Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


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Of Pens and Poetry

In my last blog post I wrote about Bill and his homemade pens. I thought I was done with the off-vacation topic. After all, there is only so much to write about a man and his pens, pretty as they are. I was wrong!

Now my readers want to know more about Bill’s pens–where to find them and, if money can buy happiness, buy them? As if to help me address those inquiries, Bill, pens in his pocket as usual, a notebook and several papers in his hand as usual, appears at my poetry workshop—which is unusual, something Bill never did, or shall I be more specific, hasn’t done.

He shows me his teeth when we meet–he grins.

“I like your post,” he says, perhaps to explain why he bares his fangs on me.

Ah, I reckons, pleased. Bill knows how to get to me. “So do you sell them pens?” I ask.

“I give them out as gifts,” he says to my astonishment. He really knows how to be a gentleman and a fast-moving one! But he hasn’t finished speaking. “I’m making them to give out at my next reunion.”

Dang!

“Can I come?” I almost burst out, eyeing his pocket. But of course I’m too well raised to ask such a question, and not too callous enough to put Bill into a tight corner between a woman, young enough, and a fellow writer, daring and desperate enough to make her blog quota. I swallow hard and snuff my pen-desire.

Bill flashes his set of enamel again.

“You aren’t the only one approaching me,” his eyes twinkle, his newly regrown beard trembling with pride, obviously flattered.

“I attract people on the street now,” he confides, pauses, then…as if deciding to come clean with himself, adds, “with my pens.”

Ah, with his pens! It makes sense, because for a split second I think he refers to his beard, which he’s been sporting for a few months now like he used to when he was a hippie with a ring in his ear and a finger hooked to his Jeans pocket, below the wide leather belt with a brass buckle, striking a pose with his lean, mean machine like John Wayne, strutting, his shoulder-length blond hair tied in a ponytail—very alluring without the help of pens.JWaynePen

Our workshop leader delicately put an end to Bill’s ego self-stroking with a gentle reminder, “So glad you finally decide to join us.”

Bill looks at her from above the silver rims that encircle his grayish gaze. The twinkles have disappeared from the depth of his Irish soul.

“I come to observe,” he rumbles, emphasizing, “as a member-at-large. To bring back a report to the Board.”

I can see the future as he says those words. I see him pulling out one of his crafty pens, click the gun barrel, and write out in long hand: A Bards Report to the WCW Board.


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Summer Crossing: a Telltale With Neither Head nor Tail

v shaped branchI meet Bill today at my critique workshop and talk a bit with him on our way out. Bill is working on his memoir, a humorous yet tender piece of work full of boyish farces and old man’s reflections.

Besides writing, Bill also makes pens, wooden pens more specifically. So it is most natural to see Bill walking about with an armpit-ful (my expression) of papers and always carrying a few pens in his shirt pocket.

Today, on top of all his usual items, he also toys with a branch of some sort, knotty with a V-shaped end. Knowing Bill, I cannot tell if the branch will be made into a writing tool or a slingshot. So I ask. Appraising the wooden stick, he gives my question some thoughts, his grayish eyes reflecting the changing patterns of his brainwaves from twinkling naughtiness to a deepening hues of pensive mood. He admits it may become a pen, mostly. And seeming to make his point more resolute, he pulls one such sample out of his pocket, saying, “My latest invention,” clicking and waving it in front of my eyes and so, without having to add anything, clearly indicating to me that it is for me to admire but not to handle.

It is a beautiful retractable pen, with a cap and end barrel made of lustrous metal and some smooth, artfully-colored material, possibly wood, for body. I express my appreciation for the chic design and, having my doubt for its usefulness, wanting to know about its practical functionality. After all, a pen isn’t any good if it’s not meant for effortless, fluid writing. Bill proudly boasts, “Of course it writes beautifully. But gun-averse folks won’t like it.”

“How so,” I ask, looking at the beautiful shape in his hand. The pen has an unusual clicker, its slender, curved shape more like a jewel. Bill explains to me that it is fashioned after a gun part, and if I am an arm connoisseur I would surely notice it.

“Then I won’t like it as much,” say I to him, laughing.

Another writer in our group catches up to us and, pointing at the odd-looking branch in Bill’s hand, says, “If I were you, I would put that away. They may place you in a home.”

Another person joins us, and after peering at the same branch, suggests, “Is that the thing they use for seeking water in the old time?”

Yet another one thinks the object may rightfully belong to a witch. Or a Navajo Indian.

And so the tales pour forth from mouth to mouth until we separate at the crossing.


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Call to Quills

girl-thinking-web

Greetings fellow scribblers,

This is a ‘call to arms’ for any of you interested in helping conduct mini creative writing seminars for future WCW writers.

Talking children, here.

Those intrepid creative minds who will bravely follow one day in our footsteps.

The idea is to hold some short creative writing seminars to stimulate and encourage young minds about the art of story telling.

