Schedule and Location

Welcome to the Sarasota Writers Group Blog. Meetings are held the first and third Wednesday of the month at the Nokomis Fire Station, located just a few blocks south of Albee Road (where Matthews-Currie Ford is located) at Pavonia Road. We are on the west, or bay side, of U.S. 41, by the Fire Station's flashing yellow caution traffic light. If you are coming from the south on US 41, we are just north of Dona Bay. Turn on Pavonia and pull to the far end, or west side, of the firehall. Please do not block the fire doors! We meet in the training room on the far side of the complex. Gathering time: 6:00 pm Meeting called to order: 6:30 pm Ten minute break: 7:50 pm Meeting Finishes at 9:00 pm

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wednesday November 6, 2013 Meeting

Last week many of us hoped to see Kerri Dieffenwierth so that we'd have an opportunity to congratulate her on her most recent accomplishments. Kerri recently won the 2013 Creative Nonfiction Contests Judge's Selection in Still - the journal for her piece called A New Bitterroot. She was also a finalist for the 2013 VanderMey non-fiction prize in Ruminate Magazine for her submission, Swamp Angel Stomp. Unfortunately, she was unable to be there, but we still cheered her in spirit.

Also, a friendly reminder.... our annual Christmas Party is scheduled for Wednesday, December 18th. Families are welcome. Everyone is encouraged to bring some festive food to share with the group. Any leftovers will be given to our gracious hosts, the Nokomis Fire Department. Also, if you haven't contributed to the room fund, please feel free to hand your donation to George as we'll be presenting it to the fire department on the day of the party.


George Mindling, author of U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles, was our first reader. He shared with us an old treasure he found while going through some of his old projects and found a piece about a conversation with Shirley MacLaine. In his story he documents a call in to a local radio show where Shirley was the guest. As the call came from his home (and his daughter), he was prompted to record it for posterity purposes. The subject brought up by his daughter on the call was the metaphysical and pets. I don't think it surprised anyone to hear that the subject matter was too complex for a mere call in to the radio show. The cheekily dry humor at a celebrity giving spiritual advice was fabulously spot on.

Next, Kitt Crescendo shared her poem, Brave, about personal strength, compelled by the bullying situation that hit the headlines based on the situation in the Miami Dolphins locker room. The topic sparked a lively discussion surrounding what peoples' perceptions of bullying are as well as how to respond to bullying (and our personal responsibility to be stand up for ourselves).

Pat Patterson followed with a big thank you to the folks who gave him critique on his manuscript. Included on his list were Ernie, Ed, Don, JoAnne, Jack and Peter. He also shared his discovery of a software program called Clear Edits that assisted him with both line and content edits for his WIP. The cost is $80 and comes with email support. Instead of sharing from his manuscript, Pat has boldly branched out with his writing into the world of poetry. He wrote a lovely piece called "To My Grandson" where he answers the boy's question about where the wind comes from. His second poem was simply called "Dan", a loving tribute to the brother he lost and the son he gained who honors his name.
 
Our next reader, George Collias, author of Sandspurs: Limericks by a Native Floridian and Myahmuh: A Novel of Miami, Florida read an excerpt from the latter book. In this part we are introduced to a murderer through the eyes of a dead boy's ghost as he performs his rituals of putting cigarette burns on the body of his victim post mortem. The tone is definitely eerie and leaves us wondering how this horrible criminal will be caught.

Ernie Ovitz follows with some information surrounding how he researched his book and characters. He explained that his best sources of information were on descriptions he found of Armenia and the great persecution in 301 AD that were outside the traditional text books/history books/encyclopedias. He then continued on to Chapter 5 of his WIP in which the ambassador finds out that his wife has been kidnapped and makes plans to give chase to get her back.

