.  The maximum length would be 2 pages,  double spaced, in 12 pt font.  Pat volunteered to harvest our first round of prompts for the Feb. 18 meeting, with the goal for willing authors to complete submissions for the first meeting in March.  After that, we would discuss periodically repeating this exercise.

No one happened to mention it, but this author noted the ambient temperature outside to be 63 degrees Fahrenheit.  Meaning that, inside, none of our legs were cold!  Some among us were excited to have only four readers, since it was also the night of the President’s State of the Union address, and various members wanted to view it.  Right before we said our goodbyes, Lynda and Daniel announced that they plan to wed late this year – which brought hearty congratulations and applause!  A few members hung back to talk about Superman and fantasy authors, and then we were all out the door.


Thank you Tina for another excellent summary.

1/21/20 Meeting

Thank you Lynda and Daniel for the photos.  Bottom photo, from left front and around:

Tina, Karuna, Suzyn, Angela (hidden), Lynda, Daniel, Connor Mario and Ken. Richard (right foreground top photo) and Pat (center back top photo) had already left us when the bottom photo was taken.

We had a gangbusters attendance at our Writers Group meeting on January 21, which boasted eleven wise, wonderful people:  Suzyn, Karuna, Tina, Lynda, Daniel, Richard, Ken, Mario, Connor, Pat, and Angela.

Mario started with a continuation of his detective story set in Montgomery County, Maryland.  This excerpt provided additional background on Liberty, one of the kidnapped girls, and we had a good discussion about how to tailor the amount of detail provided for each character in proportion to their importance in the story.

Pat then read us an autobiographical essay depicting a #MeToo experience that she had in 1966, when she was starting her career as a journalist and interviewing for jobs.  Her essay highlighted the fuzzy nature of some of these experiences as well as their unfortunate ubiquitousness and brazenness –for example, was the older, male editor interviewing young female writers under the pretense of a job that was not actually available?

Following Pat, Daniel read the next portion of his scifi novel in which Scamper, a skinny, mistreated young girl, is introduced to readers when Lady Skelex foists her on Captain Tyrone as part of the payment for taking a mysterious cargo.  We debated whether the captain could have found a way out of the situation, but the logic was airtight.  He was stuck in a bad situation and would have to make the best of it.  Some of us were interested in more detail about how Lady Skelex’s mechanical hand was attached, but no one found anything to quibble about regarding the dialogue, which was vivid and fit each character beautifully.  Scamper was an endearing character who immediately won our hearts.

At this point, some attendees in our group commented on a slight chill in the air.  Richard put on his coat.  Ken noted that he was wearing two jackets.  At that moment, we didn’t think much of it, attributing it to the January weather.  Nevertheless, a few hints came up after Lynda had read her ghost story…

Tina then read a short piece about a kindergartener from Puerto Rico who feels out of place among her classmates in Germany.  An excellent discussion ensued about how to keep the language from being too dry or academic and about removing extraneous details unless they are relevant later in the story.

Connor read us the beginning of his new story about a warrior, the warrior’s sister, and their fearsome battle skills.  The piece elicited good discussion, including how long a flashback scene should be and the importance of making sure the characters’ ages are in proportion to the ages of their children.

Lynda then read us an excerpt of her ghost story, in which Annie and her sister had a lighthearted conversation about the ghost –Ross, Ross Smith (a la James, James Bond).  The piece also revealed that Annie had found a child’s leg bone near the ghost’s gravestone and had alerted the police about it.  Listeners praised the easy banter between Annie and her sister as well as Bogey-the-cat’s interwoven antics as he tries to swipe some shrimp from Annie’s lunch plate while she is on the phone.

Toward the end of our meeting, we prevailed on our waitress Maya to take pictures.  Then we said our goodbyes and traipsed out the door into the January cold.  None of us noticed the echoes of words, thin and almost transparent, that ricocheted near the ceiling, having risen as we were reading.  The streams of words from each story clicked into each other like interlocking gears, and suddenly the sound of Scamper’s giggles came from a corner of the restaurant.  “Come on, Liberty,” she cried to Mario’s creation, “let’s get some shrimp from the kitchen for Bogey!”  An almost-transparent Scamper grabbed Liberty’s equally ghostly hand, and the giggles traversed the room.  A chair shuddered, as if a twelve-year old girl had bumped it as her friend was pulling her hand.  Oddly, the servers who were wiping the tables and closing the restaurant didn’t seem to hear or see anything amiss, except for Maya, who suddenly felt a chill and went to fetch her hoodie…


1/7/20 Meeting

Seven avid readers and writers attended our meeting on January 7, despite a topsy-turvy day that included snow, school dismissal changes, and federal office closings.  Lynda and Tina had been hoping to take Mario’s helicopter to get to Don Jorge’s Restaurant, but Mario informed us that his imaginary helicopter only transported imaginary friends.  Alas, we had to resort to driving our cars.  Besides Lynda, Tina, and Mario, the brave souls who attended were Ken, Peter, Daniel and Richard, who was our newest member.  At Don Jorge, after introducing ourselves and discovering that several of us are enthusiastic letter-writers, five of us read.