I’m thinking of possible venues like the Boys and Girls Club, the library, the YMCA, the Whittier Area Literacy Center, et cetera.

Being, basically, an illiterate scholastic drop-out, I’m seeking advice from you professional writers and teachers in developing a curriculum.

This could be very exciting.

As well as rewarding.

Especially if we only manage to ignite just one young Pulitzer, John Greenleaf Whittier, or J.K.Rowling.

If any of this sounds interesting, or if you have ideas, please email me at steve.enyart [at] gmail.com.

Or call me at 562.693.9755. (Thanks to our wonderful telemarketers, email will be more effective.)

Thanks.

quill-pen

Thanks!


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Recent Publications Honored

DSC06963This Sunday WCW held its annual Author Tea honoring members who have recently published books. Congratulations to an amazingly varied group of writers. We’re proud to count you among us:

Carol Amato for Maximize Your Competitive Edge, a book for small business owners.
Amanda Ashley for Night’s Promise, the latest in her vampire romance series, Children of the Night.
Kathleen Harrington for her historical romance,  Black Raven’s Lady, the third in her Highland Lairds Trilogy.
•Rubin Johnson, for Well-Oiled, Cyberbully Blues and Dark and Cold, the first books in his futuristic series set in Mayberry.
Hilda Lassalette for Fishing for Love, a romance with a touch of the paranormal.
•Angela Myron, for Ennara and the Fallen Druid, the second of her young-adult science fantasies about a young girl learning to master her powers.
Raquel Reyes-Lopez for Born to Electrify, a collection of poetry.


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Pasadena Author Fair

Four of our writers will be appearing at the second annual Author Fair sponsored by the Pasadena Public Library this coming Saturday.  Rubin Johnson, Kay Murdy, Raquel Reyes-Lopez and Mary Terzian will be among the fifty-plus authors who will be speaking and signing books at the Fair. Continue reading


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A Valentine for Romance Readers

 

KH-Edit-Small-Kathleen Harrington will be speaking at a club-sponsored event this Friday in Whittier, California. She’ll talk about writing a romantic trilogy, the creative process, what makes a novel a romance and what it’s like to work with an agent, an editor and the staff of a publishing house like Harper/Collins.

Kathleen will also be available to sign the books in her Highland Lairds Trilogy of Scottish romance: The MacLean Groom, Lachlan’s Bride, and Black Raven’s Lady.

If you’re local, please drop in. The public are welcome, the event is free, and you’ll be supporting a local, independent bookstore as well as a local author.

Half Off Books
6708 Greenleaf Avenue
Whittier, CA 90601
February 13 at 10:30 a.m. 


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WCW: A Writers’ Club That Can Because…

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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A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen

My first novel, “McCarley’s Edge” had been struggling to escape from my head and hand for some time. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Marilyn Jensen for abetting the escape.

Years ago, Marilyn was leading a writer’s workshop at the East Whittier YMCA. She informed me in no uncertain terms that Maggie McCarley — a minor foil in another story I was writing — was competing detrimentally with the main protagonist. Consequently, Maggie got un-shuffled. And now stars in her own right.

When I saw Ms. Jensen was a member of WCW I was greatly looking forward to getting reacquainted. Sadly, I learn I just missed her by a few weeks. I still tremble when I hear her favorite constructive criticism: “Condense! Condense! Condense!”

(I’ll try, Marilyn, I’ll try. But I’m afraid I’m hopeless!)

Steve Enyart, WCW, Class of 2014

Editor’s Note: Marilyn Jensen, a longtime member and frequent office holder of the Writers’ Club of Whittier, died this past October and is sorely missed.

Obituary
Grief, a poem by Clair Khoeler
A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen, a poem by Hong-My Basrai


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A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen

Marilyn JensenHere used to sit Marilyn Jensen
next to her coffee
Shhh! Her pile of papers
occasionally
pushed her coffee over
sometimes she slapped the table
and her cup jumped
oh shuck!
but your dialogues sounded better

Her trademark “who’s your market”
drove your storyplot to target
her mere scribble or two
rid your sentence of woes
Her deft pen looped an awkward phrase
Like a seamstress played with ribbon

Here sits Marilyn Jensen
Always in session
She watches the club members
forces us to remember
That writers, riders of lofty standards
don’t try to dash off the yards
to skip, to fake, bypass
perfection. Be on guard!

Here stay Marilyn’s splatters
On page fifty of my manuscript
Her note: My cat leaped where it matters
Love this sentence. Watch your tenses
why “Memoir”
In your title?

The last of Marilyn I sought
tiny in cotton shorts.
too hot for an autumn day
California writhed in its third year of drought
And writers like Marilyn struggled
to fill the thirst of those parched and wrestled.

