Monday Morning Writers Group...
Where Boomers Become Bloomers
by Kathy Coogan
Every Monday morning, this Writers’ Group meets at 9:30. We climb the steps to the mezzanine of Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood. Some of us hold the bannister as we climb, groaning over bad knees, bad hips or general achiness. Many of us are retired. A few still work and manage to fit this meeting into their schedules.
We carry weathered briefcases and fat notebooks, bottles of water and paper cups of coffee purchased downstairs in the Cafe. We pull folding chairs up to a long table under the History sign, appropriate enough, then add chairs to an ever out-growing circle.
We ask the booksellers to turn the Muzak volume down so we can hear ourselves think and hear each other read. We each plunk down one dollar to cover expenses and parties. A Tupperware bowl of numbered red and white poker chips is passed to give order to five or ten minute readings. The times are loosely enforced.
Dottie calls us to order, sometimes with a whistle to pierce our chit-chat. We settle down and take turns reporting our writing progress of the last week. We avoid talk of grandchildren unless their visits are imminent or over. Brief medical or travel reports are permitted when members return from absences, planned or unexpected. Newcomers introduce themselves and are welcomed. The best news is an announcement of the sale of a story, the acquiring of a publisher or a prize for a poem.
“Does anyone have a Red-One?” Dottie asks and the morning officially begins. Alternating between red and white chips, we read in numerical order from the pages we have copied and passed around. The variety of writing genre is as varied as the readers. A farmer or a museum docent might read a poem. Entrepreneurs and editors read a short story and memoir. A therapy dog trainer reads her humorous essay. A teacher reads a chapter of her YA novel; a businessman a chapter of his historical fiction. Quiet oohs and ahhs pepper the readings. Applause is frequent; laughter spontaneous.
Between readings, the listeners rise to the occasion, the reason we are all here. Of a poem, one listener comments on its loveliness then recommends a shorter phrase in line three or more punctuation in the final verse. Another disagrees. Another suggests a more subtle conclusion. The poet pencils in the suggestions on her original.
After a book chapter is read, one reviewer suggests that a new character is underdeveloped and needs to be described. Another asks, “Was Harold dreaming or awake in the sequence on page three, paragraph five?” The writers answer the questions of their reviewers and we move on. Three more writers read their work and listen to the feedback. The critiques are noted and appreciated, sometimes followed, sometimes ignored. We take a five minute bathroom break and a head count for lunch in the Café.
Getting everyone seated again is like corralling cats but Dottie succeeds. The next writer explains that he has incorporated the edits from last week and will re-read part of Chapter Thirty-Seven. At the end, the listeners praise the improvement and ask when the book will be ready for publication?
A raucous debate about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing gets the group off track but we learn a few more valuable details about the avenues of getting our writing into print. Our published authors encourage everyone to keep writing and they report their book sales as evidence of hope and success.
At noon, we still have readers with chips. They will be the first readers next week. The reviews and commentary have been lengthy this morning allowing for fewer readers but we have all taken away tips and pointers that we can use in our own writing. We gather our empty cups and bottles and return our chairs to the closet. Some exchange waves, hugs or hand-shakes. Compliments and encouragement drown out the Muzak which has been turned back on.
We descend the stairs. Some move into the café where a large table has been reserved and where writing talk will continue. Some check the shelves for their own books eager to see how many have been sold. Some browse for gifts or books to buy. Some rush off to work. Some hurry home to add the edits that the group suggested, knowing that next Monday a red or white chip will be theirs.
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