Ken read a short, humorous piece about a missing watch, mixed-up shoes, and glasses that re-appear unexpectedly.  Most of our comments were about whether Ken should provide more detail.  Mario read the next portion of his detective story, which added an interesting twist to the story of the missing girl.  Mario had carefully chosen the clues and details to develop certain inferences in the detectives’ and in the readers’ minds.  In answer to Richard’s question, Mario noted that he had already developed the story line, which clearly helps him decide which details to provide and which to withhold for maximum effect.

Daniel read an excerpt from his sci-fi story in which the captain and his android pilot enter a shady bar, to obtain the instructions for their next assignment.  This piece included an interesting dialogue between them regarding android templates and whether androids can enjoy their jobs.  The characters’ voices were clear and distinct –the android’s language proper, and Shane’s more informal.  We did not have much to correct, except perhaps wanting more detail, such as what the waitress android looked like.

Lynda humored us by reading the next chapter of her ghost story; we had been clamoring to hear what happened after the first ghost sighting in the previous chapter.  This chapter did not include the ghost himself, but it provided a wonderful depiction of a close friendship between two sisters.  Like Daniel’s story, Lynda’s had vivid, engaging dialogue between the two characters.

Tina read a new excerpt from her novelized stories about a family in Puerto Rico.  We had a good discussion regarding how to incorporate phrases in different languages to add realism, while still somehow allowing readers to figure out what the phrases mean.  There were other excellent suggestions regarding word choices for describing how an island disappears as one flies over it.

Overall, we exchanged helpful feedback, ate delicious food, and enjoyed good camaraderie.  The only things we left behind were a few tortilla crumbs and the echoes of our laughter.


12/17/2019 Meeting.

On a cold, dark Tuesday evening in December, eight hungry creative writers –Pat, Lynda, Pete, Daniel, Connor, Ken, Mario, and Tina–  bundled up at their separate locations and converged on Don Jorge’s Restaurant.  Our imaginary friends were a strong presence as well, although they did not add to our head count.  Pete was our newest (non-imaginary) member, so we introduced ourselves while crunching on warm corn chips with salsa and then ordered our dinner.  Six of us read.

Ken broke the ice with a humorous and relatable piece about a new cell phone that only worked intermittently until, several phones later, he found out that his thumb was the problem.

Lynda read us a Superman fan fiction piece that started where the fourth season of the TV show ended.  In this initial chapter, Lois Lane and Clark Kent discover a baby in their house that had inexplicably appeared there, complete with a mysterious House-El blanket.  After providing a few comments, we wondered whether we would get to hear more of the (separate) ghost story that Lynda had started to read previously.  We will have to be patient.

Pat read a riveting piece about someone who suddenly breaks off a close friendship after fifty years.  The use of direct, conversational language laid bare the hurtfulness of the situation.  We spent most of our discussion on why someone would act this way;  there wasn’t much to nitpick in terms of the writing.

Daniel read an excerpt from his sci-fi book “Better the Millstone,” in which the Captain and his pilot debate whether the Alliance is telling the truth about the number of disappeared androids.  The Captain’s mistrust of the Alliance is illustrated by his refusal to have a mental link with the android for fear that the Alliance could read his thoughts, even without Bailey knowing.  The piece was very well written, and we discussed the interesting contrast of the human Captain describing the use of android parts vs. the android’s recognition that this would constitute murder.

Mario read us an excerpt from his novel “On the Run,” in which the police entered the suspect’s concealed enclosure under his shed and apparently found the child victim.  The scenes were well described and easy to picture, and we discussed whether a police officer would be likely to use an idiom such as “hit the jackpot” when finding a kidnapped child. There seemed to be consensus that having the police officers talk colloquially during their workday would be realistic, even if one might not normally refer to finding a kidnapped child as “hitting the jackpot.”

Toward the end of the evening, Tina read part of a story about a young man in 1950’s Puerto Rico, in which an uncle discusses a scholarship that would ultimately send the young man to Europe.  This generated an interesting discussion as to whether more plot movement could be incorporated here, since nothing terribly new happened in this excerpt. Tina may take Lynda’s advice of ordering the chocolate “muse” for dessert next time, to see if that will help inspire her to create a more engaging plot. (Webmaster comment: the excerpt that Tina read was excellent. It served to set the tone and forward the narration).

Having finished our delicious dinner and creative discussions, we milled around before saying our goodbyes.  When we headed back out into the cold, our bellies were full, our hearts warmed, and our creative minds inspired.


At our December 3rd meeting at Don Jorge restaurant, we had ten attendees:  Angela, John, Melina, Lynda, Daniel, Connor, Tina, Ken, Mario, and Pat.  Four of us read.

