by Linda Donaldson
We began our October Writers Guild sharing correspondence from member Joel Mendez with greetings and kudos to the writers represented in our most recent Literary Journal issue. Joel, who has relocated to Singapore, is still writing and planning to submit to the next issue of the Journal, the deadline for which is November 30, 2019. The theme for that issue is Visions.
Nine selections were shared from our group of Writers Guild members at our October meeting. A wide spectrum of genres, welcome new voices and tremendous feedback from our members.
Melissa Triol shared a new chapter from her novel featuring a telling exchange between Eglantine and her aptly-named older sister Prudence. Upon discerning her sister’s early pregnancy, Pru tries to influence Eglantine’s decision to keep her baby. Many praised the dialogue and Melissa’s sparse but deft language that adds layers to her characters.
In a story about dealing with tragedy, Jane Bleam wrote of the senseless death of one of her nursing students in an auto accident, and its impact on the students and other staff members. Praise was given for Jane’s improving storytelling ability. Her story held our interest and added more facets to her teaching experiences. Listeners requested she include more about her own personal reaction.
A novel chapter by David Werrett introduced a contrasting pair of characters. Lark, an incest survivor, after extensive therapy, recognizes acting out sexually can – and has – led to violence. Lark rides horses and has observed a local woman, Dakota, who seems independent of the “hunt club” crowd and grooms her own horse at the stable. Lark is happy to receive a party invitation from Dakota. Listeners noted David’s writing mastery of a difficult topic. They sought more information about a trial and its outcome.
Ron Price told us his upcoming memoir The Letter Men – Forty Years of Brotherhood is nearly done. He shared a PDF of his professionally designed cover and a printed stack of 284 pages that represent his final proofing copy. Ron delivered a three page essay on gratitude that beautifully expressed the extended “family” of friends, their children, and the many people who encouraged and assisted him on this journey that began with the loss of a dear friend and fraternity brother. Near the end, John McCabe stepped in to finish the reading of John’s thank you.
Confessing that he had binge-read 14 Western romances on a recent trip, Bob McCrillis then entertained us with the opening chapter Yankee Law of a new novel he’s begun. Set in post Civil War Kansas, Bob’s hero (whose so far is nameless) and his horse, Falco, overcome an attack from a thieving desperado. They take the resulting body into a nearby town seeking the sheriff. None exists in the tiny town, so they’re directed to the local doctor/coroner. We are all on the edges of our saddles for more.
John McCabe shared a new “prologue” to his novel The Gray Pennies about soldiers irradiated in US government-sanctioned nuclear testing in Nevada in the 1960s. The gripping prologue scene, depicting a US soldier’s torture in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, is gut-wrenching. All agreed that this was prose guaranteed to hook the reader, but suggested to start with it not as a prologue, but giving a dateline and place, then follow with the first chapter which takes place in Nevada in 1962. That chapter is tight and moves quickly now with lots of dialogue that explains the impending testing.
Poetry from Betty Esris shifted our genre. First Betty shared a poem from the viewpoint of a teacher feeling the tempo from within of a favorite Bartok piece of music as she glances out on her classroom full of students grappling with The Glass Menagerie. She speculates whether they could imagine the youthful excitement she still feels now. Dr. Anne Kaler, Professor Emerita of Gwynedd Mercy University, said this poem resonated with her. Some suggested a change of the long title, taken from the musical piece’s liner notes, to something shorter, keeping the excerpted note under the title. A second poem Save Me from Drowning from Betty was unanimously lauded. Not a word needed to be changed. Anne suggested line breaks in four places for better readability though, and everyone agreed.
Deb Faulkner brought the introduction to her memoir based on hundreds of letters from her father to his parents and siblings from the 1930s and beyond. All her listeners were nodding over references to familiar items from those times. Deb’s friend, an indexer, helped to cross-reference mentions of hundreds of related things – car models, birds, meals, foods – building a treasure-trove of cultural landmarks on the journey through middle-American life in the mid-century. Deb is beginning to assemble and build chapters based on her research. We all are excited to see where this leads.
The beginning of the chapter by Liz Casey was a superb example of showing how “attachment” is a complex concept only understood by most of us superficially. After relating a true-life experience of the loss of a pet, Liz defined the healthy and unhealthy types of attachment and explained how to recognize them. Liz explained that as a clinical psychologist, she wanted to “flip the script.” Instead of explaining how those with trust issues need to change, she wanted to speak out about what everyone else needs to do to deal with this issue.
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Our monthly Writers Guild meetings (the third Sunday afternoons from March to October) are where we share and critique our writing work-in-progress. In a friendly atmosphere, we encourage, support, and challenge writers to improve whether they are experienced writers or beginners.