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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

June 19th, 2019

The second meeting of the month was exciting as always. Our round table discussion was tabled so we could hear from all our readers this week. We did take a few minutes at the break to discuss what aid we used to self-edit our work. Most of the writers use aids embedded in their word processing programs or other free-standing programs purchased or downloaded from open-source software. But all use their skill and knowledge to supplement the electronic aids. A few continue to use printed dictionaries, thesauruses, and reference materials. It all works.

Our first reader was a holdover from the last meeting when not all got the chance to read. Jeff Kutcher read a chapter entitled Life in a Solar. A Solar is a complex in which families live in small apartments usually two or three rooms. Residents stand in line for water as most apartments do not have running water. A single faucet in the courtyard is turned on once a day, maybe. Residents vie to be near the front of the line to fill containers with enough water to last until the next release of the needed water. Amauri and his friend turn the wait into a time to play as well as hold their place in line.

Constantine’s rule of Rome had not yet begun in 311 A.D. but intrigue and subterfuge abound in his camps in Gaul. The high priest of Apollo’s temple competes with the Bishop of the Christians for Constantine’s ear. History shows us what occurred but fails to give us an insight into the conversations among the conspirators and in the household of the soon-to-be Emperor, but Ernie Ovitz does in his books.

A legionnaire Colonel and Mamon, a woman of means, are wed. She leaves Colonel Pierre for a Cuban diplomat and moves to Cuba. The Colonel lives only to enjoy his friends and a few evenings at a local café in Paris. One night he meets a girl, young, comely, and in need. A few francs, a charity donation; another evening she again is there, he continues to give her money and an attraction grows in him. He looks forward to seeing her, but one day she’s gone, and loneliness sets in. Look for this tome in the future, a love story, a saga of intrigue, where does it go, how does it end? Only Peter Frickle knows, or does he?

It’s been a while since our friend and poet James O Kelly joined us, he’s been busy as a volunteer teaching 4th and 5th graders about poetry. We welcomed him home again this meeting and enjoyed his wonderful work with two poems. Anderson Creek and Acid Rain were inspired by his youth in Pennsylvania’s coal mining communities. Descriptive and poignant, one could hear the roar of coal trucks and smell the sour aroma of polluted water.

Cruising, a look at Don Westerfield’s idea of a perfect cruise imparted his sense of humor as well as made this listener a little jealous. Able to relax in the warm sunshine while cool ocean breezes sweep over you and at the same time read your favorite author’s latest work seems idyllic and he expresses just that in his poem. On the other side of the idyllic spectrum, The Last Day, provides an unexpected look at what a person might feel after a fatal love affair. Check out Don’s work in one or more of his published tomes.

Flash Fiction has captured Bruce Haedrich’s fancy. He’s writing a FF story each day this year and hopes to publish an anthology at the end of all 365 stories. This week’s entry was The Phone Call, a one-sided conversation in which we are privy to only one of the speakers; fascinating.

A lost city dwelling beneath the ocean, could it be Atlantis? Rene Fletcher takes us on a submersible to explore ruins discovered only after an earthquake and storm create a fissure in the seabed off the Bahamian coast. Intrigue and corruption play a role in who’s allowed to know about the project. Officials and governments are covering up something while the wonders of the deep inspire awe in the explorers.

Another poet took center stage as Scott Anderson read 6 short works. Jailer showed us how he retaliated in hearing a sharp critique of his everyday speech. He shot back by dangling participles and possibly tossing off a few clichés. Whispers, Voice Mail, Closets, Mosaic, and Family Photos all gave us a glimpse into his true nature as he mourned his wife. More than one listener wiped a tear from their eye as he finished.

When Parker Converse was in the islands of the Caribbean, he met a man named Billy Bob aboard his yacht, The Southern Belle. The yacht was, in Parker’s words, OUTRAGEOUS. Hired to captain the yacht for no money but an all-expense paid Caribbean Voyage a new deckhand was interviewed. Expecting to meet a salty Swede, a Swedish beauty came aboard and because of limited quarters, she agreed to bunk with the Captain. He stopped reading here but promised to continue the next meeting. I’ll be there, for sure.

We welcomed Keri Dieffenwierth back after an extended absence, after all, world travel and a broken neck might be an excuse for not attending. Keri, we missed you and hope to see you more often in the future. Although she didn’t bring some of her own work to read, she did read from a favored work, A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. Great writing is never unwelcome.

That pretty much sums up our meeting, I hope to see you again in July and until then, KEEP ON WRITING.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

June 5th, 2019

For those who live with extended family, I know you understand when I tell you, I don’t always have time to complete my duties. Writing the notes of meeting activities while tending to 9, now 10, active great-grandchildren requires most of my waking hours. Occasionally I cannot complete all the tasks I have taken on. I hope you can forgive my lapses and will continue to follow our group.

Our writers are important to our group and we band together to provide help in a myriad of ways. Each meeting is unique. Problems or issues encountered by a single writer are handled with in-depth input from most of the group. Our discussion last night began with a question from Debbie MacAvoy, “What is the fiction writer’s responsibility when it comes to making statements in a story?”

A spirited discussion ensued, with 14 members on hand plus 3 first time attendees, I expected to hear a half-dozen opinions. I was wrong, I heard a minimum of ten opinions and saw heads nodding at each of those. The intent of the writer bears greatly on how such statements are handled. Intending to entertain his readers, a fiction writer can make up stories such as Jules Verne did in many of his writings. His theories were pipe dreams in the era in which they were written. If he'd been forced to prove his statements we'd not have some of the most compelling literature in history. The same goes for Science Fiction writers today or in the future. Other stories are meant to change social situations or directly influence public opinion. Some social issues are so important a lie told by a writer could inflame or dampen public opinion. Maybe there are times when a fiction writer must look at what they're saying with a truth detector. What I anticipated to be a short discussion, lasted nearly a full hour. GREAT!

Readers send me your opinions on this question. 

With seventeen attendees and fifteen reading requests, we had a full night of reading. Even with one reader abstaining, we still had two readers unable to read and they will be first on the agenda at our next meeting. My apologies to Jim and Jeff.

Leading off was Bruce Haedrich with a flash fiction piece about an ancestor’s experience on a sailing vessel, The Maggie Abbott. Written in verse emulating the Ancient Mariner, the story depicts a voyage from the Caribbean carrying a cargo of teak. Sailing into a hurricane, the ship is in dire danger of going down. Only the bravery of the Captain and crew can save her. Can they do it? Wait for the publication and find out.

Two poems by Don Westerfield remind those of us who swell the ranks of Senior Citizens of the frailties of our minds. Senility gives a glimpse of a departed loved one remembered with vivid clarity as to make us think they’re really in our presence. Maybe they are! Unwritten recalls those words we often think of but fail to put on paper because they do not please us at the time. It’s too familiar. 

Sue Haley presented a pair of poems making us think. Offense and Clutter took us to places in our lives where we could change things. Did we take advantage of the opportunity or simply continue in the old ways of use, discard, and injure? What did you do?

When Ed Ellis took the floor announcing the title of his piece, Never Trust a Drunken Sailor, chuckles swirled in the room. A seventeen-year-old boy leaves home for the first time to join the Navy. His father and mentor approve and paints a picture of world travel, possible romance in exotic ports, and partaking of forbidden fruits a long way from home. In truth, San Diego is not that far from hometown Los Angeles but a weekend in Tijuana brings an adventure even the young man did not expect.