John read an imaginative piece written from the perspective of Sarah, who inexplicably finds herself in an idyllic garden.  As she walks among the flowers, she runs into Buddha, Muhammed, Moses and Jesus, all of whom encourage her to figure out what she really wants. The piece ends when Sarah realizes that she is seated in a restaurant, menu in hand, as her dining companion and the server wait for her food order.

After a lively discussion, Mario read an excerpt about a gang member who reports a suspected kidnapping and how police detectives begin their investigation.  We debated the effect of writing this piece in the style of a police report, with some of us thinking it enhanced the story and others being unconvinced.

Daniel read another installment of his sci-fi novel, this time about the seedy docking station where the captain and his android pilot land their spaceship and how the android feels when a Port Authority attendant sneers at her.  We discussed whether and how much emotion an android might feel.

Tina read a piece describing a math professor’s teaching style and how having him as a father affected his daughter via a combination of genetic and non-genetic inheritance that cascades across generations.

After a delicious dinner and excellent conversation, our meeting adjourned, with plans to meet at Don Jorge again on December 17th.


We had nine attendees at our Creative Writers’ Group meeting on November 19, which began by extending a warm welcome to one newcomer and to an almost-newcomer.  This was also our group’s first meeting at a Panera, and we variously regaled ourselves with delicious sandwiches, salads with hints of sweetness, soft raisin-oatmeal cookies, and fragrant hot coffee.  Ken, Vickie, Angela, Anita, and Pat provided helpful feedback after Lynda, Mario, Daniel, and Tina each read their pieces.  Tina read about a Puerto Rican farm boy in the 1950’s who doesn’t want to spend his entire life working at a farm. This excerpt generated discussion about how to keep domestic scenes from being too mundane, which is tricky when a story doesn’t have action-packed scenes.  Next, Lynda read her novel’s prologue, centering on a village elder whose dream presaged the arrival of a Lost Soul.  All of us enjoyed the imagery, including the protagonist’s long, wavy red hair and her glittering jewelry, and we were intrigued by the mention of the mysterious Lost Soul.  Mario then read us a piece from his memoir, which described a brief R&R stay that he and two other members of his battalion had in Bangkok, Thailand during the Vietnam War.  The excerpt was only one-and-a-half pages long, but it was fascinating, describing the transactional way that military personnel could acquire a female companion, and the happiness that the soldiers felt at having this little bit of freedom, consisting of the ability to go out for a meal, dancing, and female companionship.  The excerpt also illustrated the bravado that exists among members of the military even when they are allies, and Mario’s characteristically kind way of defusing it.  The piece ended with the heartbreaking knowledge that a few days after this R&R, one of Mario’s two friends was killed in battle.  Daniel then read the next portion of his sci-fi novel, in which the two main characters, Captain Tyrone and his female android pilot Bailey, discuss why they might pick a job that pays well but is rather shadowy in its details.  The clear descriptions of the ship maneuvering in space made it easy to picture the scene, and the Captain’s slightly rough-sounding accent made this character more vivid.  We parted with smiles and heartfelt goodbyes, leaving the warmth of Panera but looking forward to our next meeting, for which our group will be trying out another new location.


Thank you again Tina for such an excellent account.

Our Nov. 5 Writers’ Group meeting boasted ten attendees, including six readers.  Our wise advisors consisted of John, Chuck, Angela, and Ken, and our readers were Lynda, Melina, Connor, Mario, Daniel, and Tina.  Lynda started us off with an intriguing piece about a photographer’s encounter with a ghost, and Lynda’s printout set the mood with a cover picture of a cemetery.  Tina then read an excerpt of one of her family stories, describing aunts, uncles, and cousins arriving for a birthday party in 1955.  Melina read us a touching short story about a blind girl’s grief at losing her beloved dog Cinnamon, and then how she finds a new friend.  Connor read from his Sasquatch story, which featured vivid dialogue between two young male Sasquatches.  Mario then read a piece about conversations he overheard while volunteering at a soup kitchen the previous day.  By then, the restaurant’s music had been turned up to a bombastic level, but Daniel valiantly read the next portion of his sci-fi novel about Captain Shane Tyrone and his gynoid pilot Bailey, explaining how androids are created via nanotech.  At the end of our meeting, we brainstormed about quieter places where we could meet going forward.  The chilly autumn air greeted us when we stepped outside the restaurant, and a half-moon gleamed against the black sky to see each of us home.

For a more detailed version of the meeting please see out blog.


