Okay, I apologise. I have lapsed and not updated anyone about anything in over a month. I of course have my reasons…. None of which sound to me now to be anymore than petty excuses and laziness….. But there is one that I stand by:
About four weeks ago, I once again scanned the wide world of web looking for local classes on creative writing. I like to write and am comfortable saying that I am not awful at it. I do, however, believe that it is a bit coarse and unpolished. So from time to time I’ll scan for courses. This time I found none that seemed to be quite what I was looking for. I’m not looking for a degree, or anything like that, just some help cleaning up and feeling better about my sentences, punctuation, etc…. So instead I decided to look up Writing clubs. It turns out that there is a ‘guild’ in St. Louis, with several accomplished authors of various styles, but it sounded a bit snobbish and self-absorbed for me… Then I stumbled upon the Jefferson County Writers Association…… A smaller, less formal, collective of people that span a smaller, more manageable clutch of specializations, yet at the same time had an impressive list of actual published work.
I contacted the honcho, Dorry, and told her the following:
“I like to write. I have tried novels, but don’t seem to have the attention span or the creative goo that enables a novelist to make up an entire universe of people places and problems, much less a new or unusual plot. What I do write is basically articles, columns and non-fiction short stories. I have no delusions about quitting my day job and hostelling myself in Greewich Village, or begging for scraps as a Bohemian in Paris. I have a fair amount of spare time, the best technology money can by, and a flair for slapping words together in unusual and almost rhythmic ways. I would like to get something published, but pretty much just for the sake of taking a trivial hobby just a notch or two higher. Frankly, Dorry, I have no real goal other than just to grow it a little and see what happens.”
She responded immediately and invited me to join ($20/yr) or just stop by one of the two or three monthly meetings and get-togethers.
The one I went to was a critiquing group. It was a hoot. There were eight or nine of us, and I was immediately comfortable. I was the youngest, and the tallest person in the group. I was also the only guy. A couple of the ladies have a long list of articles and short stories published in many, many magazines… generally like “Home and Garden” and other country-living style publications, and many regional and hobby specific ones. That seemed a comfortable aspiration. One lady has written a memoir-type book of significant thickness. It has to do with the life story of a man that she met a few years back. She thought the story fascinating and told him he should write a book, he laughed it off since his ability to string the written word together had never been an interest. She offered ghost it, he accepted. A publisher read the advance and offered a contract. While waiting for the book to be completed the publisher handed the advance to some Hollywood types and they are now, before the thing is even published, creating a screen play.
This is cool enough, but the brutal world of publishing had to draw some blood from this lady just because they could… So they tied her to a contract that stipulates that she has one year to come up with another one…. Her problem, and her reason for hanging around the rest of us, is that she, like me, has no other story to tell…..
Anyway, the critiquing was simple and straight-forward. People brought in something they had written, or were writing, and passed out copies… we read through it, stopping to make observations, comments, and suggestions.. Paragraphs would move around, or be removed, sentences rewritten, or struck out entirely. Not harsh, these people have been ‘rejected’ hundreds of times, some might say they actually seem to enjoy it. So nothing was taken personally, and in fact there was no mandate that the changes, or suggestions had to be implemented. The senior among us, Verna, a bright eyed and sharp eighty five year old, brought in a ditty about a candy store in her Tacoma neighborhood, her childhood memories of it and the places and things around it, emphasizing the sweet smells, and friendly atmosphere. It was hardly ‘War and Peace’ but is exactly what you might find in a cozy magazine article for the area….
I took nothing to the meeting, and made it known that this, my first visit, was in fact to judge the group for worthiness before being judged by it.
I did indeed send in my $20. I will be going to more meetings. I like being around these people, it seems that their thinking, and fears, and goals, and humor is much more like mine than most of the people I deal with day to day… So now I am tasked with bringing something in to be critiqued by next Saturday. This has had a severe negative impact. Now, every time I sit and look at my keyboard It is as if I were being watched by my new friends… I have created for myself a writer’s block.
THAT’s why I haven’t written anything…. I swear!
So on to other things….