Fish tales are almost always about the one that got away. Peter Frickel brings salvation to the fish tale in his work, Big Fish. As a young man hooks a huge fish off the coast of South Africa, he begins a struggle unmatched in his experience. A valiant fighter, the fish pulls the boat through the water, tries to break the line in submerged rocks, and twists unceasingly beneath the crystal waters in attempts to gain freedom. Unsuccessful in its fight, the exhausted fish comes to rest in a shallow pool near shore. The fisherman is moved by the gallant efforts of his quarry and removes the sharp hook from its mouth, granting a pardon to such a valiant fighter. Helping the fish regain some strength by forcing water across its gills, he releases the fish into the depths.

The Bishop Ossius contemplates his sins and lapses in faith as he returns to Constantine’s house, this time in Gaul. Ernie Ovitz takes us back to 311 A.D. to witness the intrigue in the Roman Empire as emperors plot and scheme to usurp control of the empire. Ailing rulers, dying emperors, and burgeoning Christianity shape the destiny of the Empire. The behind-the-scenes look at what might have happened lets us imagine how history was formed.

Fingernails, toenails, and a boy’s bad habit make for Dennis Catheart’s story, Toe in a Bottle. In the jungles of Costa Rica, a boy joins his father and a fellow adventurer searching for a rare plant. The boy’s habit of biting his fingernails irks the companion. One evening the boy is present when their companion takes off his shoe. His toenails are fungus filled and he’s missing a toe. The man says, “If you like biting nails so much, bite these.” Repulsed, the boy gags and listens as the man produces a bottle with what appears to be a toe with a long toenail inside. The boy is presented with the bottle to take back to his village and, in telling the story, almost eliminates nail-biting in his village.

A first-time attendee, Parker Converse, read a portion of his work from A Caribbean Voyage. Billy Bob shows off his craft, The Southern Belle, to a visiting Sea Captain. Seemingly equally proud of his drinking ability, he attempts to coax his guest into a drinking bout. The Captain says he’s given up alcohol and does not imbibe. Billy Bob admits, he used to have a drinking problem, but his wife made him cut back some years ago. He recalls as to how he used to fly his plane with a bottle of Scotch between his legs and take many sips during the flight. Sometimes he’d get lost. Searching out a nearby airport, he'd land. Not willing to ask directions or even ask as to where he might be, he'd go into the parking lot and see what tags were on the cars, that way he at least knew what State he was in.

Remaining in the Caribbean, Rene let us sit in on a meeting between an Admiral and an island resident of an old Bahamian family with great influence in local government. Mr. Lighford meets with Admiral Pratt to discuss a recent storm Mr. Lighford is convinced the Admiral caused with a secret weapon and created a chasm in the coral reef which exposed ruins heretofore unseen. Rene’s sci-fi story has all the earmarks of a great story. Keep an eye out for its completion.

Yale Larsson is busy as he investigates the murder of an up and coming young woman. Doug Sahlin’s book develops with Larsson’s interrogation of a neighbor, a nosey old lady deemed a nut-job by her neighbors but, in truth, is a best-selling author and very observant.

A flash fiction piece presented by Deb MacAvoy at our last meeting came back with revisions. Much better and more succinct, A Long Way depicts the advances in our lives as to how we look at trauma and mental health. When a man accidentally kills his child in the 1950s by backing over her, he is shunned by neighbors, ridiculed by family, and left to his own devices to cope with the terrible aftermath of what he’s done. He commits suicide weeks later. In 2018 another man suffers a similar disaster. He’s given support by friends and family. Referred to a professional therapist, he receives needed treatment and resolves, or at least comes to grips with his guilt. He builds a memorial to his daughter. How far have we come?

That’s about all for this session, I hope all in attendance enjoyed the meeting. I did, as do those who emailed me or expressed approval at the meeting's conclusion. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming meeting, so far this starts out to be a wonderful summer session. Until June 19th, keep on writing!

Englewood Authors are offering a 3 part program of Creative Development of Characters for fiction, short story, and non-fiction. The program will be presented in three elements. The objective is to tie three major elements of writing. Creativity, Scene, and Character into a clear pathway through your story.

The first section of the presentation will be:
Wednesday, Jun 13th from 5 PM to 7:30  PM 
Location: Elsie Quirk Library 100 W Dearborn Street, Englewood.

All are welcome

Friday, May 03, 2019

May 1st, 2019

Welcome back!

The first of May and many of our northern friends already returned to their homes. Last night a nucleus of regulars gathered to discuss our writing experiences. Our Ernie Ovitz has the pleasure of judging some historical novels for an FWA writing contest. In the early rounds of judging a few pages of a book are read for the sake of expediency, but a synopsis of the entire novel is on the list of the requested information. Why? What happens if a synopsis is not included?

When reading only 20 or 30 pages of a novel, a judge cannot determine if the book is starting out in a manner leading to the conclusion expected by the writer. Does the writer make salient points at the beginning of the tome, or do they wander off on a tangent early? A synopsis helps guide the judge looking for such issues. Remember, the hook for your book must come early so readers become interested quickly. The quicker you hook your reader, the more likely you are to sell your product. The same thing applies to judging literary contests. Hook your judge but give him a synopsis as a guide.

Have you ever wondered if a comma is necessary or not? Have you read those rules of grammar about using commas? Do they make sense to you? Well, all of us have fought that battle. My suggestion is to use commas sparingly and if in doubt, leave it out. Those of us using writing software which includes grammar and spell check have all found ourselves confounded by the little squiggly lines of various colors telling us of a grievous error in our writing. We make the correction suggested, and it doesn’t like that either. Oh, gracious, what do we do now? One thing I have found, if the program is persistent in asking for a correction, you might consider rewording the passage to make it easier to read or understand. This doesn’t apply to commas only, sometimes we use words that make sense to us, but readers, not from our geographical area, may find those words unfamiliar. That’s right, I’m fixin’ to tell you about a few of these. While ordering a Frap in Georgia, I was faced with a quizzical stare and a waitress saying, “A what?” Well, I near-bout spun a bearing when she brought an order of cream-o-wheat to the table with salt, pepper, and red-eye gravy slathered atop.

See what I mean, if you think the previous sentences are confusing, you’re not from the south or northeast. Or maybe, you have learned a few things over the years and aren’t surprised when colloquialisms appear in that wonderful novel on the NYT best sellers list. Unless you are attempting to use localized words to date, locate, or make your work authentic it can cause issues in getting your message across. Commas, semi-colons, and ellipses can create confusion as well. 

Lastly, in our discussion time, Bruce Haedrich brought some samples of Japanese school textbooks to show us. His daughter is a writer, designer, and publisher of these textbooks used in Japanese schools. In a departure from the standard textbook, her team has begun using popular illustrations and a storyline tailored toward students in the appropriate grade level. Each lesson is part of an overall story and encourages the students to find out what happens next by returning for the next lesson. The system has become very popular and may pave the way for reform in learning.

To begin our reading portion of the meeting, Peter McNally presented a speech to give us a background for his work. After building a successful business and beginning to enjoy the fruits of his success, he suffered a massive stroke followed by a second stroke, Grand Mal Seizure, fell into a coma, suffered a broken vertebra, while having the seizure, a burst appendix, Brain malfunction from over medication, Chest Pains, Gaul Bladder removal, and suffered schizophrenia. After all this, a sleep study revealed extreme apnea requiring the use of a breathing device. To date, it’s been a twelve-year struggle leading up to his writing a book documenting his struggles. Good luck, Peter, you deserve a little luck.

