I’m back from my second meeting. The first thing I notice when I walk in is that the group of six people already in the room are younger than the last group… slightly younger. Actually, the first thing I noticed was that several of them had drinks. Shit. The last meeting room didn’t allow drinks, so I didn’t bring my coffee. The breakdown was four women and two men. The oldest was probably in her seventies the youngest looked closer to fifty. They all appear lively and able to hear properly. I’m cheered by that.
The man running the meeting introduces himself, let’s call him Bob, and the rest of the people follow. I do the same. After the introductions, they encourage me to speak a bit about myself. I tell them that I’m on a quest to find a meeting that suits my needs.
A dwarf pops his head out from under the table & tells me in a gravelly voice, “Go north, follow the raven, you shall find what you seek after you prove yourself.”
Okay, that last bit only happened in my head. Bob explains the group’s format to me. A few pages of reading followed with comments by the group. Bob explains that when the group is making their comments the author is asked to keep quiet.
“We don’t want to hear all sorts of extra information about other parts of the work defending the section you read. Just listen.”
I paraphrased that part but considering he repeated himself in four different variations I think I got the gist of his point. Someone else mentions something about me interviewing them as suitable critics. Bob tries to be sarcastic in regards to me interviewing them. He tells everyone to sit up straight and not to pick their noses… and no cursing. We are expected to read three to four pages of our work. I had printed out my first chapter and brought it with me. It’s seven pages. Sigh. With a 393 page manuscript getting advice this way could take years.
We begin with a woman who starts passing out her work. I have a glimmer of hope that this meeting will follow a format of people actually reading. My hopes were later dashed when it turns out she is the only one to give people something to read. The work she passes out is a single page to each of us. It’s a poem she has written. I groan inwardly. I’ve never been a big fan of poetry. I usually don’t understand the stuff. Then we all sit back and listen to her read the poem as we all follow along. It’s a piece about growing up during the end of WWII and its aftermath. It doesn’t have a lot of unintelligible imagery, and it rhymes. Perfect. Poetry I can understand. We all go around the room commenting on aspects we liked and things we didn’t.
The next person to read is the younger man who is working on a fantasy piece. I’ll call him Galdor. If you imagine a room with two empty pizza boxes, several Mountain Dew containers, and a computer from the early 90’s, then you can picture him in his mother’s basement feverishly writing his tales. Galdor reads a few pages of his story. It’s several chapters into the third book of his trilogy, so It’s hard to follow along. Again, the writing is good. He’s able to paint a pretty good picture in my mind of the setting and the characters. The universe the characters are in is a bit confusing, but I can just accept this for the mid-entry point situation. When Galdor finishes, the first person makes her comments. Galdor spends a minute explaining the reasons behind the situation. The next person makes some comments. Galdor spends another minute explaining more things. I ask a question about one of the characters, so the comment I want to make will still be rational depending on his answer. He doesn’t actually answer the question I asked. Instead, he spends another couple of minutes explaining more world building things. Bob has been giving the group meaningful looks, every time Galdor goes off on a tangent. Bob makes a weak attempt at reining Galdor in. Galdor doesn’t get the hint. This continues until we are done with his critique.
The next piece is by a woman I’m going to call Betty. She looks like a Betty. Betty, if you end up seeing my blog, please don’t be insulted. Being a Betty is better than being a Bertha or a Gertrude. Sorry if any of you is named one of those. Where was I… Betty has written a short-based-on-a-true-story about the time one of her children brought home an injured robin. They nurse the robin back to health and keep it as a pet for awhile. This story was very cutesy. If it weren’t for the fact that she seemed okay letting this robin hang around outside of a cage in their house and car which kept me thinking about bird shit everywhere. I kept having flashes of a wild bird flying around and shitting everywhere and then a Disney cartoon of a bird chirping a happy song. But still, the story was well written.
Next was my turn. I asked how much I should read, and Bob tells me to stick with the first three pages. I do so. I really really tried hard to read slower this time. Honest, I did. When I’m done, I get my turn to shut up and listen. The comments were mostly positive. Someone actually said they would like to hear more. The negatives that stood out in my mind included my overuse of dialogue tags and starting the story using the abbreviation WG instead of spelling out World Government on its first use. I agree about the dialogue tags. I’m still up in the air about the other thing. The WG gets explained later in this chapter, and I don’t want to distract the reader with too much info-dump at the start. It’s a balance. I’ll probably spend the next few hours thinking about this. Who am I kidding, with my OCD I’ll be thinking about this one point for the next six months.
There were a few more comments that led my mind wandering down other paths making me realize some other things in the story I’d like to alter. I took notes.
The next person to read has another short story. We’ll call her Nancy but only because that’s my ex-wife’s name and the story involved dealing with divorce. This story is also about eating a dozen donuts. Stop laughing. Okay… It’s actually about a woman who begins her pending horrible day by purchasing a dozen donuts. During the story, after each shitty event, she eats another donut using the misery as an excuse. I’m describing this badly. The story was excellent, and the donut eating was great symbolism. After she read her three pages, a few comments were made. Then Bob says he really liked it and wanted to hear the rest. Apparently the three-page rule doesn’t apply equally. So she obliges with the last few pages. During this time I’m getting excited because it’s still pretty early and maybe they’ll want to hear the rest of my chapter. You know… because it’s all about me. I also glance at both Bob’s and Nancy’s left hands to check for rings. Maybe this is Bob’s way of flirting. Yeah… Welcome to Florida. College kids coming down for Spring Break aren’t the only ones out to get laid down here. All of your retired relatives are here looking for action also. After she’s done, we all go around again making more comments.
There’s one more woman in the room, she hasn’t brought anything. Bob reads his portion. Bob gives a very short back-story explaining that he wanted to portray the priest character as an average Joe, who is likable. The scene takes place with the main character in a car with the priest talking about the joys of baseball. The MC is a college student hitchhiker trying to get home from school for Thanksgiving. This section is brief and ends with the priest putting his hand on the boy’s head and making encouraging comments about life. My priest turned pedophile meter went off. But no… the hand was nothing more than encouragement and the boy leaves the car and starts hitchhiking again. The story continues with him being picked up by a police officer to endure a few miles of a speech about the dangers of hitchhiking. There’s more to all of this than I’m remembering. I keep thinking about that damn hand on the MC’s head and pedophile priests. Is it just me? Am I the only one that picked up that little movement and went there? Am I the sick fuck in the room? I guess so. When the comments are voiced nobody mentioned the incident. Sort of like how nobody wants to mention the family’s dirty little secret. Where did that dwarf go? What was he doing under the table? My comments include something about the lack of realism when the boy recognized the police officer was a Sergeant because of his stripes. I didn’t find the line believable. That’s when I find out that Bob has been recounting his own experiences He’s writing a collection of short story memoirs. Okay… What really happened with that priest Bob? What did you leave out?
In all seriousness, Bob’s piece was the most interesting and well written of the group. (Go Bob!) Except for mine of course. My manuscript will be taught in literature classes twenty years from now. For some strange reason, the meeting starts to break up without anyone asking me to finish my chapter. What’s wrong with these people? Maybe they just want a cliff-hanger until next week. Yeah… That must be it.
Overall, I’d say this meeting was more productive than the last one. I got some valid advice, and everyone was welcoming and friendly. I also talked a little bit to Nancy after the meeting about web resources and local contacts for other groups. She’s thinking about publishing a collection of her short stories. Considering what is out there being self-published by people I’m sure Nancy could easily put out a quality piece of work.
Until next time, have fun with your writing.Follow @Andrew_Heister