On the Armenian genocide by Turkey and others

By Lynda Baldwin

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.

It happened on 1/21/2020

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…