Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier

WCW: A Writers’ Club That Can Because…

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Look me up, and you will know that I’m speaking from an insider’s point of view. A Vietnamese proverb puts in perspective this conflict of interest: “The cat praises its long tail.” Not only the club’s incumbent VP, I’m also holding the office of the Membership Chair. Of course, say you, you’re going to sing halleluiah to WCW. You are right! I’m actively recruiting; my goal for 2015 is to add enough members to refill our night-time workshop, enabling WCW to offer a meeting time convenient and doable for writers with daytime jobs.

However, aside from my position in the club, I’m a devoted writer, meaning someone who thinks deeply about her subjects of writing. I wouldn’t, I couldn’t, and can’t…write anything that doesn’t hold a kernel of truth. I know I’m dealing with readers. Collectively, you guys are an awesome, critical bunch. Although you love to immerse yourselves in the fictional world, you don’t easily let go of discernible, incongruous facts. You will voice, loudly and candidly, your objections, if what you read contradicts the truth. You are willing to suspend your belief only so far, so far as you trust the author to speak toward the ultimate, higher truth.

I’m now through with the disclaimer. I invite you at the end of this reading to tell me your thoughts regarding the above title. Do I have enough proofs to back my claim, or do I falsely advertise my long tail?

My long tale begins with the recent news of Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, and the world’s responses and reactions to it, with #JeSuisCharlie and #IAmNotCharlie. Following both camp’s debates leads me, oddly, yet not unreasonably, to think a lot of this little club–why I love it, why it has survived since 1953 when the world around it collapses; and the writing world writhes in pain. So far, judging by my own experience, WCW has been a little club that could because of its uniqueness. It’s the only club where you can find the very old—our oldest, and very active, member just celebrated her 93th birthday—and the very young—a college student—rubbing shoulders. It’s where you find men—lean as well as robust; enjoying women’s brains. Dainty types and sporty types, black or blond-haired, it doesn’t matter as long as she can convey her thoughts succinctly, tell stories, give opinions and feedback, critique your manuscript, and urge you to push beyond yourself, to write better; and vice versa, women admiring men for their pens, not their penxxxx.

It’s where the whole world, literally world, sits together for the common sake, writing and publishing; it doesn’t matter who you are: gay or straight; Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, atheist; aspiring or veteran writers; published or unpublished; traditional or punk; Irish, Japanese, Vietnamese, English, American, etc.; black, white, brown, or yellow; with hair or hairless; in wheelchair, wielding cane, or shuffling on two feet.

At WCW, it suffices that #IAmMyOwnSelf.

It’s where Bill recounts his youthful pranks, and plans new ones. I overheard him lifting a plastic grocery bag from his wife’s hand, referring to it as “your purse” much to her bruised ego. “How can this be my purse?”

It was where Sherry N. announced, “The best way to overcome the fear of public speaking in an author talk is to imagine your audience naked,” and soon after found herself in an awkward position when Mary, after having proudly shared her new voice amplifier to the group, failed to make it work and was prompted, “Are you turned on?” as a voice from across the room sounded, “If she’s turned on imagining us all naked, we’re in trouble.”

It was where Marilyn read for the last time, having finally finished her nonfiction-in-progress, years in the making. And where another Mary still remarked, quite innocently and politically-incorrectly, “This scene is too…black for me. There’s no hope to it,” to the brow-lifting stare of Rubin, him black, and conscious of the word use in its negativity, and me, aware of his presence and the awkward, unintended consequence of the often-used word by the older generations, yet judged prejudiced in today’s age.

Does it matter that #IAmMyOwnSelf? Not at WCW.

Sometimes we fight for our rights: to read the amount of words we intend to read; to depict the scene as we see it to the loss of our audience—we like it that way; to cut short a winding, diverting critique that leads nowhere and gives no benefits to the writer whatsoever.

Sometimes we huff off, annoyed greatly at the whole process of “questioning every little detail, to analyze a creative work to death.”

At WCW, you’re allowed to be #IAmMyOwnSelf, politically incorrect, time-warped, idiosyncratic, a bit verbose, a bit lunatic, a bit out-of-this-world. And because each one comes to WCW already made, and will be transformed with time, there is no point on insisting that anybody be anyone else but themselves, with their own voice.

For all the above mentioned, WCW is the little club that could, that can. Always.

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Author: Hong-My Basrai

Memoirist and author of Behind the Red Curtain, blogger, engineer, manager, mother of three and wife of one, etc. I am a bit of everything.

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