Our in house comedian, Ed Ellis, read a short story he wrote entitled "My Feathered Friend." In the story he talks about the ice shanty he and the other half of his "honey do" twins build together. Their whole goal in building this fancy shanty was to drink Wild Turkey and escape their wives and the "honey do" lists that went with them. Once it was complete, their days were filled with the three "F"s. Fishing, Football and Feathers...until the blizzard that came that winter. The cold combined with the turkey caused them to hallucinate bikini clad co-eds out on the ice. As is always the case with an Ed Ellis story, the ending wasn't that simple...or that boring. The punchline came when the "honey do" twins discovered their missed opportunity. They found out that the co-eds weren't hallucinations at all, but participants in a contest held by the local radio station.

The sweetly soft spoken Barbara Frickel took a turn at sharing next. Het two pieces were inspired by her meditations (along with her mother's birthday) and magic pencils (her magical version of colored pencils). Her first piece was a dedication to her mom called "The Color of Comfort". For Barbara, the color umber reminds her of softness and warmth...and her mother. The second was called "My Tree" and was written while at Myakka Lake looking at her tree and meditating. To her, that tree spoke of strength, friendship and a promise of good times. Between the art work and photo and Barbara's sweet words, she warmed our hearts and left us smiling.

Don Westerfield wrote a couple of poems to honor those like him who served our country well as we headed towards the Veterans Day holiday. The two poems were entitled "The American Fighting Man" and "Fields of Stone." Both of his poems were powerful pieces for different reasons, so I selected one to share on the blog.

Fields of Stone

 
Taps ever echo o'er this hallowed place.
Flags adorn where fallen heroes lie in grace.
Here, each dawn reveals an alabaster glow
of white stones in perfect patterns, set
Row on row.
 
They honor those who served this country well,
reminding us why; why each hero fell.
On each stone a name, for Ages to cite;
memories etched in glory on a field of
White on white
 
Letters spell only of who the grave;
Even requiems can't acknowledge all they gave.
Our tears yet flow like the blood most shed
upon foreign shores where they
Bled and bled.
 
Not for self, did they fight and die,
but for country and all; now in peace they lie.
They paid freedom's toll and so here they bide
under silent white sentinels, resting
Side by side.
 
Followed by Don's patriotic and heartfelt words was JoAnne Phillips, author of Adventures of a Sea Hag.

She read from her current work in progress, "Matrix of Life". The chapter she shared with us was called "Legion" and surrounded a special gift that the local chapter of the American Legion and their gift to her grandfather. In honor of all his years of dedication the guys gave him a hunting dog (a beagle) named Legion. As often happens in these more humorous moments in her book, humor and chaos ensued as the "hunting" dog became spoiled and babied under her grandfather's "watchful" eye. Laughter filled our meeting as JoAnne described the day that Legion stole the "turkey-duck-chicken" (the turducken moniker came much later with John Madden and the turkey bowls) her grandmother had prepared for Thanksgiving dinner, managing to eat a large portion before it could be saved.

Suzi Lynch, one of our newer members, decided to be bold and share a trilogy of poems she'd written a few years back for us. "Why I Don't Write or This Will Be On Your Permanent Record" was a powerful piece where she explored her fears of being published and how, in her mind at that moment in time, being unpublished also felt like being protected...from critics, reviewers and from the world at large. Her follow up, "No Love Lost" explored how when dreams come true (in this case, her classroom curriculum), it could be taken and changed and turned into anything...possibly even something completely different from what she'd intended. In her final piece, "A Happy Pregnancy", she discussed the hope, potential and something greater than herself growing within her writing...and that as long as she chose to hold it within and "not deliver" it, her thoughts, her writing was safe. Her three poems were powerful pieces to which every writer, artist or creator can relate. The strength of her voice was beautiful even as it probed insecurities and fears.

