Friday, December 28, 2012

Writer's Group at the Cafe

My writer's group is a God-send. Not only in terms of regular check-ins, feedback and camaraderie.  For me, the most important thing is the motivation to produce something in time for our next session.

Some of us are writing novels and short stories. Two of us are poets, and most of us also dabble in essays and features. The regulars of the group have all been published. Our goal is to improve our craft, produce more work, and get it published. We are all members of AAUW, (American Association of University Women) which sponsors our group.

 We meet in the evening at Brewed Awakenings, a cafe in Hingham, south of Boston. We are usually the only patrons, and sometimes we have to ask the staff to turn down the pop music on the sound system. They oblige, and over the months have come to know us as 'the writers'.

The first to arrive claims one of our favorite tables near the windows. The seats are comfortable woven wicker. The coffee, hot chocolate, cider and tea are just the thing on a cold winter night. Sometimes one of us will buy a sweet and split it four or five ways.

At first, we sit and read each others' material. Then we give our comments, which range from simple typos and repeated words to big picture points. There is a lot of encouragement.

Last meeting, a group of teenagers, friends of the cafe staff, showed up for a visit just as we got going. A half dozen of them, all at once, decided to sweep the floor under all the tables. It was chaotic and very distracting as they dragged the chairs around and rearranged the tables. But we persevered, for we had nowhere else to go, and we need this time together each month. They would have had to pull us out by the hair to break up our writers group meeting! Eventually things quieted down and we were able to get our work done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Welcoming Winter

Photograph by Gene Cyr of Northern Maine Pictures
Two or three times a week, I walk with a dear friend, who is also a neighbor and a fellow writer. We cover three miles in a little less than an hour. We talk while walking, attempting to sort out aspects of our lives, including writing projects.

We take one of three loop walks through the neighborhood, up and down hills, under tall white pines and sturdy wild oaks. Twice, we cross a small stream that runs through the neighborhood. Along the way we encounter other walkers and runners, all kinds of dogs, and sometimes a few cats. The other day we came upon a neighborhood cat named Marshall, whom my husband and I had helped rescue from a tree a couple of years ago. He still responded when we called him by name.

Today my walking buddy couldn't make it, so I went alone. I missed her companionship, but was delighted to find many birds out and about, even on such a short December day. I saw and heard titmice, goldfinches, chickadees, and sparrows. I spotted a group of six wild turkeys tromping through the woods. They took their time, crunching oak leaves with every step. The squirrels were busy too.

Here, the seasons tend to lag the calendar by a few weeks, so even in mid-December most of the grass is still green. There is no snow on the ground yet. A recent warm spell brought a big moth hatch and a few still cling to the sides of houses and garage doors. The sun is shining, even though it's nearly at its weakest strength now.

It does my heart good to get out and find the animals active as we prepare to welcome winter. In a week or two the snows will come, and we'll adjust our walks to smaller loops where we don't need shoveled sidewalks. But those short walks have their rugged beauty too.

In the spirit of winter to come, here is a photograph by Mainer Gene Cyr. This photo won the Aroostook County Tourism Authority photo contest. His website is Northern Maine Pictures

I wish you all a wonder-filled holiday season, winter, and new year.