The Roman Empire in 311 A.D. was fraught with peril. Constantine waged successful campaigns in Gaul and Hispania in previous years and now returned to his family. Fausta, his wife, bore him a child as he left for war; he’d not seen the little girl until he returned after several years of fighting. He has changed thinks Fausta, and her sister compounds her worries.
At the same time, Valencia, wife of a co-emperor mourns for her son, Romulus, a youngster who died of a virulent fever. Her emperor husband denied her access to the dying boy and blames her for showing weakness. His abuse if physical as well as mental.
At a special festival, Fausta deigns to entice her husband back to his loving ways by dressing in a provocative gown and accessories only to be upstaged by the return of Constantine’s long-absent mother, rescued by his trusted aide.

Life and Death in South Caicos is a chapter from Dennis Cathcart’s book detailing the adventures of a reptile and exotic flora collector. Living on an old LST barge in South Caicos, Dennis searches the islands for exotic specimens. The life wasn’t too rough as at the end of the dock to which his barge was moored, a small hotel with a well-stocked bar catered to the needs of locals and tourists alike. The locals depend on two main sources of revenue, tourism and lobster trapping. Unfortunately, poachers from other island nations tend to raid the traps with regularity. The Marine patrol keeps an eye out for the nefarious poachers and often have dangerous run-ins with them. On this day a Cuban boat makes the mistake of trying to outrun the swift patrol boat and a crewman fires on the patrol. Armed with a 50-caliber machine gun, the patrol boat fires back and kills the crewman, disables the boat, and tows the poachers, the boat, and the illegal cargo to the dock beside Dennis’ barge. Look for this book in the future, it has more stories of intrigue and danger.

"Pepe", our own Peter Frickel read a piece entitled Waltz With the Shadows. An aged former Legionnaire sits down to write a long overdue letter to a former lover to whom he’d not returned. With a glass in hand, he begins to write but suffers an attack of frustration, he drinks more and returns to his task. At his side is his always faithful canine companion demanding little, giving all, and waiting patiently. A long day draws to a close as does the letter voicing the regrets and secrets of the old man’s life. The old man leaves his faithful companion to await his return and sets out to post the letter. A stop at the café and a final reading bring peace to the old man. There’s more, but I think you better look for this story in Peter’s next publication.

Two poems from Don Westerfield were special and as usual inspiring especially knowing he’d written The Joys of Love for his wife on their wedding anniversary. The other verse was equally touching, even without a special occasion. Wind, Earth and Rain carries so much symbolism you feel, more than hear the words as they flow from the page.

Having been away for a few meetings, Jeffry Kutcher returned with another chapter in the life of young Amauri. Cuban history class includes another view of what the world sees. Fidel and Raul Castro are cast in a different light to the Cuban youth. We look forward to seeing Jeff’s work published in the future.

After a prolonged absence, Joanne Dunlap made her way back to a meeting. We’ve missed her and the humor she usually brings with her writing. Tonight, was no different. All That Jazz describes the joys… and maybe a few downfalls of bringing a new puppy into your home. After finding the perfect dog Joanne brings Jazz home. Not quite as agile as she once was, Joanne finds the puppy’s enthusiasm a bit dangerous as leashes wrap around ankles, pillows are shredded, and furniture is defaced by tiny teeth and sharp claws. But, Jazz is still the perfect dog.

A Girl in a Red Shirt by Bruce Haedrich inspired another story, this one a flash fiction piece whose opening line promises action galore. Jessie Plotnic begins with, I sit at a table ten feet away from three men I will soon kill. I may not have quoted that opening line word for word, but close enough. Look for Bruce’s work on Amazon, the original story is in his book entitled Hadley Pennsylvania Stories.

We ran short on time with Deb MacAvoy and Scott Anderson remaining on the reading list, they’ll be up first and second at the next meeting, May 15th. Until then, keep on writing.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

April 17th, 2019

Okay, I know I’m late getting this out. No excuses. The dad-blamed Easter Bunny didn’t stop at my house and nine little great-grandchildren would have been disappointed. So, I spent half of Saturday (the day I usually write this blog) getting Easter eggs filled with candy, cash, and love. I blinked once and it was Tuesday. So here I am on Wednesday, writing what should have gotten done on Thursday or Friday of last week. 

Well, I’ve gotten that off my chest so it’s time to talk about writing and the meeting last Wednesday. It was a great meeting attended by fourteen writers. We opened the meeting with the usual ten minutes of meeting stuff and launched a discussion. We talked about editing, a continuance of a previous discussion, but it drew lots of feedback. That’s great! With the topic of backstory on the agenda, we looked at how some of our authors handle this sensitive subject. I read an article noting some ways writers use backstory. It’s a tricky issue and what seems to be proper in the beginning often changes as the story progresses. When you stop and look at the story, it will tell you how to handle backstory. A mystery story is seldom a biography of an individual. Mentioning an experience or situation from the past may work if the writer doesn’t dwell too long on the subject. A short clip of the incident may well suffice to tell the reader why a character reacts or doesn't react to different stimuli. This differs if writing in other genre's. For instance, a historical novel is mostly backstory.

Use your head, don’t get carried away with backstory, if it’s that interesting, write a standalone story about your character, his biography if you will. Maybe it will be as good as the story you’re working on in the first place. 

Still excited about the discussion, we moved into the reading phase of the meeting. Our old friend and longtime member of the group Ed Ellis unlimbered a story somewhat out of the ordinary. It appears there may be Alien life forms living in South Beach. An attractive young woman, a scientist en route to a remote outpost, has a layover in Miami. With an evening and the rest of the night to kill, she embarks on a night of frolic in South Beach. Meeting a young man who she finds attractive, she accepts his invitation to dance. They dance several times and each dance becomes more suggestive and passionate. As the evening wanes, they enter into a temporary liaison. The tryst ends in a chilling twist and her scientific mind is shocked.

Another adventure in Zululand comes from the pen of Peter Frickel. We heard a version of this story some time ago, it now resurfaces with some changes and a few changes in word choice. How can you cure a broken heart? A South African Witch Doctor helps a man grow a second heart to cure one broken by a lost love. Potions, incantations, and strategically placed bones begin a process which takes many visits, but after a time, the beat of a second heart fills the chest.

It’s 311 AD and a gypsy fortune teller entices a Roman Tribune to visit her camp. Dinner and entertainment fill the evening ending only when a promise of information is fulfilled. Ernie Ovitz spins a tale of Roman power struggles twixt three competing Ceasars, each wanting to be named Augustus of all Rome. Will the information obtained by the Tribune Basisus tilt the balance in favor of Constantine.

An escaping murder suspect leads Yale Larsson on a merry chase in Doug Sahlin’s latest tale. Ignoring the doubts of local police, Yale follows the suspect across the waters of Sarasota and Tampa Bays to Egmont Key. Acting on Yale’s information the Coast Guard, Sarasota Police and Sheriff’s deputies from three counties corner the killer on an abandoned gun emplacement of historic importance. Do killers ever surrender quietly?