For our Oct. 15 meeting, we had nine people: Lynda, Daniel, Connor, Pat, Bill, Cece, Pablo, Mario, and Tina. Ken and his wife joined us at the tail end of the meeting. Five of us read. Lynda started us off with a double drabble about a friendly squirrel that she encountered at the National Zoo. Bill then read us a piece that drew parallels between biological, sexual reproduction and computer programs and their compilers/interpreters, which generated a robust discussion about how to define life. Connor then read us a revamped version of the first chapter of his Sasquatch book, piquing our curiosity about how the plot would evolve in subsequent chapters. Some of us teased him for giving us spoilers, but knowing what might come up probably only added to our interest in the book. Next, Tina read a portion of a chapter describing a boy’s birthday party in 1950’s rural Puerto Rico. Finally, Daniel read us the ending of Chapter 1 of his sci-fi book. This portion described the human captain and the android linking up their communication channel with each other and plugging themselves into the spaceship. One of the interesting aspects of this was how the android, Bailey, can sense the inner workings of the ship after she links up with it. Almost as if he had timed it, Ken and his wife walked in just as we were finishing up. With any luck, we will have a full contingent of people for our next meeting.Tina again did a wonderful job doing the summary. She also has a piece in the blog pages.


We had ten attendees at our October 1 meeting –John, Melina, Pat, Mario, Ken, Vickie, Connor, Daniel, Lynda, and Tina. Seven of us read. John read us a story about teddy bears who had suddenly gained consciousness, and lived in a gritty, urban world, complete with fires in trash cans. Pat shared a letter she had written to someone in her past, which included the unexpected twist that the person she was dating had her accompany him to a job interview. Even more surprisingly, when the interviewer asked Pat’s beau when they were getting married, Pat’s boyfriend proposed to her on the spot! Mario read us the next installment of his science fiction novel, this time introducing us to a character who was an old academic, which was an interesting counterpoint to an otherwise futuristic world. Ken entertained us by reading his carefully-crafted poem about Maryland birds, which included references to the Ravens sports team, as well as to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem. Connor read us the next chapter in his book about sasquatches, this time showcasing their weapons. An interesting aspect of his main character Marduk was that, in addition to his violent side, he also had an affectionate side, illustrated by his protectiveness towards his sister. Daniel, in turn, read us a portion of his science fiction novel in which the protagonist’s spaceship is described, and how humans and androids can link their minds to each other and/or to the ship. Tina read an excerpt in which a grandfather’s and his grandson’s math abilities are contrasted when each was 12 years old.
We exchanged plenty of helpful feedback, including debating how to expand on a love letter to create a memoir around it; whether every line in a poem needs to have the same rhythmic structure; and how to balance descriptions of a mythical character’s violence with his empathic and protective side. We also discussed how teddy bears could possibly eat without having digestive organs; when to use perspective shifts in a story; how to best use punctuation to convey slowness in speech; and how to break up long descriptive passages when a particular futuristic world needs to be portrayed. Through the course of the evening, we wove a unique tapestry, created from living interactions. This tapestry had never existed before this evening, and now resides only in each of our memories.

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Again Tina overdid herself with the summary of our meeting on 9/17/19.

G'burg writers

Front row: Suzyn, Mario, Ken
Back: John, Connor, Daniel, Bill and Tina

We had eight attendees at our meeting on September 17:  Suzyn, Bill, Connor, Mario, Ken, Tina, Daniel, and John.  Most of us brought treasures to read, whether diamonds-in-the-rough or already polished and glittery.  The theme of the evening seemed to be the nature of consciousness, and to start us off right, we ordered delicious food and drinks, ranging from taco salad to pupusas, and from beer to strawberry margaritas. 

John kicked off the meeting with a humorous piece about our very own writers’ group, in which he had imagined that we had all died and had been reunited in a digital holding space before being rebooted with a new life simulation.  We laughed as we read about Mario’s initial elation at realizing that he was correct that there is no afterlife, only to be disappointed again when confronted with the possibility that there may be a god after all, and that we might be simulations in god’s computer.  As readers, we did not have much to critique with regard to John’s writing;  the dialogue was crisp, the description of the digital holding space vividly portrayed its stark whiteness, and the slow unveiling of the rules that governed life and death in this world kept us interested.  Part of what made it effective was that the story was told from Mario’s perspective, and as a character, he had not experienced this limbo before.  As readers, we were discovering this afterworld along with the character Mario.  The only substantive suggestion for the writing was to keep the perspective consistent.  The characterizations were also spot-on, and we laughed at Ken’s character muttering in Spanish to himself. 

Our next reader was Suzyn, who read us a poem called Binary.  This was a concise, interesting piece that also explored the theme of human consciousness.  It began by contrasting our competing impulses to see life as a zero-sum game, where the gain of one person is necessarily the loss of another, vs. seeing life as a cooperative endeavor.  With examples that we all recognized from real life, such as kids in cages, the poem concisely conveyed its meaning.  The interesting twist came at the end, when the concept of selfishly wanting “one for me” became the one’s and zero’s of binary code.  Further, this became the idea of humans collectively creating our reality.  Our world then becomes our own projection.  A very clever addition was that the last strings of one’s and zero’s in the poem were the binary code for an equal sign.  We discussed what this poem meant to each of us.  Not surprisingly for a good poem, we had slightly different, but interesting, interpretations. 

