from our writers

A Justification for Writers

The following is by Writers in the Grove member Gretchen Keefer, and is based upon the prompt, “Writing in another’s skin.”

Recently a writer colleague commented on her experience describing her novel to an agent. As she listed the difficulties her black heroine faced, the agent stopped her and asked, “Have you had a black person read this?” (For “read” see “approve”.) Apparently this agent felt a white woman could not write about a black woman. Can she?

Whatever my characters may look like physically, one or another of them is expressing my point of view, my opinions, and my philosophy. That is what I know and that is why I am writing. There is something that needs to be said and I feel prompted to say it, however I can.

Most of my characters are women, of course. I haven’t assigned them a color or ethnicity (except maybe in fantasy stories). It helps that my stories are short and often the events depicted are more important that any physical description of the characters. I think actors of any ethnicity could portray my characters.

I admit I do not know about prejudice or abuse first hand. I have never personally lived through a fire, earthquake or other natural disaster that destroys all my worldly possessions. I haven’t had an amputation or been raped. Does that mean I cannot write about these types of experiences? There is a wealth of information available to provide background color while focusing on resilience, forgiveness, redemption, family unity, courage and love.

In my collage literature classes we were taught that “great” or “good” literature that stood the test of time was written around universal themes – themes that appealed to a majority of people across cultures. That is why these pieces are still read and studied long after the authors are dead. Shakespeare borrowed many stories from the Italian Renaissance, yet his plays are translated and performed around the world. So what if Olivier played Othello in black makeup? Were there any classical black actors in Britain in the 1950’s? Denzel Washington, a black actor, played the (Italian) duke in a recent film version of As You Like It, with no comments about looking different from the other actors.

The play (or other story) is the thing to capture the mind (paraphrasing Hamlet). The story is what counts, not what color the characters may be.

So I say to my colleague, and to all writers, “You go girl!”

Write what you need to write, however it works out.

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For the Love of Language

The following is by Writers in the Grove member Steve Morse. It is based upon the prompt: “What would Shakespeare make of a modern library?”

Noam Ludwig Shakespere strolled eager through the great glass doors into the mystic halls of the sacred Word. Unfolding infinite in all direction a demesne of towering tomes, each a dedication, a devotion to the Word. Not any particular word, but a world where each word is Holy. Each syllable and sibilant phoneme, each lengthy, nonsensical, joyously opulent example of ostentatious onomatopoeia. From “See Spot Run” to dimestore detectives and the dreadful, dark domains of Dante’s infernal circles. A linguistic lair where Lovecraftian nightmares dance gaily upon gambrel roofs, where George’s Dragon glares greedily at the gleaming golden horde beneath the belly of Smaug, and children sit rapt in tales of Pooh.

Poets and philosophers, scientists and theologians, the Mighty, the mini and the uncounted multitude come to pay homage in these hallowed halls of mystery and imagination, dedication to the sacred words that have changed us all, charting the human course through antediluvian epochs to the star strewn future.

Noam wandered far, seeking and soaking in the sanctified spirit, leaving long behind him the realm of Known, only to look around and find he’d barely begun.

The Cook

The following is by Writers in the Grove member Gretchen Keefer.

Chapter One

Having the cook was a bit expensive, but worth every dollar. Janelle had totaled up the costs of eating out or getting take-out for a month, including the lunches they both purchased most days, and showed the numbers to Jason. They could save half the cost of a part time cook by avoiding those commercial meals. The meals at home would be delicious, more nutritious and offer more variety than Janelle (and Panda Express) offered.

Jason eventually agreed. The cook came in the afternoon, five days a week, and prepared dinner. She created a shopping list for Jason and Janelle to complete over the weekend. She also cleaned up the kitchen and generated lunches from leftovers before she left.

Jason enjoyed the variety of tasty dishes and Janelle was more relaxed in the evenings. They talked more over dinner and during the evening. They discovered more topics they could discuss without upsetting one another. Entertaining also became easier and more fun. In fact, Jason and Janelle began to enjoy their lives more than they ever had.

More confident and self-assured, Jason was promoted at work; Calmer and more rested Janelle landed the management position she had been striving for. Their combined salary increases more than made up for the cook’s salary. The couple started spending their restful evenings planning the vacation of their dreams for the following year. Yes, the cook was worth every dollar.

Chapter Two

Three years later Jason had gained so much weight his blood pressure shot up and he developed heart trouble. His energy slipped and he did not think as quickly at work as he had. Janelle’s love of desserts had triggered Type 2 Diabetes. She lost the baby she and Jason had carefully planned for during their peaceful evenings. Her ensuing depression led to both of them drinking more wine with their gourmet meals, continuing into the evenings. Soon it became important to add alcohol to lunches as well. Soon Janelle was asked to leave her employment.