Do you think something as simple as a blade of grass could inspire a story? Well, this simple item inspired two flash fiction stories by Bruce Haedrich. In the first story, Townies and Country Kids compete in life around a small Pennsylvania town. The Country kids devise a warning signal, a whistle. By holding a grass blade stretched tight between the thumbs and heels of both hands and blowing a stream of air over the taut blade, a sharp whistle fills the air. One boy, Henry, is exceptionally adept with the blade-whistle. Unfortunately, Henry's life is cut short. Years later, while camping in a park outside the old hometown, a whistle which could only emanate from such an instrument warns a family to take cover as police apprehend a band of escaped convicts lurking in the family’s campsite.

The second story concerns an errant blade of grass which refuses to be cut by a lawnmower. When plucking the blade by hand, the mower operator discovers a diamond ring encircling the stubborn sprout. It lies below the level of the mower’s blades and is undamaged. The ring returns to its rightful owner after a little investigation.

Poetry is inspiring and heartwarming for most of us, but sometimes it’s also heartwrenching. Scott Anderson’s masterful work causes emotion to swirl in the room as he reads. This week’s entry, Martini Kisses, was no different. I hope to see Scott’s poems in an anthology soon.

Well, better late than never, or something like that. I hope we will see you at the next meeting, May 1st. Until then, keep writing and writing and writing.

Oh, by the way; we received this by email this week. 

Sarasota Writers Group does not recommend or solicit entries for any contest. This is for information only.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

April 3rd, 2019

The first Wednesday of April 2019 was an awesome meeting.

Our last meeting presented a learning opportunity but only a couple of people got the chance to read their work. This meeting was dedicated to reading with only a few minutes taken for announcements. With 22 members in attendance, half of them requested reading time.

Peter McNally began the evening’s activities by reading the rewrite of his opening chapter of Rewired, a story of surviving multiple strokes. Peter’s writing has improved greatly and his story-telling skills are becoming well honed. His story begins with a really bad morning and gets worse as time passes. He awakens from a night’s sleep more tired than when he went to bed. A splitting headache and vision issues add to his misery as the morning unfolds. He goes to work but ends up going to the hospital. He's faced with the reconstruction of his life with his memories gone and only a few vague images remaining in his damaged brain. Stay tuned as to his progress and look forward to reading his book.

Taking us on a journey back in time to 311 A.D., Ernie Ovitz details a mission of emissaries to the court of Augustus Galerius of the Eastern Roman Empire. Galerius is dying and vultures in the form of ambitious men wishing to claim his throne begin to circle. Constantine, Augustus of Rome, sends his delegates to meet with Galerius and those seeking to claim the throne. The Tribune in charge meets a fortune teller, pleasing to the eye and intuitive to his ambitions. Future chapters will let us see what develops.

The Egyptians play a large role in a tale written by Mary Shaffer. While hubby is taking care of unfinished business in Pennsylvania, Mama tends to business in Florida. A telephone conversation with Hubby on the road, halfway home and too far for a return trip, includes the revelation he's bringing back a pair of stone carvings appearing to be part of a building's wall. He's retrieved them from a storage unit in which they've resided since the family's migration to Florida. They now ride in the back seat of his car and are coming to Florida. At the time of the artwork's original purchase, a small daughter looked them over with a critical eye and said to the artist who'd created the work, “We don’t want them, they’re broken.” Purchased anyway, they became a part of the family. After many years, daughter and son were reluctant to visit Mom and Dad in Florida. Trips to the sunshine state conjured up memories of multiple trips to Disney World and Dad’s rescue of The Egyptians is a blatant attempt to lure both children, invested in busy lives in other states, into visiting in Florida. Will this shameless ploy work? When the story is published we may find out.

A river’s journey to the sea in There Runs a River is a lyrical work of  Peter FrickelThe river speaks to us as it flows; changing daily it parallels the course of life and time. In the Congo, little boys carry weapons, rifles, machetes, and long knives. They fight and die in a violent revolution. In his sensitive look at Jungle Fighters, Peter's moving poetry paints a picture of what happens to innocence. In a move to poetic prose, a series of Letters written in Peters mind from Mother to Son, Friend to Friend, Son to Parents, and a litany of others fill a book giving us an insight into the lives of people all over the world. Reading one touching letter from a former French Foreign Legionnaire to an old comrade and friend, Peter lets us see his life of loneliness after his wife passes. These and many other Letters stand ready to be published and available for purchase on Amazon very soon.

When we’re young we do many things on the spur of the moment, but few of match the impetuous behavior of John Koehler. Beginning his memoir with an after-work rendezvous with the love of his life. Here comes a turning point in his life. Jilted by his love, and impoverished by circumstance, his car burns to the ground and his heart is broken. However, this misfortune provides John with an opportunity to tour Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa for the next year and a half with little or no money and only his wits to survive. What in the world was he thinking of? I guess it all turned out alright, he lived to write about it.

Reading for the last time this season, Bill Elam read a portion of his work about the nameless old man, his wife, and the myriad of people they helped along the way. The book is entitled Ripples and the chapter shared this evening was called, The Whisperer. What else would you call the voice telling you the story and willing you to write it down for others to enjoy?

Poetry was in vogue tonight, Susan Haley brought four pieces of her work to share with us. Each of these poems filled a special place in her life and each of us felt a twang of our heart-strings as we listened. In A Solitary Stone, we felt the loneliness and longing in her heart. Twixt Mountains Twixt Souls brought a soaring flight of feelings unique to each person as we listened. In the Belly of Detroit was a gritty trip to a sick, maybe dying way of life. Twilight captures a sense of longing for what we try to achieve whether we reach our goal or not.

When Scott Anderson took the floor, we had no idea of what to expect as he’d not read his work previously. He began reading his poetry and the room was breathless. In his first selection, a bit of whimsy and humor came through with his reading of Victorian Blue Jeans which ended with an astute observation as of how Victorian men had so much more to imagine than do today’s males. Remember the Drive-in Movie? Scott does and his poem about watching Elvis, or not watching Elvis while entangled in the arms of his date brought back memories to this old writer. Time stood still in his piece entitled 10:17 and even chapter and verse seems to fall on that number. A Broken Clock is an enigma, and in this piece, it seems as if time stops. How much is a Penny worth? It’s worth is determined by the holder. How many of us would admit, we don’t like to dance but we do just so we can hold our lover close? Scott admits this in Dancing and says it’s the only reason he dances. In his work The Last Kiss he tells us, this last kiss must last forever. A Nightgown and the wishful Trading Places concluded his reading, but then he addressed us, his audience, and explained the origin of these works. His wife passed away several years ago and he’d written these poems as well as 400 letters in 400 days with most of these writings included in those letters. That’s the bad news, the good news is, he’s come through the ordeal, met a wonderful lady, and is happily remarried. What they say may well be true, a poet’s heart must break to write so beautifully.

Don Westerfield came forth with three wonderful poems about an old man he’d observed over a period of several days in a city park. While visiting his daughter, Don spent some time in the park watching people. There, on a park bench, sat an old man with a pad of paper watching the people around him. Every so often the old man would jot down a few words. Although he never ventured to meet the old man, Don gave him a purpose for being there in a  poem, The Park Bench Poet. A second poem, The Lonely Widower, was inspired by the same man, poignant and haunting, the words elicited feeling in this writer and, as I gazed around the room, I saw others enthralled, listening in rapt attention. Blue Moon and People in the Park followed. In the final stanzas, we were left with the thought, “A wooden bench is a ship which sails among the people in the park.”