Connor was our next reader, and he read us the Prologue and the beginning portion of the first chapter of his book on sasquatch-type beings.  The Prologue set the stage by giving an overview of how most cultures have giant beings in their mythology, and the mystery that surrounds these stories.  Chapter 1 opened with a gripping hunting scene in which Mardukarahat, a sasquatch, kills a buck with a spear, as his next meal.  We felt that the description of the hunting scene was vivid, and we brainstormed about how the sasquatch’s abilities could be made more realistic while still showcasing its superhuman targeting ability.  Another turn of conversation regarded their consciousness, and how sasquatches might compare with ancient hominids. 

Next, we heard from Bill, who read us an excerpt from his book on Doggybabble.  It was an original conceptualization of a world in which dogs can speak human languages to different degrees.  In this excerpt, a new dog joins a kind of kennel and one of the resident dogs tries to communicate with him.  Our discussion afterward centered on how Bill was able to weave realistic aspects of dogs, such as their differently-shaped snouts, into how well they could speak.  The work was an interesting conceptualization of languages, including the amount of practice each dog had, and its experience with previous specific languages.  We also discussed why dialogue can be effective in allowing readers to feel that they are part of the scene with the characters. 

Tina read the next piece, which was the beginning of the third chapter of a book she is working on, loosely based on Peter, a child with autism and intellectual disability.  This chapter began to delineate the 1950’s farm upbringing of the person who would eventually be Peter’s grandfather, nicknamed “Pibe.”  The chapter opened with a description of the island of Puerto Rico, seen from the point of view of the wind that sweeps from the ocean across the island.  As in previous chapters, this one continued to try to show the internal patterns of brain activity rhythms, using snippets of metered prose and visual imagery.  The story intercalated this rendering of brain function with the external events from Pibe’s upbringing on the farm.  The descriptions were considered to be vivid, although possibly using too many adjectives.  Other helpful suggestions were to focus on transitions and to break paragraphs into smaller sections. 

Daniel then shared the next chapter of his scifi book with us.  This excerpt centered on the interaction between the human protagonist, who has just been released from prison, and his android pilot as they negotiate their contract.  The writing was very clear and easy to follow.  We did not have much to critique in terms of the writing itself, and we enjoyed discussing the differences between humans and androids.  One aspect we wondered about was whether the android’s insistence that the human should read the contract was foreshadowing something.  If it wasn’t intended to do so, we felt that it could be shortened, although it did serve to highlight the adherence to rules on the part of the androids vs. humans.  Conversely, since most of us had interpreted this as a foreshadowing, this could be a good technique for us to keep in mind as writers. 

Our last reader was Mario, who read us another chapter from his book.  This excerpt was about the character Diablo and his assumptions about his neighbor.  The writing was interesting in that, as readers, we seemed to be led to believe that Diablo’s neighbor had kidnapped a young girl.  We initially thought that this was somewhat too obvious in the writing, until Mario clarified for us that the neighbor was not necessarily the kidnapper, and that we were going on assumptions just like the character Diablo was.  Diablo is also faced with a dilemma of reporting the neighbor or staying invisible. We also discussed how, as writers, we can keep the information that we put into stories realistic, such how much detail a character in a story can learn from an missing-persons alert.  John had the interesting suggestion of having Diablo see an interview of the victim’s mother on the evening news.  Using a literary device such as this might allow Diablo to have a plausible way of getting more detailed information about the kidnapping than from the missing-persons alert. 

Our evening of spirited conversation and companionship came to a close with a group picture.  We each packed up our gifts of advice on polishing our diamonds-in-the-rough, and, with smiles and good wishes, we scattered into the night, looking forward to our next gathering.

 


Our Sept. 3rd meeting of the Gaithersburg Creative Writers Group (GCW) was a rollicking success, with Vickie, Pat, Connor,

