The year I joined WCW, its president was a man whose name I could never spell nor say correctly, its pronunciation being a mismatch between two opposites, a hush and a sledgehammer. Back then our club still had men, although their total membership was in the single digit: a few poets and one novelist who specialized in historical fiction or more precisely, wartime stories. For diverse reasons, one by one the last of these Man-Who-Can’s (do not confuse with Mohicans) quietly left the club. They moved out of town, fell too ill to write, their wives and muse were indisposed…you name it. I had reason to believe that the only man-novelist in my group had deserted us because he felt we did not appreciate his love for details. His plots were shrewdly maneuvered in prose so superbly composed that, I’m sure, if he had polished off the cumbersome details involving measurements, like scenes of war—hundred yards to the left of a rising hill and a three-mile wide road–so exactly rendered one would think a land surveyor had measured them for tax purposes, his manuscript would turn into a bestseller.
For a while, sitting among women, a guest visiting WCW’s workshops could easily take the club initials for the Women’s Club of Whittier. Stout and tough by nature, these women lightheartedly switched from the subjects of writing and publication to jokes and word puns. Presiding on unpadded chairs as only women could bear, having been endowed with built-in cushions of their own, and hugging tables with uneven legs that wobbled and spilled coffees as only writers could endure, with acceptance and smiles, they critiqued fiercely and ripped your careless writing apart if you showed up to the meeting as you did at your jobs, impassioned and uninvolved.
If observation were not enough, a quick search on the Internet would yield to our guest the fact that WCW’s founder was a woman named Susan Dibelka. If woman leadership was possible in 1953, then the club was surely an organization for women. Indeed, click on the “About Us” page, s/he would see that WCW Board members all wear makeup and fanciful hairdo. Perhaps due to this first impression, WCW has for some times become the magnet for women writers from all walks of life: teachers, artists, dancers, churchgoers, mothers, immigrants from Yugoslavia, Egypt, to as far East as Vietnam, descendants of Welsh, Irish, Germans, Africans, British, even Dragon and Fairies, sport avid, choir members, musicians, and of course, journalists, script writers, poets, memoirists, and novelists of all genres.
For a while we were grossly imbalanced–more yin than yang. Our membership lacked man folks and their essential bass voice, their beer guts, their bearded jowls, in brief, their male spirit and storytelling styles. As more and more women joined the club, we began to resign to the fact that perhaps, the mature, creative male population in this side of Whittier paradise had drastically dwindled to the endangered species’ level due to urban stress, weaker DNAs, diets with higher fat content and who-knows-what, until, thank God Almighty and thanks mostly to one member’s resourcefulness and wit, Meetup came along and rescued our club.
Suddenly, WCW workshops are again filled with war stories, this time not the bloody wars between nations but the hilarious boy wars, the bear-men and bare-men fights, and the battle between men and technology. Best of all, we have male members who volunteer. In fact, one man will host our upcoming Fall Potluck, AND COOK for us.
So it is established, WCW stands for the Writers’ Club of Whittier. If you are a writer looking for a well-rounded and well-balanced club to join, come visit us to “set your writing free” and build a lifetime friendship. And men, I as the club’s Membership Chair, will offer you a membership discount: I’ll not ask you to fix our shaky tables, or yield your better seats to the woman writers. We are all on equal footing.