Have you ever been scuba diving? We were treated to a unique experience last night as Rene’ Fletcher took us with Eva on an undersea adventure. Searching in an unexplored part of the Bahamian Island chain for what might be the remnants of the lost continent Atlantis, we took a boat trip to the dive site and encountered a small pod of dolphins who, when Eva falls overboard attempting to don her wetsuit in the confines of a small boat, usher her back to the boat. Under the sea structures with markings, hieroglyphics, picture language, and a perfectly preserved tile floor now inhabited by nurse sharks appear almost untouched by the sea, wind, and weather. As Eva stands on the tiled floor, images of commerce and people living their everyday lives fill her mind. Is it real or a dream, could it be rapture of the deep?

This writer was informed by an upset detective as to the fact in previous blogs, I’ve misspelled his name. Proud of his Swedish heritage, Yale Larsson informed me his name is spelled with two esses, not one. My profound apologies Yale. Doug Sahlin regaled us with another chapter in the Larsson saga. A concert at the Van Wetzel, sponsored by a local developer and featuring the band THE FROG PRINCE 5, gives Yale the opportunity to watch his number one murder suspect, the band’s drummer, in action. Things go awry when the lights go out and the drummer bolts under cover of darkness.

Wow, what an evening. Everybody who wanted to got to read, and boy did we hear some really good stuff. Our friends Bill Elam and Linda Bond are going back north this week. They promise to return next fall and we look forward to that time. Keep in touch and read the blog.

Our next meeting is in two weeks, April 17th, and we hope you can join us once again for a fun-filled inspiring evening. We plan to have a discussion on backstory and touch a little on editing. Until then, KEEP ON WRITING.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

March 20th 2019

What is an Abstraction? That was the question asked by Ed Ellis, as he opened our final meeting in March. A presentation by Ed Ellis, Abstractions, The Blood in the Author’s Veins, answered that question and many more in the course of the evening. When one thinks they know it all, it’s time to listen to someone like Ed explain a subject. His deep mining of information and cerebral explanations unearth knowledge we’ve not dreamed about.

Questions and discussion after the presentation sparked more questions and more discussion. I hope everyone enjoyed the chance to learn and better their writing skills.

Thank you, Ed, some of what you said actually sank in this old brain.

Oh, by the way, an abstraction can be anything creating an indirect thought leading to a conclusion.

Time for reading was short but we did manage to sneak in a couple of readers.

Living in a home without a kitchen, at least temporarily, was a teaching moment for Linda Bond. Renovation of her condo was supposed to be quick and easy. Any of you who’ve been through a major reno know, there ain’t nothing quick and easy, there’s always a screw up somewhere. Linda’s experience was no exception, but out of each issue there’s usually a nugget of knowledge found somewhere. After banging into an open cabinet door while attempting to oversee an issue the contractor was pointing out, Linda was upset. The fact the job was only into halfway done and she’d learned the time frame was expanding rapidly, she was beginning to lose her cool. Well, maybe she’d lost it, found it, and lost it again, but she took a break the next morning and sat down on a comfortable chair on her balcony with her coffee and shed the overseeing role. There, on the lake she overlooked, a beautiful white swan graced the water in the stately manner only a swan can achieve. If you want to know more about this story you will have to purchase a copy of Tales2Inspire’s next edition as Linda wrote this, especially for this publication. She is looking for an appropriate title, but for now, she simply calls it, A Teacher In My Life.

Next up, Bill Elam shared a short piece he’s written to accompany his book about a nameless old man and a group of nameless characters. He’s been asked by those who’ve heard portions of the story, “Are your characters real people?” In reply this and other questions he wrote these Author’s Comments, and the final word on the reality of his characters, YES, THEY ARE AS REAL AS YOUR MEMORIES. Does that answer the question? Bill, we can’t wait for the book to be published.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

March 6th, 2019

Another first Wednesday another great meeting of our writer’s group. We welcomed a couple of first-time visitors. Helen Longale, visiting in Englewood, saw our blog and decided to visit us. After the meeting, she expressed her appreciation for what we do and compared our group favorably with other groups she's visited. Helen, have a safe trip home and feel free to drop in anytime you’re in the area. Last week John Koehler contacted me about editing a piece he’d written. I showed him a sample of what I do and acted as a “Story Doctor” for a portion of his work. John came to the meeting this week. He said he enjoyed the meeting and we hope he comes back for subsequent meetings. Thank you both for attending.

In all, we had a good turnout, seventeen attendees and almost all of them participated in our discussion. This week we talked about editing. The Florida Writers Association, our statewide sponsor, has lists of qualified and talented editors. These professionals are waiting for writers to call upon them and request their services. Take advantage of joining the association and availing yourself of their services. Our discussion delved into the merits of hiring an editor, and for the most part we agreed, a good editor is invaluable in the writing process. 

This agreement came with some caveats, however:

1. Pick your editor carefully, your editor must be ready and qualified to do the type of editing you need. There are different types of editors, Copy Editors, Proof Editors, and Content Editors; there are also sub-types in each of these fields - too many to mention in this blog. Copy Editors are helpful with grammar, layout, and helping to ensure your writing falls within the parameters of proper language usage. They often do double duty as a Proof Editor when they proofread the piece while pointing out errors in spelling, use of double words, and those simple typos we all make. Finding the improper use of homophones, hear and here, flower and flour among others keep a writer from being embarrassed. Proof Reader/Editors are great assets and keep us from making silly errors. Now, Copy Editing is a different world altogether; when working with a Copy Editor it’s important to explain exactly what you’re trying to impart to your readers. Your ideas on paper may not be as easy to write as to speak and your Editor can help with this process but, they must understand what you’re trying to do. Choose your Copy Editor carefully, make sure you’re both on the same page with an understanding of your message.

2. Don't expect an editor to salvage poor work, make sure you've done your duty to have the piece as clean and free of errors as possible before submitting it to an editor. Giving an editor a rough draft is likely to cause them to reject the work, or it can end up costing you a lot more money

3. Editors are human, they make mistakes just like you do, they are not infallible. It’s your story, your work, the editor’s job is to make suggestions which might make your work better and more readable. If you disagree and cannot accept the editor’s suggestion, don’t make the change, it’s your choice! But, remember your editor may have a better handle on what is better for your work, consider the advice carefully before rejecting it.

4. Editors often work with publishers or agents and can be helpful in introducing you to writing professionals interested in your genre. If you find an editor you like and get along with, one you feel you can trust. Don’t be bashful, ask how the editor can help you in furthering your career.

The discussion was energetic and numerous POV’s presented. It’s always fun to hear what a group of writers has to say about almost any subject.


Moving away from the discussion, we entered the reading portion of the evening. Eleven writers were willing to share their work with us, although a couple of them opted out as the evening progressed for various reasons, the most prevalent being the facilitator misread the note on the sign-in sheet. My faux pas.

We started out with Peter McNally reading Chapter Two of his work Rewired. Documenting his struggle to recover from multiple strokes, catastrophic seizures, and the aftermath of the devastating medical incidents takes a lot of courage and resolve. It’s been over sixteen years and Peter has regained much of his intellectual skills lost to brain damage. His memory still causes problems as he cannot always recall major events in his life. Challenges faced and hurdles overcame fill this chapter. Peter’s writing skills have come a long way in the months he’s attended our group. We can see a marked improvement in his personality and the way he faces his challenging life after near defeat; for sure, he can claim many victories in his fight.