Writers group
Gaithersburg Creative Writers group, Sept.3, 2019

Mary, Bill, Mario, Ken, Tina, Lynda and Daniel in attendance (from left around the table).  Mary, Lynda, and Connor were new attendees, so we did a round-robin of introductions.  Vickie then read us the beginning of what will become a collection of first-hand stories about living near a nuclear power plant, and the looming dread of its dangerous effects on health.  We discussed the themes that the piece brought up for us, including the worry of not being told the truth by authorities, and the potential for PTSD-like effects from living near a nuclear disaster.  Our suggestions were minor, such as using a more gripping first sentence.  Overall, we thought that the piece would be good at building up anticipation and interest in the topic. Next, Ken shared a humorous one-page story, “And the Clown Went Down,” which he wrote in response to a prompt, for submission to a contest.  We appreciated the verbal as well as the conceptual puns, and we discussed how to deal with references that not everyone might understand, such as what a Brownie Hawkeye was (turns out, it was a camera!). Our third reader, Bill, read us a vignette entitled “Alfie,” from a book he is working on.  The vignette was designed to shed light on the abuse of minors that occurs all too often in cults or religions.  We felt that Bill’s writing was vivid, detailed, spare, and written convincingly from the protagonist’s point of view.  Most of our conversation centered on whether it was necessary to focus the piece on a specific religion (through hints such as location), or whether it might be better not to single out a specific religion.  Sadly, these abuses of power seem to occur in many religions. Mario then read us an excerpt entitled “Mens sana in corpore sano,” from one of the novels he is working on.  The chapter was constructed in an interesting way;  Mario included three points of view in separate sub-sections, even though the entire piece was only a few pages long.  For those of us who were not familiar with the entire back-story, it was a bit hard to follow, but we appreciated the interwoven plot strands and the creative use of names, such as Dio, Diablo, and Chispa. Tina read the next piece, which was intended to be a creative illustration of how brain activity rhythms are necessary for normal cognition.  This idea was cloaked, perhaps too deeply, within a story about a boy with autism and the loneliness that he feels at not being able to communicate, except when the kindness from another human being synchronizes his brain activity.  The conceptual links between neural rhythms, human connection, and cognition did not seem to be fully conveyed in the story, so Tina will continue to work on trying to balance the external surface story (about the boy with autism), with the internal parallel of how the “glows” within his brain need to fall into rhythms, in order to do specific mental tasks such as recalling a memory or understanding math division.  Nevertheless, listeners seemed to enjoy the imagery and Tina’s attempt to convey rhythm via metered prose. Daniel was our last reader, and he regaled us with a portion of a science fiction book he is writing.  The early chapter that he read to us described the release of the protagonist from prison.  The writing flowed beautifully, and the descriptions were precise and allowed us to picture what was happening.  An interesting aspect was that all the prison guards looked identical, since they were genetic clones.  Our group discussed the differences between clones and androids, and between sexaroids and other androids, but we certainly did not have much to critique in the writing itself, since it was already well constructed.

Our group members had so much to read for this meeting that we ran a bit longer than we usually do, but we all left the restaurant delighted with our shared fellowship, and looking forward to our next meeting.


August 20th, Ken, Mario, Bill, Pat, Daniel and (newcomer) Kismet descended on La Villa. Four entertained with their reading and received helpful suggestions. Pat delighted us with a short piece about why she likes the “Man in Black”, Johnny Cash. Is it the raspy voice? Bill read about virtuous Enoch and Klaus from different sides. The former dies in squalor while the latter, who was evil, died peacefully. Daniel introduced his Sci Fi piece with the protagonist getting out of jail and hinting at the differences between clones and androids. Mario read the continuation of his futuristic novel about a visit to “The Middle”. This was a transition chapter, written in a descriptive mode. Kismet, the newcomer, was involved in the comments portion and indicated that she will read something next time she comes. She informed us that she is a motorcycle fan and rides. Daniel indicated that he was also one.


Again Tina was kind enough to do a great recap of our meeting of 8/6/19. Ten members attended.

Our lively Gaithersburg Writers’ Group on August 6th began during a fierce, unexpected rainstorm.  Each of us arrived at the restaurant heartily water-bespeckled but glad to get inside, scratching our heads as to why the downpour had not been predicted. 

Our meeting was attended by John, Melina, Vicky, Chuck, Pat, Karuna, Tina, Ken, Mario and Daniel.  Karuna and Daniel are our two newest members, and we all shared a few sentences about ourselves.  We teased Chuck about exceeding his word allotment when he was introducing himself, but we were happy to learn more about each other, especially hearing about each other’s varied day jobs. 

Tina started off the meeting proper by reading the first half of a short story based on her son, who has autism.  Vicky, Ken, John, Pat, and others provided excellent advice, including that the longer paragraphs would be better if they were chopped up into shorter ones to give readers some psychological breathing room to process the information. 

Chuck was our next reader, and he shared a brief piece he had developed based on one item from the humorous “advice-to-young-uns” list he read to us last time.  At our last meeting, John and others had encouraged Chuck to expand some of the two-line items from his list into longer stories, with the idea that this would draw readers in.  Chuck took that advice to heart and, for today’s meeting, expanded his premise that men with beards are not trustworthy.  Toward the end, the piece became somewhat political and controversial, and Vicky pointed out that this might make readers tune out.  Another valuable piece of advice was to better document some of the political, polarizing assertions. 

Next up, Mario read us a re-worked chapter from a sci-fi novel he is writing.  The futuristic world he is envisioning was meticulously constructed and drew us in.  Some of our feedback was whether some details were truly needed, such as describing the reusable water bottles.  Conversely, we wanted more vivid detail about other aspects such as the slurry with which one of the minor characters is suddenly covered. What color was the slurry, we wondered.  Also, was it hot, lukewarm, or cold, and was it gritty, or was it sticky like molasses?  Clearly, we were all intrigued by the concept of scary futuristic slurry.  Vicky offered the excellent advice that the story might be more compelling if it were written from just the protagonist’s point of view, rather than from two characters’ points of view, even if they experience the events together. 

Our next reader was Ken, who shared a summary of an interview he had conducted with a writer.  We were intrigued by the advice that the writer provided including immediately applicable suggestions such as writing about situations one has experienced.  As usual, we only had minor comments about Ken’s writings, such as clarifying who was speaking the quoted portions. 

