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…