Enid serves as chair of the group. She traditionally published a Regency romance novel some twenty years ago but hasn’t completed anything since. Her short fingernails testify that she spends most of her writing time having anxiety attacks over which word best suits her character’s personality.
Carl self-published twelve Sci-Fi novels, none of which have sold more than five copies. He keeps trying while attempting to argue with Enid over the merits of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Unfortunately, Enid always wins these arguments when she mentions her royalty checks that keep trickling in but never amount to enough to buy cat food.
No such group would be complete without a poet. Jane fills that role exquisitely. Her husband is a supervisor at Willits-Manion which means he works long hours and brings home a paycheck that allows his wife to dress well, write bad poetry and attend conferences as a representative of their group.
Occasionally, Hannah finds someone willing to stay with her children and visits the group to read one of her slice-of-life stories, which leave her hearers with tears of laughter running down their faces. They eagerly encourage her to send her stories to magazines. She promises to send this one off then gets busy with her children and nothing gets mailed.
Larkin the local English Literature teacher from the high school attends the meetings occasionally. He has appointed himself the official critic of the group. He often monopolizes half a meeting admonishing Timmy to stop using the Oxford comma and telling Enid that she just needs to set a certain time each day to write, and scolding both Enid and Carl to stop writing “Genre Trash.”
If asked, Larkin can spend the second half of a meeting detailing his research on the definitive compilation of the events leading up to World War Three. Should the unthinkable happen, Larkin will be the first off the press to detail the greed, manipulations, misunderstandings and nefarious acts of sabotage leading up to the horrific events of the war.
On this particular evening, all six members of the group huddled around the table at the back of the banquet room. Enid despite her writing anxieties made a good chair. When Larkin tried to open the meeting with a comment on using a single space after a period, Enid cut him off. “Larkin, that argument can take all night, and we all know Hannah’s babysitter can call her away at any moment. Hannah, do you have one of your delightful stories for us tonight?”
Hannah produced a piece about her five year old son toilet training his siblings, the dog, the cat, a neighbor boy, and an assortment of dolls and teddy bears in a display set up on the front sidewalk. The project involved the family potty chair and an assortment of makeshift containers from the kitchen cupboards. The police had been sympathetic.
The other writers wiped at their tears at the end of the story and declared that their sides hurt from laughing.
Larkin announced, “Your little stories are always so amusing, but of little commercial value.”
Timmy countered, “It’s just a matter of finding the right audience. There are lots of parenting magazines and women’s journals that would pay for that story. Can I have a copy of it to show to Maude. She’ll love it.” Timmy thought Hannah’s stories should be lighting up the lives of other people.
Enid returned from the restroom and admonished Hannah. “You almost made me pee my pants with that one. You have a gift of finding just the right word.” She returned to the business at hand. “Jane do you have a report on the conference in San Francisco?”
“Yes, I read my poem, Oyster, which was well received and met with a group who want to publish an anthology of the poetry that was presented. I distributed our business cards to twenty agents, so be sure and include one of our cards when you send your writing off to an agent. I attended seminars on marketing poetry and another one on self-publishing short stories.” She turned and nodded to Carl. “I didn’t find a niche for Hannah’s stories, but they are so good, I’m sure we’ll find someone to pay her for them.” Jane flung her scarf over her shoulder catching the fringe in Hannah’s long hair. “I have a new poem I wrote on the airplane coming home.”
The group dutifully applauded when Jane finished reciting her latest work of dubious art.
Carl read a short piece about his latest alien cat-like creature and the rest of the group praised his efforts. Most of the rest of the group praised his efforts. Larkin commented, “I couldn’t tell if this cat was supposed to be good or evil. Cats have long been an evil archetype, so you need to make the character more sinister and dark.”
“The cat is my protagonist, and I want to avoid clichés and archetypes.”
“Then you need to find a different animal all together to represent your protagonist because cats are always evil and you will confuse your reader. Why don’t you try something like a magician or a warrior as your hero, something that people will know is good without you having to tell the reader that the character represents good.
Enid interrupted, “Thank you Carl. Your description is excellent. I wish I could manipulated words like you do.” She smiled at Carl hoping Larkin’s inane criticism wouldn’t discourage the others. “Larkin, have you written anything you wish to share with us?”
“As you know, I am not to the writing stage yet, but I did find a source I’m excited about. I found this book called Lies That Bind. It is about this third world country that looks like it might be Eastern Europe or South America, but it could be in Asia or Africa. Anyway, the author appears to be doing the same thing I am and has documented several events like the drought in Syria and the latest recession.”
Timmy’s forehead wrinkled, “Um, does the author name these places and the people involved.”
“Oh no. It’s written completely in code. Only those of us who really know what is going on can understand the message behind the story. But, the author proves that some important people are manipulating us into war and even names the people who will be killed to provoke the war.”
“That sounds dangerous. Does this author come out and say that the British Prime Minister will be killed or anything like that?” Timmy’s frown wiggled at the corners.
“Oh no, but she has a character named Elizabeth so you know England is involved in the plot. Some of the names of her characters like Anne, Sarah and Mariah are the names of people who have actually died in accidents in the past year. All you have to do is do a search on the names of the people in her book and you will see that they died in ‘so called” Larkin made parenthesis signs in the air with his fingers, “accidents or are actually high ranking officials in governments.”
Carl held his head and stared at the table. Without looking up he said, “Right. Do you Google on just the first names or on the whole name like Anne Kimbal?”
“I use combinations. I wrote lists of the names of every character in the book. One list is just the first names another is just the last names, and the third list is first and last names. Apparently, the author has some mathematical algorithm for combining the names. I don’t know what that is, but I’ll figure it out. I knew I was onto something when I combined the first names into groups of five and started Googling the groups. That is when I discovered that these are the first names of people who died in accidents.”
Timmy rubbed his face with his hands. Carl rushed out of the room. Hannah grabbed her cell phone from her pocket and announced that she had to leave. Jane hummed as she looked at the ceiling. Enid’s voice broke when she said, “Mm, very interesting. I’m glad your research is coming along.” Enid nodded several times before concluding. “I think our time is up. Thank you all for coming and keep up the good work.”
A few minutes after Larkin left the building Carl emerged from the bathroom. “Is he gone, yet?”
Timmy chuckled as he nodded.
“That book he mentioned, isn’t that the one written by Pastor Maude’s friend?”
Timmy snorted, “Oh yes. Maudy donated a copy to the fundraiser to put sod on the new playfields. Believe me, it’s nothing but a love story. I had wondered who bought that.”
Carl waved at Timmy and shook his head as he wandered toward the door muttering, “…grouped the first names and Googled on them.”