Schedule and Location

Welcome to the Sarasota Writers Group Blog. We meet the first and third Wednesday of each month at the Nokomis Fire Station. Coming from Sarasota or North, proceed a few blocks south of Albee Road on US 41 (past Matthews-Currie Ford) to Pavonia Road. Turn right (West, toward the bay) at the Fire Station's flashing yellow caution traffic light. If you are coming from the south on US 41, we are 2 blocks north of Dona Bay. Turn left onto Pavonia Road at the flashing yellow caution light. At the Fire Station, drive to the far end, or west side, of the firehall. Please do not block the fire doors! We meet in the training room at the far end of the complex. We Gather for a meet and greet at 6:00 pm Meeting called to order: 6:30 pm Ten-minute break: 7:50 pm Meeting Adjourned: 9:00 pm

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We had our first official meeting of the new year with many familiar faces returning to rejoin our group, and a few new faces as well! It was great to see so many folks in attendance.

George Mindling kicked off our meeting with the following announcements:
  • We received our "Thank You" letter from the Nokomis fire department, along with an invitation to continue meeting there for as long as we'd like.
  • George will have a table set up at the Dearborn Street Festival on February 15th in Englewood and is welcoming those who'd be interested to speak to him about joining him.
  • Based on the fact that we bypassed our first meeting date of the year (January 1st) to watch football and spend time with our families, we'll be meeting again on January 29th.
  • Elizabeth Sims was recently interviewed in Writers Digest where she was kind enough to mention our writers group. She has also agreed to come speak to our group on April 16th, so mark your calendars!
Rod DiGruttolo took over moderator duties as we headed into our first meeting by introducing several of our newer folk, people we hope to see again soon, and moved into our readings.

Laura Heath was our first reader of the evening with a meditation for the new year for writers she titled, "Getting Back to It." In her somewhat tongue-in-cheek piece she encouraged writers to clear their bad habits "unless saving them for lent." Easier said than done, right? Well, saving it for lent sounds like as good an excuse as any...

Next, Ed Ellis shared a piece he called, "Very Short, But True, Story." In his story the protagonist introduced us to life as a sole male in a female dominated household. With four daughters and a wife, the home was "a democracy." The primary catalyst for conflict appeared to be the toilet. After all the training to master the art of putting the lid down, he made the "mistake" of being overzealous in his learning and also lowered the cover. His wife found this out the hard way in the middle of the night in the dark. Though it didn't bode well for him, we found the story to be quite humorous. His defense was that he was trying to "protect" his family and their tooth brushes because he'd heard bacteria from flushing actually travels six feet! Yes, this little factoid was good to know. Toothbrush is now safely kept in the medicine chest.... Thanks, Ed!

Local author of Myahmuh: a Novel of Miami, Florida and Sandspurs: Limericks by a Native Floridian, George Collias, shared more from his book, Myahmuh. After learning that Charles, one of the main characters, lived with an alcoholic (an most likely abusive) father, we, along with the boys, the boys discovered, as they were about to leave for their camping trip, that there might be a multiple murderer on the loose. I don't know about you guys, but after all that, camping didn't exactly sound like the safest or smartest idea.

Jim Kelly, poet author of  the Place and From the Embers, shared two recent pieces called "Mourning Dove" and "Blue Notes." With his permission, I'll share one of them now. It's easy to see why his poetry is so beloved by the group.

Blue Notes
(written 12/19/13)

Blue notes frolic on the inside of the window,
hinting of soft and easy.

Some say it's a national treasure--
others...a place where heaven comes
to score its music.

In a dingy room, almost too small for itself,
fan blades chase each other
through a blue-gray haze clinging to the ceiling.

That horn...jumps right up front, demanding every ear--
polished notes tumbling from the flare,
rising, falling, melting away,
making room for others.

That mute...dodging in and out
of progressions,
wailing, weeping, coaxing emotions from shells.

That steel brush...prancing across the snare,
measuring its steps,
offering only what is needed.

That sax...with the smoker's voice
pretending to go unnoticed.
And that flute, that ebony flute laced in silver buttons,
stands up and flaunts its credits.

An old man sits at a table for two--half-full, half-empty.
Eyes closed, head cocked in silence,
his lips finger the sounds he knows by heart--
ones that take him where he yearns to be.

Bill Elam returned from the cold north to share more of his tale with us. In "The Gardener" we revisit the ripples that the old man's actions had at the end of his life. We learned that as the old man, knowing his time was nearly done, gave his earthly possessions away, he helped turn dreams into realities. The simple lawn mower he gave away helped to start a new life and career for a man who was apropos that it was in landscaping. Those of us who've heard most of this tale truly appreciated the beauty in the circle he created.

Next, Kathleen Schwartz, also back from up north (and hopefully on a more permanent basis), had us rolling with laughter as she shared an excerpt from her current piece with a working title of "Jazzed On Life." In this chapter, the realities of aging, new relationships, and Viagra took a wrong, if not hilarious turn. What began as a serious discussion about the status of their relationship devolved into hysterical laughter as honest communication regarding sex and the pressure to perform were discussed. There was not a dry eye in the house as she read, but then, stomach muscles got a much needed work out, too as we cracked up along with the main characters.

Next, a prose piece called "Moments" was shared by Jenny Oberg. In this piece she discussed how simple moments can become snapshots of memories; the thoughts, the feelings, the love. It was beautiful in its simplicity.