Bill Elam brought us what he calls the final chapter of Part 1 in his story of an old man, unnamed throughout the story. Presenting another of those touched by the old man’s life, he portrays an airline pilot’s vision of the old yellow airplane well out over the Gulf of Mexico and at an altitude, it could not have achieved. We can’t wait, though we must, for this story to reach publication.

In his unique manner, Peter Frickel read a collection of nearly perfect sentences, each provoking thought and forming the basis for an enchanting story. Depicting an African field hand facing a hungry lion in a field. A question, death - what is it like? Is time a hunter, will any born into time survive? War, hunger, life, death, and noise comprise some of the things he touched on. Bird songs, their chirps, and twitters, what do they mean, are they communication as we know it? A volcanic eruption in Pompeii, how can all these things not trigger a writer’s desire to pen something from their heart.

Barbara Frickel’s work entitled Victorydone a few years ago at Myakka State Park, gave us a look at nature’s handiwork. With her words and rendering, the magic pencil depicted the beauty of a thistle. Her biblical reference to King David as being brave, talented, and handsome gave us a different view of the simple and often despised thistle. Victorious over its surroundings, it finds a way to grow in harsh conditions and still supplies a unique beauty with its colors and softness amid thorny covering. It is tough but beautiful.

Communist Cuba is the setting for Jeffrey Kutcher’s biography of Amauri, a youngster growing up in a Solar located in old Havana. The chapter took us inside the schoolroom where the teachers are required to teach the version of Cuban history authorized by the government. Amauri’s perception of the lessons and his opinions are formed. How does he feel about what he’s taught? We’ll have to wait and read on.

The “Reader’s Digest” version, as Doug Sahlin expressed it, for Yale Larson’s latest adventure led us up to an Extravaganza held at the Van Wetzel Performing Arts Center organized by Yale and his billionaire client in hopes of flushing out a suspected murder. The band, The Frog Prince is to be the featured act and its drummer is suspect number one. Will this work?

Linda Bond returned with the conclusion of her 50-Year-Old Wedding Cake story. On display at the anniversary party, the cake has survived 50 years in freezers with only minor damage. The decorations remain intact and a comparison of the cake to the marriage was fascinating as both suffered moves, traumatic issues, good and bad times, but each survived.

To close out the readings for the evening, Susan Haley read her poem, Shadow Warriors. Breaking from her penchant to write free-verse poetry, Susan wrote this in a rhyming pentameter. Written shortly after her husband’s passing, the poem was touching and poignant. I quietly wiped away the hint of a tear and saw more than one person rub their eyes.

Although we did not get to all our readers this week, we will hear from them at the next meeting. John Koehler and Don Westerfield will lead off the reading at our next meeting. Also, our next meeting, March 20th, will feature a presentation from our own Ed Ellis, a teacher and fellow writer whose credits include being a writing instructor at the Ringling School of Art and Design. Be sure to join us as Ed presents Abstraction, the blood in the veins of the writer.

Until we meet again, KEEP ON WRITING!

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Visiting Writers Forum
An Author Reading & Conversation Series
Fred Koehler
Tuesday, March 5
7:00 - 8:15 pm
Alfred R. Goldstein Library
Room 113

Please join us on Tuesday evening to hear author and illustrator Fred Kohler share recently-published work, discuss his career as an artist and writer, and answer questions from the audience. This event is part of the Visiting Writers Forum, an author reading & conversation series that’s sponsored by the Creative Writing Program at Ringling College of Art and Design and the Isermann Family Foundation.

Every Visiting Writers Forum event for the 2018-2019 academic year is open to the public and has no admission charge. Everyone is welcome.

Parking is a breeze. Any parking space that's open--save handicapped places, unless you have proper signage for that--is available for your use during this event.
The Alfred R. Goldstein Library's physical address is 2700 Bradenton Road. Here's the address in Mapquest.
For those who'd prefer to see where the Goldstein library is on the Ringling College of Art and Design campus map? It's building #16 on this map.

  Fred Koehler is an artist and storyteller whose real-life misadventures include sunken boats, shark encounters, and hurricanes. Whether free diving in the Gulf of Mexico or backpacking across Africa, Fred’s sense of adventure and awe of nature overflow into his characters’ stories.

 Koehler is passionate about encouraging young artists, promoting social justice, and conserving our environment. He lives in Florida with his wife, kids, and a rescue dog named Cheerio Mutt-Face McChubbybutt.

Excerpts from an interview with Fred. For the full interview, go to!

For what age audience do you write?

I write the stories that come to me, and I let the publishers decide who they’re for. My books range from picture books for 3-5 year-olds all the way up to novels for middle grade readers. 

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

I think ideas are the hardest. A good one is like a gold doubloon in a treasure chest filled with plastic coins. You have to pick up each and every one to examine it and determine which one’s worthy and which ones are only shiny objects.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Stop talking during your critiques. Listen. Listen. Listen. Then go out and be a different writer based on what you learned.

Copyright © 2019 Ringling College of Art + Design Creative Writing Program, All rights reserved.
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Saturday, March 02, 2019

An Opportunity to be published


Think about the person who was the strongest model in your life, write your story and enter it into the next Tales2Inspire contest. 
this is an ‘Authors Helping Authors’ project. 

See all details at:


Saturday, February 23, 2019

February 20th, 2019

These meetings trigger a lot of writing. Wednesday night we hosted 18 Writers and most of them had items to share. We usually allow readers enough time to read the portions of a piece with which they are having some difficulty. The input from the writers in the room are great, ranging from suggestions of how to enhance the piece to questions as to whom the reader is trying to reach with their work. Unless the piece is unusually complicated, a five-minute read is sufficient for the group to offer multiple suggestions.

We originally planned to have a presenter at the next meeting but there's been a change of plans. We've had to postpone the presenter until the second meeting, March 20th. Ed Ellis will be presenting, Abstractions, the blood in the veins of the writer. 
Join us for an informative session.

This meeting opened with a discussion about the process of judging a writing competition. Ernie, our FWA group leader, is one of the judges in this year's Royal Palm Literary Award Competition. We looked at what judges look for in a piece submitted for the competition. The scoring is based on ten overall areas with marks of 1 to 10 points given in each category.
  1. Genre - Does the piece meet the specification of the genre in which it's entered?
  2. Hook - Does the piece interest the reader in the first paragraphs?
  3. Language and POV - Is the language used consistent with the era in which the story unfolds, is it appropriate for the target audience, and does it sound natural? Does the Point Of View change appropriately within the story?
  4. Creativity - Does the story show imagination and originality?
  5. Description - Are locations and people within the story shown as real and easily seen by the reader.
  6. Character - Are the characters developed and definable?
  7. Dialogue - Is there too little, too much, or just the right amount of dialogue?
  8. Plot - Does the plot develop within the story?
  9. Mechanics - Did the writer use the proper writing tools, ie. commas, periods, quotation marks, etc.
  10. Overall Impression - What is the judges overall impression of the story?

The discussion was energetic and questions meaningful. Thank you Ernie for bringing this to us.

As we moved into the reading portion of the evening, three readers who did not have the opportunity to read at the last meeting were called upon to present their work.

