She read an excerpt from her latest book Beauty and Grace, which is described on her website as:
Beauty and Graceis an intricately-woven work of historical fiction telling the stories of women and men institutionalized in asylums for reasons far beyond the bounds of acceptability. Readers will experience the journey of 15 individuals forced to spend their lives locked away, often under inhumane conditions, and the triumphant human spirits of those who endured and survived. While the background story of Beauty and Grace is historically accurate, the characters are fictional, including the main narrators, Teagan Cormick and Grace Reid.
Her writing prompt for the group was the following:
If you were told that you were to be taken away and you could only bring with you what you could fit into a small suitcase, what would you choose to take? (You can write from either a first person or third person perspective)
The prompt for the weekly meeting began with a reading from the book A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
OH, MAGIC HOUR WHEN A CHILD FIRST KNOWS IT CAN READ PRINTED WORDS! For quite a while, Francie had been spelling out letters, sounding them and then putting the sounds together to mean a word. But one day, she looked at a page and the word “mouse” had instantaneous meaning. She looked at the word, and the picture of a gray mouse scampered through her mind. She looked further and when she saw “horse,” she heard him pawing the ground and saw the sun glint on his glossy coat. The word “running” hit her suddenly and she breathed hard as though running herself. The barrier between the individual sound of each letter and the whole meaning of the word was removed and the printed word meant a thing at one quick glance. She read a few pages rapidly and almost became ill with excitement. She wanted to shout it out. She could read! She could read! From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.
The prompt is to write on a moment when you recognized the new world opened to you as a reader, or more generally on the importance of reading to you as a writer.
The prompt for the weekly meeting began with a reading from The Shape of Water novelization by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus.
When did department stores replace their overhead lights with supernovas? For how long has the binned fruit wept at its own beauty? At what point did baked goods begin sighing sugary sweets into a cloud that beaded upon her face like happy tears? When did shoppers, those disapproving ladies with bulky purses and rude carts, transform into women who smiled at her, insisted she go first, complimented her on her choices? Perhaps they’d seen what Elisa saw reflected in butcher counter glass: not a timid huncher hiding her throat scars, but a woman straight of back pointing out the cuts of fish and meat she wanted. Quite a lot of both, the butcher probably thought, but why not? Surely a woman like this had a hungry man waiting at home. And she did. Elsa laughs. She did.
The point of departure is to write from the idea that the change in you changes how other people interact with you.
A reading from the book “The Anthropology of Turquoise – Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky”, by Ellen Meloy, was used to give an example of how the author described an egret.
The egrets of my home desert are as white as snow. The egrets on this island bear the colors of the desert: bodies the slate blue-gray of summer monsoon clouds, shaggy neck plumes in the cinnamon-red of sandstone, pink bills with a black tip, legs of cobalt blue. Unlike many other creatures, birds have color vision. Evolution favors them with the ability to see each other’s vivid and diverse plumage, for communication, camouflage, courtship, perhaps for sheer pleasure. Of what value would these cobalt legs be if another bird could not see them?
The prompt is to write a description of a bird or other animal. Also take into account the setting in which you describe it.
This week the group explored the question of how to create empathy for a less than likeable or flawed character in a story.
An excerpt was read from the book titled “Dangerous Davies: The Last Detective”, by Leslie Thomas.
This is the story of a man who became deeply concerned with the unsolved murder of a young girl, committed twenty-five years before. He was a drunk, lost, laughed at and frequently baffled; poor attributes for a detective. But he was patient too, and dogged. He was called Dangerous Davies (because he was said to be harmless) and was known in the London police as ‘The Last Detective’ since he was never dispatched on any assignment unless it was very risky or there was no one else to send.