By Linda Donaldson
Eight Writers Guild members came together this past Sunday for our July meeting. For the benefit of our new member, Holly Odell, we went around the table and introduced ourselves and told about our current writing projects.
It was announced that Sandy Cody, a presenter at PSB Writing Center workshops, and Guild member, sent two links from Authors Publish magazine: First Eleven Literary Journals that Read Submissions Blind (without regard to the author’s identity or previous publishing history). Second, a free PDF The 2017 Guide to Manuscript Publishers.
Anne Kaler congratulated Bob McCrillis on the paperback proof copy he brought of his new collection of short stories published through CreateSpace. Entitled Puckerbrush: Stories of the Journey to Manhood. Bob had just finished rereading and marking the editing changes he plans to make before correcting them and releasing the book for publication.
Linda Donaldson briefly explained the process of publishing a paperback through CreateSpace, the preparation of files and the lack of fees for books formatted by the author/publisher.
Bob McCrillis began by reading a chapter from his novel Intersections where one of the three main protagonists, a young 1960’s black female law clerk, is approached by a senior partner of the law firm that employs her, offering to sponsor her completion of her undergrad degree and her tuition for law school. Bob smoothly depicted Jean’s inner reaction to the contrast in her surroundings and treatment at the firm vs. her previous life experiences in her modest West Philly origins. Listeners wanted more background on her future mentor’s character and his own acceptance of a “leg up” by his mentor.
Next, Kell Ramos brought another chapter of his memoir, this time taking us to Hackensack, NJ, when his family moves there from the Bronx. Once again, he began with a rhythmic, snappy 11-line poem that bridges the chapters’ change of setting. Treating his 10-year-old experiences with an almost stream-of-consciousness narrative, Kell kept the reader glued to his exploits with his best friend Neville. Readers noted places where punctuation could be changed, but after listening to the story all agreed that Kell’s voice is genuine as well as unique and should be preserved. Shorter paragraphs were suggested.
Cheryl Godschall returned with a newly revised story about a collectible doll written from the doll’s point of view. Cheryl gave the story lots of detail and depth with her description of the elaborate outfit and wig made from her first owner’s hair. Cheryl envisions the story in chapters that cover the generations of different owners and the events in contemporary history each time the doll changes hands. We await new chapters.
Another short story collection in the making is Jane Bleam’s memoirs of childhood summer adventures at the family summer cottage on a lake. Taking us back in this new animal rescue story of a gosling, Jane was lauded on her bravery saving the little goose tangled in fish line while amidst a flock of cranky adult geese. Listeners asked for more information about the behavior of the geese during this ordeal.
Finally, Holly Odell shared the opening chapter of her story that begins after the protagonist comes home to Spanish Harlem in 1969 after leaving the Peace Corps because she was pregnant. She had been teaching English as a second language to Ivory Coast seventh-graders and was terminated after disclosing her condition. Once again in the US, she lives in a 6th floor walk-up with graffiti-covered walls and describes vividly her fatigue trudging home one day with 2 grocery bags, knowing her brother was coming to visit. Ostracized by her father and her employers, she is comforted by her brother Fred, a schoolteacher who loves opera. Every last person agreed that we are eager to read the rest of this intriguing well-written story.
Our next Writers Guild meeting is 1:30 to 3:30pm on Sunday, August 20th in the Cultural Center at Green Hills Farm, 520 Dublin Road, Perkasie, PA 18944. Don’t forget to bring at least 10-15 copies of any writing selection (up to 3 pages) you’d like to share for discussion. Remember to add your email address to your work. Our time is sometimes limited due to wide participation, so contact information gives members the chance to take your work home and respond via email with comments.
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On First Looking Into Dickens’s Oliver Twist
(With apologies to Messrs. Chapman and Keats –but I needed a title)
Always on the lookout for a bargain, I found myself perusing the public domain table at Barnes & Noble. For those unfamiliar with these offerings, they are cheap hardback editions of classics that are no longer protected by copyright priced with the student budget in mind.
The copies of Mr. Dickens’s Oliver Twist were foremost on the table, which reminded me that no lesser eminence that Pearl S. Buck cherished Dickens and had given a complete set of the works pride of place in her library. How could this be? My reading of Ms. Buck’s novels and short stories impressed me with her spare, almost laconic style. From knowledge gained after being dragooned into reading portions of Oliver Twist during by undistinguished academic career, I carried with me a sense of long, long sentences freighted with bibble-babble, and phrases, and clauses, and modifiers as if the author was being paid by the word on piecework.
Nevertheless, I determined that an investment of seven dollars and forty-nine cents in my development as a writer could pay dividends – after all, I’d just expended a similar sum in sybaritic pleasure purchasing a latte and biscotti in the café. It was an unprepossessing volume for all that it was bound with hard covers, poor paper and numerous voids in the printing. An unlikely vehicle for enlightenment.
Imagine my surprise finding myself laughing out loud as I read of the “farm” where pauper children “rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing…” or “that this system of farming would produce any very extraordinary or Luxuriant crop.” Mr. Dickens was even snarkier than I.
And what can one say about the self-important Mr. Bumble? The kindest comment might be that he got his just deserts marrying Mrs. Corney, receiving considerably more than the silver teaspoons and tongs, a silver teapot, and some ready cash he had assayed.
Mr. Dickens tongue-in-cheek style does not lessen the horror of Bill Sikes trying desperately to escape the shade of the poor murdered Nancy.
I put Oliver Twist down understanding better that ornate or antique language can skewer human frailties just as pointedly as the crisper modern style.