Andrew Parker introduced us to his newest WIP, a piece called "Playing Chess at 91." The first character we meet is the protagonist, Simon Shuster. He lives in a rent controlled boardinghouse filled with other senior citizens who do a lot of drugs (which he doesn't partake in) and "brownies" (which he does). They spend the larger part of their days playing chess while under the influence. Their handyman is over 100 and on crack. There are only 2 younger people who live in this house with them. One is in charge of their "nutrition" and the other "therapy." We're still unsure where Andrew's piece is going to take us, but one thing is guaranteed. Laughter and the outrageous will follow. It's one of the joys of hearing Andrew's work.

Our final reader for the night was Jung Suk Yo, back from his recent hiatus from our group. He shared a chapter from his current WIP called "In the Boat" where he described a frightening scene where his protagonist, Bach (a lawyer) is kidnapped by two masked men from his home in Florida where he'd been hiding and brought out to a ship in the Gulf of Mexico. Bound and gagged, he's uncertain if they came for him because the billionaire whose wife he'd been sleeping with found out about their nefarious plan to kill him with an insulin overdose or if it was something else entirely. It definitely left us a bit chilled and nervous about walking out into the dark Florida night to go home.


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Wednesday October 16, 2013 Meeting

We had a special guest speaker for our group at our last meeting. Jack Harney, author of The Millstone Prophecy came to share his writing experiences with our group.

Inspired by a documentary called Deliver Us From Evil, Jack felt compelled to draw attention to the very controversial subject of pedophilia in the Catholic church and the steps taken to hide and cover up these crimes against children. Initially intending this to be a non-fiction tale, he began to research the different categories in the non-fiction universe and found that it's very much a niche market. He wanted the message brought to light on a larger scale, and found himself writing his very first suspense fiction novel.

His intent was to follow the traditional route. Get an agent, then pursue traditional publishing. So, he attended writers conferences while he worked on his project and had the opportunity to pitch agents. He quickly found that most were put off by the subject matter. The same was true for publishers (and it took anywhere from 9-12 months to get it to print through this venue). As he continued his pursuit of making this manuscript a reality, he came to the conclusion that he needed to self publish this piece and a great cover.

What he did find was a writing partner. This was the person to run ideas by, read drafts, ask if certain scenarios worked. He also found a few beta readers. With their feedback and his edits and hard work, the book came to fruition. Despite having a printed copy available, he quickly found that 99% of his sales came through Amazon in "digital sales" or ebook format. Since Kindle has created Kindle Direct Publishing, he's seen an upswing in his sales and has officially sold over 31,000 copies of his novel worldwide. Kindle Direct gives you 5 days in a 90 day period to make the book free. He chose to utilize these days for big "reading" days...like holidays, Mothers Day (hey, reality is there are more women readers than men), and Sundays.

After Jack's interesting presentation, we met our newcomers and Rod DiGruttolo facilitated our readings.


Peter Frickel, author of My Frog Sings, Lotha and the Three Crosses and his new blog, ThinkFree, was our first victim reader. He read an article he'd found about Literary v. Pop fiction and studies on the human brain. Apparently, despite the love for Pop fiction, those who "pushed" themselves with Literary works were more likely to score higher on exams, etc, regardless of how much reading the Pop fiction fan might do. It was something to think about. Personally, I still appreciate the escapism that Pop fiction gives me. Next he shared a piece from his current Work In Progress, "Lillies Of the Vlai." In it, he described riding a "ski" in the water that sounded much like a stand up paddle board. In his story, he was able to be at one with nature...and risk a bit of life and limb. It sounded like quite an adventure.

Ernie Ovitz read next, bringing us back to his manuscript, "The Seventh King." In this part we realize that there is a spy in the governor's house, a servant named Cena. As Red Beard plans to steal the governor's wife, he plans to use her to get close. Fortuitous circumstances for him prevent that from happening when he and his band of outlaws run into a small group of riders. Julia, the governor's wife, had been inside the carriage, heading to town to discuss the arrest of the Christian gets kidnapped. Lots of great descriptions were used to draw us into the era. With some minute adjustments on the dialogue, the book will be ready.