Our last reader was Karuna, with an excerpt from her journal, in which she initially writes about attending a wedding, and then reminisces about a place where she used to live.  We liked the imagery that she used of specific flowers and butterflies in her garden.  We encouraged her to expand on some of these aspects and to give the story a structure and a conflict that can resolve in the end.  As the meeting was closing, we encouraged Melina to humor us with her writing in the near future, but the outlook remains bleak on this front. 

Regardless, we parted happy to have spent another Tuesday evening in each other’s company.  By then, the rainstorm had stopped, and the lightning jags had moved off into the distance.  Instead of having to execute another disjointed scramble through a downpour, we could all sashay gracefully to our cars and drive away while the evening peacefully blanketed itself around us.


Tina, our newest member, wrote this wonderful summary of our meeting on 7/16/19.

Eight enthusiastic writers attended our meeting today:  Melina, John, Bill, Ken, Mario, Pat, Chuck, and Tina.  Four read their latest work to us.  Mario started us off with a piece that was inspired by a conversation he had had with Chuck at the previous meeting (even though politics is normally off-limits for our group).  Mario’s article, entitled “Second-class Citizenship,” was an opinion piece relating to the current US president’s latest tweet furor and delving into possible reasons for racism and discrimination against immigrants.  A spirited yet friendly discussion ensued, and we see-sawed between constructive suggestions for the writing and political debate.  Having successfully navigated those treacherous waters, we moved on to Chuck reading excerpts from a list of advice points he had compiled from his life experience.  He has previously shared his 31-item list with a high school as “Advice from the old farts to the young ones.”  Much of our discussion centered on the statement, “it’s not alright to be stupid,” with various thoughts being voiced as to what was meant by stupid vs. ignorant, and some of us felt that the preceding sentences could stand on their own perfectly well, without the problematic phrase.  After absorbing as much life wisdom from Chuck’s list as we could, John shared a playful poem about how helmet-wearing squirrels are actually dealing with those murderous cars by valiantly trying to take them down with thorns, sticks, and even spears.  The fate of squirrel Princess Melina was a bit harsh in the end, but this did not detract from anyone’s enjoyment of the poem’s conceptual creativity and its rollicking rhythm.  Some minor comments were whether the poem should strictly follow an ABAB rhythm, or whether it should have a set number of lines per stanza.  Ken, our last presenter, moved us to more somber topics by reading a summary he had written about a police officer’s presentation on how to survive an active shooter.  We all listened attentively to the information being presented, which was clear, useful, and immediately applicable, even to our choice of seating in the restaurant.  We did not have much to critique in the writing itself;  the main substantive question was whether all the information presented was factual, and how to present information that the officer or Ken himself were offering more as opinions, such as whether video game playing plays a causal role in leading an individual to commit violent acts.  Despite this heavy topic, the entire group finished our meeting happy to have had the fellowship of such good company on what otherwise would have been a humdrum Tuesday evening.


We had five participants at our meeting on 6/18/19. Besides Ken, Larry Alfredo and Mario we had Charles, a new member. Charles read two of his essays that were very well receive. Larry read a hilarious piece about Bush 43 burning and speaking to people in the past, during the Deluge and a pair of penguins trying to make the cruise. Ken gave us a very nice piece about how mangoes felt being shipped to the US as well as fighting drones getting ready for commerce. Mario gave us a piece about his fiction piece “On the run”. A lively discussion about religion and politics followed the readings.


We had nine participate in our meeting on 6/4/19. Larry read a SciFi piece with the dilemma of what a Zombie should do when he is already full. Pat told us about her confusion with what noun to use when dealing with the proliferating genders today. Ken read a translation of a very moving beginning of a letter from a dear friend. He also read about how attributing Climate Change to supernatural entities will get us into trouble. Mario read about his ancestor Sebastían de Belalcázar, but apparently did not provide enough information to satisfy the rest. In the words of one of the participants, “we want more from you, man.”


Five members participated in our May 21st meeting. Larry read a Sci-Fi piece about the “Society of conspiracy theorist” that was Happy and Righteous. Ken about a missionary known to him in Bolivia that was killed by a guerrilla group. Mario gave us a piece about a street fight. A lively discussion was also part of the meeting, related mostly on how to provide positive feedback.


Our meeting on 5/7/19 was well attended. Of the eight participants, six read. John delighted us with a colorful poem he wrote for someone’s school project (that couldn’t be presented). A new member read the first chapter of a novel she is writing. Vicky read an interesting piece that she wrote for a contest, and Larry a SciFi short story about the end of the Earth video and Mario about stopping a thief when he was a teenager. Rafael asked for input on what text to add to his “Doctor Zhivago” themed napkins.


