Posts Tagged ‘Bloomington Writers Guild’

Humor pervaded the featured portion of this evening’s Writers Guild “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” at local tavern Bears Place (cf. February 5, et al.) with storyteller Nell Weatherwax opening with two pieces on her first amateur comedy club presentation and an up-coming radio gig morphing into the eccentricities of her father; stand-up comedian Shanda Sung on the everyday challenges of being a 35-year-old woman and mother of three kids; and Mary Armstrong-Smith with “I Teach at the Walgreen’s” and “Watering the Flower,” the latter concerning a childhood memory about family relations and an incident with her mother and grandmother and a pet puppy, all presentations extremely funny but with their serious sides as well.  Then, along with musical guest Trillium, a well-populated open mike portion brought nine readers, with me number four with another in my “Casket Girls” series, “Fit for a King,” with the irrepressible Claudette and more poetically-minded Yvonne discussing the pre-Mardi Gras carnaval tradition of sharing a king cake.

Essayists again predominated, at least among the featured readers at this afternoon’s Bloomington Writers Guild “First Sunday Prose Reading and Open Mic” (see February 2, et al.) at Bear’s Place.  First up was Zilia Balkansky-Sellés with two pieces, the first with a folkloristic bent on “The Problem With Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey reframed as STAR WARS” and the second a personal memory of “The Terrible Shining Day” of her mother’s death, and was followed by Writers Guild Chair Joan Hawkins with “God and Joe DiMaggio,” a “creative memoir” of the death of Marilyn Monroe as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl and (accompanying her mother) habitué of Ruby’s, a working-class San Francisco beauty salon.  This was followed by four — or actually five, the last an a cappella performance of two songs — open mike readers, of which I was second with a reprise of the recently re-published (cf. February 25, et al.) “A Cup Full of Tears,” a Valentine’s Day and/or Mardi Gras celebration of lesbian vampirism and love.


Once again the third Sunday of the month and time again for the Bloomington Writers Guild “Third Sunday Write” (see November 18, et al.).  These are sessions where a bunch of us will be given prompts, assignments, whatever for timed (short) writing sessions, sometimes resulting in usable ideas for subsequent stories or poems, otherwise possibly only for fun.  But one never knows, my most recent story for instance came out of just a portion of a long past exercise, combined with some quite unrelated ideas — or at least until they became parts of the story.  But mostly . . . well . . . this time one cue was to make a list of things done every day — in my case I picked things I did every morning.  Then we were to pick just one item, but draw it out into a set of instructions (so others, presumably, could do it too?)

So we ran out of time fast (in fact, I had to complete my last half-sentence in “overtime”), but here’s my contribution:


“1.  It is important, first, to avoid stepping on the cat — the cat’s breakfast should be a full and enjoyable experience for all involved.

“2.  So, deftly avoiding the cat’s extremities, reach down and pick up her water dish.  CAREFUL, DON’T SPILL IT!

“3.  The Water Dish:  Empty it first into the sink, then run water in it to wash it out — use fingers, if needed, to capture soggy bits of food the cat may have dropped in it.

“4.  Then fill it with fresh water just over half full, and bend down again carefully placing it gently on the newspaper that serves as the cat’s place mat, being careful, again, not to let it spill when the curious and/or hunger-crazed cat tries to head-butt it out of your hand. . . . ”

(Perhaps next month we’ll learn that the other bowl is used for dry food, along with the extra challenges that may bring.)

New Year’s Day was on a Wednesday last month which meant taking a bye, but this evening’s First Wednesday Spoken Word Series at local tavern Bears Place (cf. December 4 last year, et al.) came on strong to start a new decade.  The featured readers were Antonia Matthew, who we’ve met a number of times before, with a prose retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamlin from the point of view of a boy left behind; and Bonnie Maurer, author of RECONFIGURED and THE RECONFIGURED GODDESS:  POEMS OF A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR as well as a 2020 Indiana Poet Laureate finalist, with a gathering of poems on various topics; with musical interludes on sitar and guitar by SITAR OUTREACH MINISTRY.  Illness prevented a third scheduled reader from attending, but there were a total of eleven open-mike walk ons to take up the slack, of which I came seventh with “A Saint Valentine’s Day Tale” (presented about a year ago too but this year to celebrate finally being sold), of the New Orleanian vampiress Claudette and what she once did to an unruly husband.

