He was presenting chapter 7 of his novel-in-progress, Friend Me, to The Vicious Circle writers group. Emotions were high. Opinions were flying and Skip was sweating. Would we destroy him? Send him back to California a shattered wannabe?
|Well, what I was trying to do . . .|
Then we beat him senseless about a flashback "data dump" where he kinda suspended the real-time story and just unloaded a lot of 1960s history in straight narration.
That's tough love when it comes from friends. It's hard for a writer to hear sometimes, but it's wise to listen and he did.
On Friday, Skip was back and the men and women in the room were all worked up again. Skip's main character is dying of Lou Gherig's Disease. He tells his wife he found his 1960s lover on Facebook and sent her a message.
"I want a bigger reaction from his wife than, 'Tell me about it,'" said one of the women. "That's not believable."
|JoAnn Kane is building up to something, but what?|
"Really?" asked another, quite astonished. "Would you really want to know what happened back then? If I were his wife, I'd want to know none of the details!"
"Is he still in love with her?" someone else asked. "That's the big question. Maybe he's still in love."
"He's dying, for crying out loud," said another. "Cut him some slack."
This is what we all love and dread about The Vicious Circle. I live for a great discussion! We try to be kind and balanced, but in the end we all speak our minds. It's what keeps me coming back every Friday. Writing is hard and we all question why we do it. Some days I think it might be nice just to have coffee or go for a walk.
Not the same.
|Deer in the headlights. Regina Hugo is going to rescue Skip.|
For me, the joy of writing is how good it feels when something finally works and the reader gets it. Talking about it is incredibly stimulating.
But let's not forget the elephant in the room. We're all umpty-ump years old. Most of us in the group are way to the right of the gray scale. Most are retired. We all know how this story ends. The only question is whether we'll squeeze every second of joy and growth from the journey or just kill time till it runs out.
I think about that a lot as I sit across from the kindred spirits at the table.
First, I like them. They are many of the closest people in my life. We know one another well. We've all bared our souls and egos many times.
Second, we are all hurting. We've shared one-another's fears and triumphs for years now. Several have fought a round or two with lethal illness. We've helped our spouses, parents and best friends as they did the same. That's life. We can't change it so we work with it.
And that brings me back to Fridays. Every Friday for a couple of magical hours, we forget the troubles of this world and escape to a place far away in our imaginations, where we can control and shape the world. We call it as we see it.
And what a day Friday was. That same evening, our Vicious Circle colleague, Chris Spencer, hosted his sixth and largest 100-Word Story Smash at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. Dozens of writers from the community took part. Our own Paul Goldfinger from the Vicious Circle won second place with a witty piece about the hectic life of a Langley traffic reporter.
This is living and, man, life is good.
Whatever makes you feel fresh, alive and creative, do it. Spend time with people who make you think. Relish the tough love.
I wish nothing less than that for all of us.