Our meeting on 4/16 was exceptionally good. 4 1/2 people read, all with good writing and good reading. Peg delighted us with a new chapter of her science fiction project that included some funny references to Trump. Pat read of her experience j-walking in Germany. Ken read some moving poetry and Mario told us when he got a package sent to the main post office in Saigon. Alfredo tried to read from a hand-written memoir in Spanish. We left inspired.


On the 4/2 meeting. All was well for our group last night in La Villa. Mario read more of his adventure story, Larry conveyed a really unique approach to Heaven and Hell, and Ken read an essay and a poem written on his trip to Jordan.


Our meeting on 3/19 had five participants. We enjoyed readings by Peggy and Mario. We also reread Larry’s piece about releasing Hitler from hell. We had two new members that we hope will continue to attend. 


Our meeting last night (3/5/19)- eight members and four readers. Perfect! Larry TT had a new take on old Aesop, Trekkie John read a fanciful tale, Our Mario gave us valuable historical information, and Silver Pen Ken edged into race relations. Good discussions followed each one. 


Ten people attended our meeting at La Villa 2/5/19. We enjoyed readings by four of those attending. Food was enjoyed by all. Larry Hodges returned and read an interesting piece about Hell closing out for good. Here is a photo of the group.

Photo of those attending.
We had ten participants on 2/5/19.

Nine people attended our meeting on 1/22/19. We had a new person, Pablo Guzmán and two members we have not seen for a while, Bill and Suzyn. Five members read and we had lively feedback.


Twelve persons attended our 1/8/19 meeting. Ties our most attended. The highlight was John’s piece about …. well you ask him about it. 


We had a very well attended meeting on  12/4. We heard from five of nine writers. A good time was had by all.

Attendants 12/4/18
Attendants 12/4/18

Ken’s remarks on our meeting on 10/24/18:

When we arrived to the Barking Mad last evening, a major rally for Governor Hogan was in full swing on the patio. It was a hard to find parking and even harder to push through the crowd to the door. We spoke of this and that and ordered from the waitress. Then, Mario read a memoir, hot off his printer. About the time we finished commenting on it, the Hogan rally ended and, and the cafe filled with people looking for warmth, food, drink and conversation.

Carol read more of her Ghana story, loudly enough to be heard over the din, and there were several comments. Those ended when Lee, from the family that owns the Spectrum complex, including the cafe, saw our sign on the table and came to say “hello.” She is a journalist. Then, her husband, Peter, came to join in the conversation.

As they were moving on, a Puerto Rican artist and writer, Alfredo, arrived to check out our group. The time for reading was over, and people drifted away, as Ken and Alfredo stayed to enjoy some good café americano.


On May 1st we had six participants. We thoroughly enjoyed the company and the readings by five participants. Larry H delighted us with a short story about the last Pluter. Carol read the second chapter of her book. Marylou showed one of her recently published articles about a fabulous exhibit at the Barn in the Kentlands. Larry surprised us with part of his book about the lost pterodactyls.  Mario continued the saga of a couple of the characters in “On the run”.


We had a very successful meeting on April 17. We missed some of you, but we had a great addition to the group, Carol Bouville. She delighted us with part of the first chapter of her novel.


We had one of the better attended meetings on April 3rd. Heard from six of the participants. Regaled with both fiction and non fiction that made the evening very enjoyable. Here is a photo of the participants.

gaithersburgwriters-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.


Meeting on June 21, 2017

Our group’s writers are meeting high standards. On June 21st, Ben read a fascinating one-pager entitled, “Beautiful,” she said,”And tragic.” Bill followed with an excellent piece that began: “She was lethargic and seldom spoke–a clear portent that her ancestors were beckoning.” Ken followed with a poem about acquaintance and impermanence, and then Mario’s ongoing story moved into the realm of a Latin gang.

At one point, our waiter said something about “The Ancient Mariner,” and Ken spouted a verse of it. Bill knew the poem too and recited the opening verse. 

Newbies, Elizabeth and Sandy participated in the critiques, found things in common, and stayed after the meeting to talk about them. Writers attract writers.


On March 21, 2017 we had an excellent meeting. The photo below shows us in the middle of it, from left: Rachel, Ken, Mario, Ben, Larry, Ellie and Dell. We also hosted a videographer from the city of Gaithersburg that came to tape Ken, as our host. Rachel, Mario, Larry, Ellie and Dell read from some of the projects they have going. Rachel is a newcomer, she has two more writing Meetons. The fare was good and the company better.


We had a great meeting last Tuesday January 17. Six people attended. DelRica one of our new members sent me a link for a short story competition.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/about/ct-2017-nelson-algren-literary-awards-official-rules-20161201-story.html

The dead line is fast approaching. If you have that literary jewel, this is your chance.

Participants at our meeting on 7/19/16

We enjoyed the company of : (from left), Arlene, Holly, Richard, Anna (with Henry), Mario, Matthew, Ken, Mo, Nancy and Vivian. A good time was had by all.

Participants at our first meeting on 7/5/16.From left: Bea, Mario, Holly, Ken, Mo, Peter and Nancy.