Jason missed a lot of work with his health issues and lost his job as well, so the cook had to go. Janelle began to learn more recipes to balance her diabetes with Jason’s weight loss program. They made time to discuss their options, such as moving, downsizing, or living more frugally. It was a difficult spot in their lives. All the good times they had spent chatting and enjoying each other’s company faded as they faced this new struggle.

Eventually they settled into new routines in the small town where Jason had found a suitable job. Their health gradually improved and they felt less pressure to keep up with coworkers and neighbors. Since Janelle was home to prepare meals on time, she felt less stressed about dinners and gradually the relaxing evenings began again. One morning Janelle woke up to realize how happy she was. Truly happy.

Yes, the cook was really worth the expense.

Veteran’s Day

The following is from Writers in the Grove member Gretchen Keefer.

November 11 – Veterans’ Day

Michael’s number was low. He knew that sooner rather than later he would go. After careful deliberation he decided not to take the available alternatives. He felt they were cowardly excuses. Michael did not entirely agree with the politics; he only knew he had to defend the principles of freedom, choices and self-government.

It was in December of his junior year of collage that the expected letter arrived. When he left home on the appointed day his mother cried, his father solemnly shook his hand, his brother hugged him. His friends did not come to see him off because they were embarrassed, or in Canada.

In his letters home Michael told very little about his war experiences. He characterized the other men and related humorous events. He described the food and the lush green of the country – but never the illness or the duplicity of the natives. He completed his assignments, supported his companions, earned distinctions. He didn’t wear the medals he had earned, and didn’t tell his family how many buddies he had watched die.

When Michael came home, his service honorably completed, he was reviled by other young people and ignored by employers. Every time a car backfired or a door slammed, he jumped. His temper grew shorter, his focus diffused. Although the government would have paid, he did not complete his college education, and eventually took a mechanic’s job. He married, divorced, drank, drifted.

Today we say we have learned from those difficult lessons of the 1970’s, and we thank our veterans for their service. However, war has not changed; the experiences are still not describable, and vets still are startled by loud noises.

Sketches of Anticipation

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Bunny Hansen.

A letter arrives.
A price is paid.
A lover returns.
Anticipation rises.
Sometimes a morning sun
Warming new beginnings
Sometimes a midnight moon
Cooling dark endings.

Spring sap, anticipations pulse
Surges through sleeping branches
Inciting covert riots, among
Winter started roots.
Dormant blossoms provoked
Into multi-hued revolutions
Overthrow cold suns and short days.

A stalking tiger watches, waits in ambush
Frozen in stealth, muscles twitching
Stripes screened by sun-streaked grass
Saliva drips from emblematic fangs.
Hunt’s end, foreseen from the beginning.

Anticipation, gallant, armored knight
Charges onto epic battlefields
Reclaims golden fleeces of the heart
Slays doubt breathing Dragons
Plundering priceless dreams.

A dazzling gold vein exposed in white quartz
Detonates a miner’s expectations: “Mother Lode.”
A silver candelabra, darkened, tarnish-shrouded
Is rubbed and polished until purity appears.
A trickling brook meanders, swallowed by
A desert flash-flood, it carves a grand canyon.

Expectant prisoners, tenacious caterpillars
Anticipation etched on their hearts
Push against restriction’s limit
Struggle with confinement’s boundary
Natures mutate, time tempered
Finally, sentence served,
They catch the wind.

Opening nighters are seated
Orchestra, mezzanine, balcony
Critics view, review and preview
Backstage nerves infiltrate anticipation
Costumed in repetitious rehearsals
An actor reruns his lines
A tenor re-trills his scales
A dancer perfects a last leap
The theater strains, tension taunt
Listening for the call: Curtain up!

My Prayer

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Patti Bond.

I wish people would be
happy all around us.

I wish the world’s population
would stop fighting and putting
fellow human beings down.

I wish we would be
content.

I wish we would be
heard by all people.

I wish we would listen
to the needs of each other.

I wish we would see people
for who they are.

I wish miracles would happen
every day and that they could
be seen by everyone.

I wish peace and tranquility
for all.

Never Give Up

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Patti Bond.

When you feel like
You are beaten down,
Maybe you are.
Never give up!

You get bad news
Feel like you can’t go on.
Yes, you can.
Never give up!

Given a life-threatening health crisis.
Feel like life will not get better.
Yes, it will.
Never give up!

Berry picker, babysitter, nursing assistant.
Feel like you are
Overworked and underpaid?
Yes, you are.
Never give up!

Wherever life takes you
Remember to never give up
For you never know
What is waiting for you
Around the corner.
Never give up!