Debbie MacAvoy introduced us to two new characters in her work, The Manipulator. Teddy's parents, Frank and Pearl enter with a discussion about the real reason Frank wants to buy the farm in upstate New York and leave the city. Great dialogue and description of expressions and body language gave us good insight into the characters and their relationship. The group expressed some really good ideas as to how Debbie might expand these characters. We'll have to wait and see how this turns out. Good job Debbie.

William Beebe is a favorite author of Dennis Cathcart and Dennis wants to use a quote from him published in 1918. He read the quote to the group and received feedback on how to incorporate it. 

When Sue Haley read her poem The Very Core of Me, the room took a deep communal breath as they heard the lament of our Mother Earth. As always, Sue hit the nail on the head in expressing her feelings and drawing her audience into the moment.

The second day of the battle at Gettysburg dawned with Jim Kelly II reading a snippet from the historical novel about the life of General Winfield Scott Hancock. It was almost a though we could smell death and hear the moans of the wounded from the previous day even as he delved into the thoughts of the General's planning.

Reading a selection of short poems, Peter Frickel took us on a journey through the labyrinth of his thoughts. Peter urges us to write with concision as we put forth our ideas and stories. 

A poet who is not a member of our group but is represented by his sister, Barbara Frickel, wrote a beautiful piece entitled 3 Suns Up. Barbara's rendition of the happenings on a farm as seen from the Sun's point of view was beautiful and expressive, we could feel the sun's warmth and cool dampness of the morning dew. 

Can you imagine eating a half-century-old piece of cake. Well, Linda Bond shared the experience and history of a piece of wedding cake reclaimed and shared at a 50th anniversary celebration.

When Ed Ellis brought a new poem to the floor, we looked forward to it with pleasure as Ed always finds a new twist in his active brain. This was no exception, In Here Out There was all we expected. Great job Ed.

The continuing story of a young boy in Castro's Cuba is taking shape in the biographical novel of Amari. Jeffrey Kutcher paints a picture of a boy who despite economic shortcomings in his everyday life manages to have some fun and obtain a reasonable education. When his friends loosen the screws in his school desk, Amari gets in trouble with the teacher who is teaching the history of Cuba as seen by Castro's politics.

In her last meeting of the season before returning to the north, Lois Stern shared a story from the upcoming book in the Tales2Inspire series. A Gentle Voice for Social Justice follows a young Dominican through his formidable years as he leaves home to join his father in the United States. There he is educated and dedicates his life to making life better for others here and in his home country.

As the evening drew to a close, the group still seemed reluctant to leave as they clustered in small groups and continued conversation. It took the extinguishing of lights to finally move them outside. 

We hope to see you at the next meeting on March the 6th, same time, same place. Until then, KEEP ON WRITING.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Because we are fortunate enough to enjoy balmy weather almost year-round, we have the pleasure of hosting many excellent writers from the north each winter. Among them, Lois Stern is a true standout. She hosts and publishes unique stories authored by writers from around the world by way of her Tales2Inspire book series. Some members of our group have entered the contest and are were winners, including your's truly. At this posting, Lois has six editions in print for your reading pleasure. You now have the chance to preview stories from these editions. I urge you to take advantage of this generous offer and read these amazing true stories of courage, friendship, and heartwarming tales.

Rod DiGruttolo   


For those of you who enjoy “Chicken Soup for the Soul” type stories, Lois W. Stern has a gift for you - a sampler of six amazing stories taken from a number of the Tales2Inspire books. Quick, inspiring reads, all true stories, with original photos to enhance their power and prove their authenticity. 
Go to to get your FREE copy. 

Lois W. Stern
Creator of Tales2Inspire - an 'Authors Helping Authors’ Project/Contest

Free Inspiring Stories e-book:
Your Reviews are most appreciated

Thursday, February 07, 2019

February 6th, 2019

Welcome back.

This meeting was well attended with 19 writers in the seats. Linda Bond returned from the frozen north to join us until the snow melts. We missed you. Joining us for the first time was Susan Sofie Bierker, author of Me, Too!: Child and Adult Sexual Abuse Prevention. Sofie asked if we could make a few suggestions as to why her book is not selling too well. She read the back cover blurb and got a number of suggestions which seemed to please her. Good luck Sofie.

I received a few suggestions as to what direction our discussion should take. This week I picked some I thought would evoke passionate input, It seems I was correct for at least once in my life. 
I asked; 
How much research do you do when writing a fictional piece?
How do you use the research?
Do you remain accurate to the findings or do you use poetic license?
Do you care about being accurate with details or do you simply write for fun and make stuff up?

We took off on a discussion in which we heard at least 10 points of view on the subject. Most all agreed research is important for fiction and non-fiction work. One even quoted an unremembered source as saying "non-fiction is 83% truth while fiction is 83% truth." After a few surprised looks, a light seemed to appear in the eyes of most of the group. It dawned on even me, writers write what they know in most cases. When writing fiction, either research or personal knowledge lends much to the story resulting in a great amount of truth making its way to the page.

One of us recalled having a character drinking a beer in his story. During an edit of the piece, he wondered if that brand of beer existed in the time-frame in which his story took place. Some research proved him correct and he could proceed without worry. Another found their characters eating food unknown to the citizens of the century. I related as to how I once wrote a chapter in which I had fluorescent lighting in a home two years before it was commercially available. Each of these errors was found and corrected before publication. Did you ever wonder about your work?

The consensus of the group was unanimous, research for anything you write, with the possible exception of pure fantasy, is needed to present a readable and reasonably accurate story. Even Science Fiction requires research, presenting a story in the future with today's outdated technology would probably turn your readers off quickly.

Each of us works to put a good story on paper. If we are accurate, readers can relate to our work and read without question. Make an error and some reader will be sure to find it. Let's hope it's a small one and only a select few people will find it, preferably our Beta Readers.

As our discussion drew to a close we took a short break and moved on to a presentation by Peter Frickle. On Peter's bookshelf, the works of numerous masters abound. Hemingway, Faulkner, Dumas, and others inspire his writings. He's read biographies and memoirs by many of these renowned authors. As a result, he penned his view on what memoirs attract readers and here are a few points he made. 

Think small, those little details lend authenticity to the story, they give the reader something to which they can relate in their lives. If you think only of grandiose happenings in life, can you fill the pages of a book? Was your life so big, so interesting, it can garner the attention of readers? If so, that's wonderful but most memoirs are less spectacular and are written to share the little, poignant moments of our lives. Look for the human factor, the human connection. The story must have continuity, each segment must flow seamlessly into the next. Break the story into logical sections, attack a large project by breaking it into manageable chunks and show a personal connection with the places and people in your life. Readers do not connect with whining, whining, whining. Don't complain, relate.

Peter's advice is given freely and without a directive, it's meant to help writers in accordance with the goal of this group. 

As we moved into the reading portion of the evening, we had a large number of requests but time is limited. So, next meeting the opening readers will be, Debbie, Leah, and Dennis. Thank you for your patience.

Ernie Ovitz took us back in time to 311AD. The Prefect of Rome (now we would call him the Chief of Police) engages in a bit of pillow-talk with his lover. During the sensual repose, he reveals more information about spies in Rome than intended. Will this cause a problem with Emperor Constantine?