Then in a somewhat related item, news came today that BURNING LOVE AND BLEEDING HEARTS (cf. January 20), including “A Saint Valentine’s Day Tale,” is officially scheduled for a February 14th release — at least on Kindle.  This is the anthology earmarked for relief for victims of the recent Australian bush fires, details on which, including a partial list of authors, can be found by pressing here.

Sunday afternoon brought the new year’s opening Bloomington Writers Guild “First Sunday Prose Reading and Open Mic” (see December 1, et al.) at local tavern Bear’s Place, with both featured readers presenting essays.  First up was poet and Writers Guild regular Eric Rensberger with “Some Old Books 3,” which is to say the third in a series of prose pieces on several books in his collection discussing not so much their actual contents, but rather their provenance.  Thus old children’s readers with successions of past owners’ names in the front, speculation about how they were passed on, anecdotes about family members who’d had them before they came into his hands — in short, the human side and what may have been made of the contents rather than what the contents themselves may have said.  He was followed by writer, freelance photographer, actor, and director Darrell Stone who, noting America may once again be moving toward “the fog of war,” presented three essays based around kindness, the first on the sole souvenir her father had kept from his service in World War II, the second on a transformative sixth grade teacher, and ending with a humorous piece about three nuns and the joy of their laughing over an absurd item found in a store.  In all just over thirty people attended, a possible record, of which about 25 remained after the break where I was second of five walk-on readers with a post-Christmas tale — or rather a dark-humored sequel to Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL, which I had premiered about two years before — “The Christmas Cat.”

It’s another stop on the run-up to Christmas, and if not definitive still a pleasant one.  The subject a story, “La Fatale,” at about 1300 words about Mina Harker of DRACULA fame becoming a vampire after all and, having had a French mother, moving to France to try to sort things out.  And almost after I wrote it it was accepted by then-professional WHITE CAT MAGAZINE . . . which, then, semi-immediately went out of production.

So, these things happen, but there it languished, perhaps due in part to a sort of metafictional tie-in to Rudyard Kipling and Philip Burne-Jones, as well as Bram Stoker, perhaps more heady fare than the average short short.  Or, anyway, those places it went to seemed not to want it, and I had other pieces to market.  Until, fast forward to Friday last week, and an invitation from a Writers Guild friend to submit to a planned anthology, tentatively titled RAPE ESCAPES:  We define the word “rape” loosely and are looking for pieces — any genre — that describe escape from an unwanted sexual situation in which force (psychological or physical) would be used. . . .  And moreover a suggestion for me that a piece about a vampire escaping human violence (perhaps with a quick bite to the neck) would certainly warm the heart of at least one of the editors.

So, long story short, I thought at first of les filles à les caissettes, whose adventures I’ve been presenting at First Wednesday readings, suggesting a couple that might fit the guidelines.  But something seemed to be missing to my mind.  And then I remembered “La Fatale,” concerning a non-Casket Girl Anglo-French vampire and sent it Sunday in a second email noting that it might be more powerful . . . if the literary references don’t get in the way.

Then this morning, the answer:  James, I love this.  And yes, I think it is more powerful.  So, with your permission, I shall add it to the dossier.  It isn’t an acceptance, exactly — for one thing there’s a co-editor who will have to pass on it too — but it enters the fray with good credentials.  As for the next step, we shall see, but it seems to me RAPE ESCAPES should be an important book, good company to be in — and, again, a nice opportunity just before Christmas.

Featuring over 100 Christmas microfiction horror stories from around the World.  Christmas is near/bring holiday fear/to young and old/snippets to be told/proudly they write/of people’s fright/snippets of fear/Christmas is here!/Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas/Scary, Scary, Scary, Scary Christmas (slightly re-punctuated)

So goes the blurb.  And as of Thursday, SCARY SNIPPETS:  CHRISTMAS EDITION has been up on Amazon in print and Kindle editions (see November 14).  This is the one for stories from 100 to 600 words long of sinister nature relating to Christmas, Hanukkah, or other Yuletide holidays, from Suicide House Publishing, my part of which at a tad under 500 words is “He Knows When You’re Awake,” on the making of Christmas presents and joy.  And now it’s available, possibly just in time itself for ordering for Christmas gifts; for more, press here.

