Impressions of our last meeting on 10/1/19 are below
Our next meetings will be on October 15, 2019. We will be at La Villa restaurant in Gaithersburg, starting at 6:30 PM. 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. We have been promised cheaper food and drinks, if you order from the lunch menu. To get happy hour prices, order your drinks before 7:00 PM. The dishes in the web site look delicious, they are even better in reality. The address is:
18701 N Frederick Ave. Gaithersburg, MD 20879. Please Note!! Our member John Hardison informed us that there are discounts for this restaurant. See the Links page for details. Those of us that joined have received good discounts.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to Mario (email@example.com).
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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.
Again Tina overdid herself with the summary of our meeting on 9/17/19.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.