JoAnn Phillips, author of Adventures of a Sea Hag, continued with her newest work in progress, "Matrix of Life." In this chapter, on her mother's birthday, we're introduced to a friend of her mother; a guy named Jerry. Although there was some humor in young Joanne's first attempt to make a birthday cake (she didn't know what shortening was, so she substituted corn starch figuring that something was better than nothing), it was also filled with a lot of scary moments for a child to go through. Finding out about Jerry through an innocent story told by Joann, her father accuses her mother of an affair, and causes a scene in front of Jerry's home and wife. Despite their denials, her father leaves them. Her mother punishes Joanne by destroying her horse collection. The entire scene was cringe-worthy. Joann continues to grow by leaps and bounds in her writing style.

As Kerri Dieffenwierth continues to tweak her memoirs, we get to be the fortunate listeners. This particular portion was called "Race Track." She is working at a stable, training horses. The particular one she was to work with that day was big and strong, but considered "El Caballo Defectiva" or a defective horse. The line that most spoke to me was, "Horses sense fear like solicitors sense you're home." As she works with the horse, he takes off, out of control. All her attempts to stop him were unsuccessful. She found herself thrown hard, hurt, and rushed to the ER. After numerous attempts to realign her collar bone properly to set, she'd had it and walked out. Oddly enough, the thing that came through was that through all the self doubt, the sense of unworthiness, the was then that she seemed to find her inner strength and her realization that she was better and stronger than she ever thought she was. She finally began to discover herself. It made me want to stand up and cheer.

Next, Ernie Ovitz, shared more from his work in progress, "The Seventh King." In this portion we travel back to 302AD and meet Princess Amatus, a maiden aunt...sister to the queen who'd passed away. Her 15 year old niece came to visit her, bored, and discussing how she wants to get married or to meet a "man." She warns her ward that not only is such talk unseemly, it would be best should her wishes not make their way to her father's ear.

Don Westerfield, another of our resident poets, shared some of his older works. One depicted his love of flying, described what it must feel like to be a pilot. The other was quite appropriate to today's world where we have all sorts of subtitutes from meats to sugar to so much more... That's the one I'll be sharing with you today.
I find it's a counterfeit world we live in,
nothing is what it appears to be.
Oh, it may look like the real thing,
but it's a false reality.
I first noticed it in the store one day,
(I hesitate these words to utter),
but they were selling imitation margarine
and I think it was mostly butter.
Yet the cheese was made from soybeans
and other labels made it clear,
the lemonade didn't come from lemons
and there was no alcohol in the beer.
The sweet stuff wasn't sugar
from what I could deduce,
it was all some chemical mixture,
like the orange juice - it contained no juice.
Even my shoes are no longer leather
and I find that quite pathetic.
It's all man-made materials, except the rubber heels
they're genuine...synthetic.
Why the wood in my house, I believe,
is nothing but pressed sawdust.
I'm beginning to wonder how long it'll stand;
what is there left to trust?
You see that proverbial last straw has hit me.
Right after our matrimonial whirl
my sweetie told me about her operation,
yep,...seems she's only an imitation girl.
Kitt Crescendo finally published her book, Three For All, over the holidays. She came with business cards and bookmarks to share with the group. We were thrilled for her and wish her much success. As a thank you for all of our support, she shared the excerpt that she'd posted on her blog to announce her new release and continued to read a bit more. If there were windows in our meeting room in that firehouse, the windows would have been fogged. If you missed her excerpt, click on her name. It leads back directly to her blog post announcement.
George Mindling shared two things. First was humorous reminders of common writing mistakes and how to avoid them. The second was a short piece he wrote called "Disappointment." In his story he shared how a memory, from a child's perspective, can be perceived so differently when shared with an adult audience. As a smile child he'd been enamored of penguins and had been disappointed to learn that they were small. Of course, sharing this memory to his adult daughter was met by her with laughter...probably mostly because it's hard for us as adults to imagine our parents as children, making childlike suppositions. Needless to say, penguins are now a part of family lore and a way to tease dad.
Lois Stern, originator of inspiring compilation book series, Tales To Inspire: Topaz & Emerald was back in town and shared her cautionary tale called "Hubris." In this piece, she shares, with self deprecating humor, about an email she'd received to be a guest speaker at a very reputable university in England. At first she came into the "opportunity" feeling as though she'd been patted on the back, but wondering "what's the catch?" As she did her due diligence she discovered that the person who reached out to her was on staff at the university, very easy to work with, quick to answer questions. She became more excited. Just when she thought it was safe to pack her bags, "the catch" presented itself. To expedite her "work permit" she'd need to mail them money to "grease the wheel" in a timely manner. Yep, it turned out to be a long, drawn out scam by some skilled con artists. Thankfully, she caught it before she'd actually "invested" anything of monetary value into this "opportunity." There's definitely a reason why the saying, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is" has lasted.
On that final note, our wonderful, eclectic group closed out the night. We look forward to seeing what the next meeting holds in store for us. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Jeff Parker to speak in Venice

SCF to Host Writer-in-Residence Jeff Parker
(Bradenton, Fla., January 7, 2013) — State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) language and literature department, in partnership with the Hermitage Artist Retreat, welcomes author Jeff Parker as a writer-in-residence for a reading open to the public at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, at SCF Venice, 8000 S. Tamiami Trail, building 800, Selby Room. A question-and-answer session will follow the reading.

Parker, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is author of the novel “Ovenman,” and a story collection, “The Taste of Penny.” His writing has appeared in “American Short Fiction,” “The Best American Nonrequired Reading,” Ploughshares,” “Tin House” and others. He is co-editor of two anthologies, “Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia” and “Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States.”

He is the editor of the DISQUIET imprint of Dzanc Books and co-founder and director of the DISQUIET International Literary Program in Portugal.
Parker has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University.
The event is sponsored by SCF artist-in-residence funding through the SCF Venice provost office and academic affairs. For more information, call Dr. Doug Ford at 941-408-1501 or