Next came the ever entertaining Ed Ellis. This time he chose to share a poem called "The Beacon Of Reality." He called us to use inspiration, to give universal acceptance and encourage broadening of the mind....and back into nature. Turns out, the guy who "wasn't a poet" is finding his poet's soul, after all.


Author of Adventures of a Sea Hag, JoAnne Phillips, participated in the dialogue challenge Rod DiGruttolo rolled out during the beginning of the summer. The piece, "Car Conversation", was a discussion between a mechanic and the "easy mark" he thought he'd scam...until she showed him she knew a thing or two about how the legal system works and what happens to businesses who make a practice of cheating clients. The back pedaling was hilarious. Next, she continued with her current manuscript, "Matrix Of Life." This chapter finds them at the Christmas holiday with both parents unemployed. In an attempt to infuse holiday cheer into their small home, her dad cut a tree from the forest and they decorated it in tin cans and a tree topper her mother made. They also informed her that Santa wouldn't be coming this year because she was more grown up now. She informed them that she felt he'd been a bit premature in making that call. The humor in the face of hardships has been a charming addition to JoAnne's newest work.

Andrew Parker continued with his manuscript, "Drunk and Calling From a Pub In London." He starts the tale off with Jacqueline Aurora's parents handing him a hand gun and encouraging him to "end it" so that all his suffering will be done. Unsure of whether this is the right decision he looks toward his new girlfriend, Jacqueline. She reassures him that this is what he needs. When he pulls the trigger, instead of a bullet, gas is released. He wakes to a monkey with a crush on him and a butler who may not only be a butler. The whole thing was, quite literally, insanely hilarious.

Laura Harrison shared two 20 year old books written by James A. Michener about the art of writing. One is James A. Michener's Writers Handbook and the other, My Lost Mexico. In them he discussed his thoughts on growth, editing, making books, how he organizes his thoughts and how he decides on the order of chapters. It was fascinating to see things from his point of view and view samples of his work while he was creating. What a find that discovery was for Laura!

Wendy Brooks, one of our newer members and an illustrator of children's stories, took her first try at sharing a piece of her writing. She'd been inspired by a story she'd seen on the news of a woman who pushed her brand new husband over a cliff to his death. They'd only known each other for 5 days before marrying. In her piece entitled "There Are No Heroes" she speculates as to what could have driven a young, 22 year old bride to murder her new husband. It was compelling to try to understand and relate to someone so obviously not likeable. The work has potential to be the beginning of a very intriguing story.

Susan Davis shared a short piece by Alice Munro in honor of her Nobel Prize in literature. In her honor, and to introduce her work to those who were not familiar, she shared a part of her short story Gravel, published in the New Yorker. Feel free to click the link and read the rest for yourself. Susan also took on the dialogue challenge and entitled her piece "Cat & Mouse." In her dialogue one person is inviting another to go to a jazz club to enjoy great music. The other person questions if this will be okay with the other party's "other half" and is told yes. She accepts and states that her significant other will be joining them. The first party is taken by surprise..."I never realized you were an 'us'!" Ah, the cheater, trapped. Loved the creativity.

Kitt Crescendo shared an article she wrote for Bring Back Desire called Pleasure Partnerships and Helping Hands...officially introducing us to the racier side of her writing. Although it was non-fiction, it definitely opened some eyes and dropped a few jaws. It's not like she hadn't warned us that her writing delves pretty strongly into the erotic, though.


George Mindling, author of U.S. Air Force Tactical Missiles, ended our evening with a short fiction piece he'd written called "Aufwiedersehen, Kaiserslautern!" In the story we're introduced to a young, drunken military GI stationed in Germany. He's at the bar drinking beers and heads upstairs with one of the local prostitutes after receiving his reenlistment bonus. It was definitely a hilariously salty tale of why it's so important not to get drunk with strangers unless you want to be robbed blind.

Our evening came to a close with a reminder that the next Writers Group Meeting is 11/6/13.