Impressions of our last meeting on 2/18/20 are below
Our next meetings will be on March 3rd, 2020. We will be 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.
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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Summary of our meeting on 2/18/2020.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.