Rod read a portion of a chapter he read at the last meeting. After incorporating some suggestions and advice from the group, he revised the work. The revisions were met with approval and declared workable.

"More mayhem" is what Doug Sahlin promised in presenting a chapter from his latest Yale Larson saga. Yale takes a call from an acquaintance relating a death threat against her business partner, one of Yale's clients. Rushing to a development site, Yale encounters his client exiting a trailer-office on the property. Shoving him back inside just in time to avoid a clear shot from a sniper, Yale calls the police and contends with high-velocity rifle rounds puncturing the walls of the building. When one of the rounds strikes his client in the buttocks Yale drags him to a safe area and returns fire. Even though his automatic handgun is outmatched, he hopes the sheer volume of shots will cause the sniper to be less accurate and maybe he can even land a lucky shot. What's next? 

Poetry is one of the long suits of this group as we are blessed by some wonderful poets as well as prose writers. Don Westerfield is a class-act in the poetry department. He is launching a new book in a few weeks entitled, Seasons. Fortunately, he treated us to his reading of the introduction and title poem. When it hits the market, I suggest everyone buy a copy, it's worthwhile reading.

Amari the Prankster, a chapter in the biography of a Cuban Chef by Jeffrey Kutcher will be a great read when it's finished. Jeffrey presented the chapter in which Amari tricks the lunchroom monitors into giving him a second meal, strictly prohibited by the system. By rushing to eat in the lunchroom, Amari takes his place near the front of the line, he eats quickly and leaves by a back door. Moments later, he returns to the end of the line and waits patiently for his turn. This was the beginning of Amari's revolt against the rule of Castro's Communistic Reign. 

Fantasy or Science Fiction? Rene Fletcher brought us a chapter from her latest work. Ava is inducted into a sisterhood of women of Inner Earth. During the ceremony, a vision of evil spilling from Pandora's box to infest the minds of humans is reflected in a pool of magical water. This is our introduction to Mind Mites.

When Bill Elam took the floor his reading of a new chapter in his story about a nameless old man held us entranced. Bill's reading style and well-crafted words carried us into a grandfatherly relationship between the old man and a small child. Emotion blanketed the room and more than one eye became misty.

It seemed as if the clock was racing and too soon it was time to draw to a close. As we made our way to the parking lot, small knots of writers continued discussions. This really is a group of writers, readers, and listeners.

Until next time, February 20th at 6:30 PM; Keep on Writing!


Sunday, January 20, 2019

January 16th, 2019

Here we are, the second meeting of the year already. This week we were joined by Susan Haley, the founder of our group. Sue has been away for several years, we've missed her; WELCOME BACK SUE.

Also joining us for the first time in a while were Jim Kelly, one of our master poets, and George Mindling, a previous leader and good friend. We also welcomed back Peter Frickel after a brief illness, his wife Barbara was in attendance too; great to see you all, we hope to see you more frequently in the future. Bill Elam slipped in a little later; cold weather must have driven him further south.

Due to the number of attendees, twenty, we did not have an extended discussion period but went directly to the reading venue. With 12 readers the time was well spent. In deference to our returning friends, the first four readings were set aside for them.

Sue Haley brought a tribute to our poets and their poetry. Written a while back, she read a piece dedicated to Jim Kelly, Don Westerfield, and our other poets. Her observation, "Poetry lingers in every person," and a question, "Can poetry heal the world?" elicit food for thought. Sue, you are a poet of life.

After Sue's tribute, Jim Kelly surprised us with a piece somewhat out of character for him. A humorous poem entitled, John Wayne Bobbitt. Humor is not unique to Jim's work, but a reference to an incident as controversial as the Bobbitt emasculation is. Jim's mastery of words and tasteful treatment of the subject brought chuckles, even raucous laughter, to our evening. Great work Jim!

When George Mindling read a transcript of a cassette tape documenting a conversation between his daughter Monica and Shirley MacLaine. Unfazed by the prospect of talking with a Hollywood icon, Monica posed questions and comments causing even Ms. MacLaine pause.

As Peter Frickel came before the group, he posed the questions, "How do I write?" and "When do I write?" His presentation was, as always, instructional and inspiring. His suggestions for those writing memoirs are right on point. "Over time, a writer grows as he writes, ideas come from the past. Think small, don't rummage around in your memory for huge events. Leave your expectations at home, take it as it comes. Readers connect with human feelings, not whining. It's better to write for one person, yourself, than trying to please everyone."

In a scene from his novel featuring the life of Roman Emperor Constantine, Ernie Ovitz asks, has the emperor taken his wife for political reasons? Will her son, lying ill in the palace, die from lack of treatment? We'll have to tune in next time to find out.

Bringing three poems to us this week, Don Westerfield shows us how to relax on the high seas with, "Cruising." In "Ordinary Man," he depicts a man choosing to remain ordinary until death rather than become famous. "But Then You Were Gone," was a somber look at life with an undertone of the beauty one can see in others.

When Ed Ellis read his work entitled "Natural Behavior Laws - the Law of Consistency" he said he would watch for "glazed eyes in the audience." As he explained how consistency is the "on-ramp" to success, he asked, "Are you a jackhammer or a seagull?" and "Who can change?" There were no glazed eyes in the assembly and the discussion following his presentation gave proof to the interest in the subject. Join us on March 6th for Ed's presentation, "ABSTRACTIONS, the Bloodstream of the Writer."

Back from the wilds of Long Island, Lois Stern asked for opinions on the back-cover-blurb for her newest project, Pearl, a compilation of stories about exceptional children and their contribution to society. What she'd written was exceptional on its own and needed little, if any, change.

Even in a group this small, we have two authors named Jim Kelly, although the second Jim Kelly is writing a historical novel about General Winfield Scott Hancock rather than poetry, he is a gifted writer. Reading a piece of chapter 6, he took us to a party where the dashing, then Lieutenant Hancock, meets and is smitten by a charming young lady, Elmira Russell. Will this lead to something? well, I guess we'll just have to wait. Doesn't that make you want to read the next chapter?

Debbie MacAvoy brought us an interesting chapter from the "The Manipulator." The farmhouse in which Teddy lives experiences a death. A woman, whom Teddy was unaware even lived there, dies and the undertaker comes to pick up the body. Who was she? Where did she live? Teddy must know. When the house is empty, he begins an exploration, after all, his family is buying the farm and has a right to know about what went on there. All is quiet, but he can hear a creak on the stairs...

Writing is not as easy as some might think. It is especially difficult for someone who's lost their memory and all their faculties for a long time. Peter McNally had several massive strokes, suffered seizures, and brain damage which took away his ability to speak, remember, or function in ways we take for granted every day. On the road to recovery nearly twenty years later, he is writing his story. The writing is therapeutic as well as revealing, we are trying to aid him with editing, advice, and encouragement. His story is unique, spellbinding, and important. Reading the rewrite of his opening chapter shows how much improvement he's made since first joining the group. Hang in there Peter, we're in this for the duration.

Rod Digruttolo read a short piece in which he is attempting to depict the feelings and actions of a man whose 12-year-old daughter has been kidnapped. The police may have located the building in which the girl is being held and he awaits news. The group's comments were most helpful and by incorporating the suggestions into the piece, we know it will be a better piece.

The evening ended right on time, even though many of us could have continued for much longer, we adjourned. We look forward to the next meeting, February 6th, same time, same place. Until then KEEP ON WRITING.