Then Saturday brought the Bloomington Writers Guild’s year-end election meeting and pot luck Christmas party, at the end of which was an around-the-table “open mike” session.  So what did I read?  In that it’s just been published, “He Knows When You’re Awake,” of course.

So maybe a trifle late for Thanksgiving, the Bloomington Writers Guild First Wednesday Spoken Word Series (see November 7, et al.) featured two poets, a longish short story, and musical interludes by Mike Notaro and a Moog synthesizer.  First up was 2015-16 Kentucky Poet Laureate and once local resident George Ella Lyon with several selections including one from her VOICES FOR JUSTICE, a book of poems for young readers; followed by J.T. Whitehead, one-time editor of SO IT GOES, the literary journal of Indianapolis’s Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, among other things, and whose poetry included pieces from his 2015 National Book Award nominated THE TABLE OF THE ELEMENTS; and finally a farewell reading by Guild member Shayne Laughter (cf. December 1) of a “longish” short story “We Lie, We Die.”  Then “Open Mic” time came with me fourth out of seven with a just-written-last-Friday Casket Girls tale, “A Time for Gratitude,” in which a put-upon Aimée brings a new acquaintance home to her fellow filles for their Thanksgiving dinner.

‘Twas the month of December and time for the Bloomington Writers Guild “First Sunday Prose Reading and Open Mic” (see November 3, et al.) at Bear’s Place.  The featured readers were Carolyn Geduld with two selections from her about to be published novel-in-stories TAKE ME OUT THE BACK, about a mass shooting and its effects on the surrounding community; followed by Abegunde (who we’ve met a number of times before) with readings from a draft work in progress “for Ruth George and all the women killed by angry men.”  This was followed by seven walk-ons with generally lighter fare of which I was fourth with a “rerun” of my seasonal horror/black comedy “The Worst Christmas Ever” (cf. December 4 2017). Then afterward a number of us reconvened at Writer’s Guild President Joan Hawkins’s house for a farewell gathering for member Shayne Laughter (also the afternoon’s second “Open Mic” reader) who will be leaving Bloomington later this month for an extended stay in India.

Usually I don’t report on the Bloomington Writers Guild “Third Sunday Write” (though sometimes I do, cf. April 15, et al.); they either end up in ideas that translate into stories, in which case it might come up if/when one sells, or otherwise it’s just an exercise, good for me in crafting first-draft poetry or maybe an essay, but more a personal thing than anything worth sharing.  These are sessions in which a facilitator offers prompts or other bits of inspiration for the rest of us to craft into . . . well, something.  At worst still putting words on paper (last month’s, for instance, on ekphrastic writing based on Renoir’s painting “Luncheon of the Boating Party” produced scenes — from at least four of us, each more hilarious than the last — focusing in on a little lap dog fawned on by its mistress at the foreground table.  But you had to be there).

But occasionally it might spawn an essay that, if not usable in itself, might at least still be fun to share.  And so, yesterday afternoon, after some warmup exercises with lists, came this (based on the item “Cat Treats” on one for grocery shopping):

“Well, first there was Wednesday — the first that I think of — whose favorite plaything was her spider collection.  Black plastic spiders with rings attached for wearing on Halloween, but between that and eight legs lots of things for claws to catch, tossing the toy up into the air, it then falling crazily, bouncing who knows where, to pounce on again.

“There were the crickets, too, but these were live ones that came up from the basement, but the problem was they didn’t last long, generally going limp after the first or second toss.  So plastic was far superior for her.

“Wednesday has passed on by now though, possibly to a home in the sky where the crickets last longer, or even the spiders which would themselves lose legs eventually under the pressure of fangs and claws.

“The new cat, Triana, however is more of a practical cat.  She enjoys the crickets, but her trick is that when they’re no longer good for play she eats them.  Thus she will exercise, building an appetite, but then instantly sate it.”

So the lesson may be that timed, instantaneous writing exercises are conducive to run-on sentences (the above is presented without being edited).  Or, for what it’s worth, two others at this session also presented essays at least in part concerning cats.

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