But Marilyn, like me, was getting older
And the world of water shortage, gun-filled
The world of emoticons in bytes–illed
blogged, posted. This world of Facebook, Twitter
wasn’t the one Marilyn loved
Yet, she tried
Lone dove against a storm.

“I don’t know what I’ve done
I fear I killed this one.
At first it was a virus
then Windows 8…the Beetlejuice
I’ve created a mess
a jumble tangle of cords
ugly as my spleen
And now they’re useless.”

So I checked

 behind her credenza
an old pencil
A paper clip
hairpins
dust bunnies and spiderwebs
a mix of delight and surprise
to Marilyn

Pencil, paper clip, hairpin
she kept
the rest to the dustbin

I pawed the ball of wires, connecting
DSL, monitor, mouse, keyboard, computer
everything else but her.
They pronged the outlets and blip,
that devil of a machine took power

Word by word, line by line
The last chapters of her historical novel so fine
re-summoned, a marvel of
Eight painful years of sweat combined

her words from blood of love.
Marilyn’s narration of the nation’s VPs
fated to be presidents
of the United States
Words by words in her first-rated
style

built to perfection

Marilyn
Marilyn, normal citizen
cadet nurse , wife, mother, teacher, historian,
and most importantly, writer
sworn to be faithful
to her God and word.

Our Marilyn
wrung her hands
a bit confused
the instant her monitor lit up

How in the world did this thing
dead
so effortlessly quickened

she said.

“Thank God! My work isn’t lost,”
breathless Marilyn sighed, relieved
not knowing, a final plot twist required
her gentle writer’s soul
be woven into her masterpiece
to leave
her body cold.

May peace be with dear Marilyn,
faithful always

Editor’s note: Marilyn Jensen, an integral member of the Writer’s Club of Whittier for over forty years, died October 19, 2014, after a brief illness.


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Inside the Castle’s Third Floor

WCW fiction and nonfiction writers meet in the daytime on the first and third Friday of the month. The poets, they meet when they feel like it, although officially they should convene at night on the first Monday of the month. So you see, we have two groups with two schedules and vastly different group personalities. But we co-exist under the WCW umbrella, and we work inside a castle.

Yes, you heard that right. We are chatelaines and castellans, folks! We are people with titles. In fact, each of us has so many titles we cannot remember them all. Our titles are what set us apart from the general populace, are what sells—book titles, short story titles, poetry titles, and article and byline titles. We choose them very carefully, playfully, skillfully. Our titles work magic and wonder. Clumsily chosen, and they work the other way around. They repel, go unnoticed, shut off. Test my title yourself. Is this why you read my blog? You say to yourself: Hmm, inside a castle’s third floor. It intrigues you. It entices you to push through the drawbridge to the castle’s heavy portcullis. Since it is wide open you wander in, eyeing wildly and excitedly around, heart pounding. “The third floor, that has to be explored first, the third floor,” say you to yourself. What’s up there? You run up the tower, jumping two, three steps at a time up the cool, dark winding stairs, your blood raging inside you. The third floor, you say, I want to know what happens there.

So let me take you.

But first I have to lead you back in time. You must be patient. The third floor can wait.

We used to meet in a garden. Back then we were smaller in size–not waist size my dear, but group size. So the cozy Country Store room in Merrill Gardens served us just fine. We already had titles to our names, back then, but we didn’t think it was necessary to put on any airs. Suddenly, as I said in my last blog post, we grew fast. No, dear, we didn’t grow fat, we gained members fast, and the little garden and its tiny room became things of the past, lest we want to pile high on double-decked chairs. That won’t do, dear, although we’d put up with wobbly tables and unpadded chairs.

So one day, out of the blue, our leaders announced, “We’re going to move into a castle. And we’re going to make love, and mystery, and memory, poetry too…on its third floor.”

One Friday, an onlooker saw our lady president pacing the length of the castle floor–Emeritus at Chateau Whittier , it is called–looking anxious. A gentleman hurried in, searching discreetly about for something, or someone. The onlooker noticed the transformation on the lady’s face, the twinkle in her eyes, and in fact, guessing was unnecessary for she waved to him happily, then with her finger pointing to some place deep inside the castle, some place beyond sight, she mouthed to him, “The third floor,” silently indicating the way. He nodded, bypassing her quickly, as if they had agreed to the rendezvous beforehand. No further words were exchanged but both acted smoothly, in one accord, the man seeming to say, “I get it, the third floor. I’ll see you later,” although he needn’t say it out loud for the whole world to hear; the matter was one that was between them, not anybody else’s business.

What happened next?

So let me take your hand and lead you there, back to the third floor, where through a door you will see, in a two-ring circle, the inner one forming a whole loop, the second one still shaping, WCW members in session, among them, the man we talked about earlier and our lady president, as deeply involved in critiquing the work of their peers as anybody else, not a glance exchanged between them, no clandestine, amorous behavior.

Someone has read their story wrong, that’s all, intrigued, most probably, by a hot headline.