Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dawgs arrive promptly at 7 pm

But it was (brrrr) too cold to sit outside on the screen porch, so we moved on inside. “Dawgs” is the name of a poetry group originally made up of folks who took a poetry workshop with John Rybicki. Of course the group has re-formed over the years, and new people like me are occasionally allowed in. Seven of us had wine and snacks and enjoyed each other’s smart company and looked at our poems. (And among these polite gals, none mentioned the cobwebs or the duct tape holding the toilet seat together.) Susan Ramsey brought her wild west romp, “My Grandmother in Support Your Local Sherriff.” I brought “The Last Fat Woman in Galesburg, Michigan.”

Marie Bahlke’s Mother’s Day poem brought us:
peanut butter macaroni and hatted boarders eating pork roast

Elizabeth Kerlikowske gave us a (sticky?) image that sticks with us
fish wrapped in maps and money in the glove box

Kit Almy’s sonnet-ish piece, “Miss Movie Star and Mr. Lumpy Mattress,” moved swiftly and logically from sandbox (and eating clover or peeing in the bushes) to sarcasm to death.

Margaret DeRitter did not have a poem but wielded a copy of the Tuesday Gazette and said, “Look! I’m writing again!” Highlights of her recent writing include her article about her French hospital adventure, “An Ordeal in Provence” which perhaps Margaret will condense into a poem that includes the line: Amy’s painkillers long gone, her anti-clotting syringes all used up.

Amy Newday’s poem featured a line I have been repeating to myself over and over ever since:
The brass of our ball valves no longer delights us.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Heidi Sits on Screen Porch

When Heidi Bell comes to town, it's always exciting. She brings cookies, molasses-ginger and chocolate chip oatmeal this time, and she has wicked and clever things to say, and Carla Vissers came down to complete our trio---we all got our MFAs together at WMU in 1998. Heidi had just read Andy Mozina's book (The Women Were Leaving the Men), so we made him come over and he brought his wife Lorrie (also my Christopher, Heidi's Adam and Carla's Eric were in attendance, as well as Dave Magson who dropped by casually when he got home from work at 11:00). As far as Screen Porch business, the wine and something colored like green poison and called an Appletini kept us from getting too serious, Carl and Heidi and I decided we would like to have a literary contest of some kind. I suggested that it only makes sense to have our contest attached to somebody elses' contest (such as WMU or Kalamazoo College, at which we would offer some additional prize to our own favorites among the finalists as Jaimy Gordon has done with the Gordon Prize at WMU), or else it makes sense to have our contest attached to a publication, to which we would give money from the entry fees and offer publication. On Saturday, we discussed Heidi's story featuring vignettes of human/insect interaction and my story in which a guy named Jerry becomes obsessed with a snake, much to the distress of his wife. We all decided my story needs a lot more work. I surmised that the writing life feels a lot like a long drawn-out nervous breakdown, but maybe all lives feel that way. If any of you have thoughts about contests, let me know. It would be fun to reward some of the more lively and light-hearted fiction being written today; it would be fine to have a number of contests associated with different institutions and organizations. Anybody who wants to be involved with organizing or judging some sort of contest, let me know. Another possibility is for the Screen Porch Literary Guild to give its own genius award every year. The winning prize could be some fudge candy, and of course the whole business would be kept secret. Some candidates that come to mind are: the writer Andrea Barrett, my carpenter Steve Barett, Alice Munro, Tim Gatreaux, and my mother for her cabbage rolls. Please make nominations in the comments area or email them to me.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stories Critiqued on Porch

By definition, there was a meeting of the Screen Porch Literary Guild Enterprise Organization the other day, when four writers met on the porch to discuss stories. Andy Mozina had a brilliant story featuring several exotic sex acts, but it was really a story about being out of work in Milwaukee; Lisa Lenzo's lively story was about her recurring (somewhat autobiographical) character Annie trying to dump the wrong man and finish a novel by way of dream manipulation; yours truly forced upon her friends the first 40 pages of her 250-page novel, "The Good Person," but unfortunately the advice/critique was not definitive. Lisa provided most of the dinner, including homemade tamales she bought from a guy on her bus and a cherry pie from Crane's Pie Pantry. Andy brought wine, which is always welcome on the screen porch, though the temperature was rapidly dropping, I insisted we sit on the porch. We adjourned to the dining room table indoors to critique the last two stories. I kept the leftover tamales, pie, and wine but handed out assorted tomatoes, squash and eggplant to departing guests.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

First meeting of the Screen Porch Literary Guild

Last night poet Susan Ramsey and fiction writers Andy Mozina and I (Bonnie) met on my screen porch and drank wine and beer and sampled a variety of packaged snack foods, including cheesy popcorn, potato chips, pork rinds, soy crisps, and Daddy Ray brand fig newtons (all from Comstock Discount), as well as cashews that Andy brought and an intoxicating chocolate bar Susan found in her car that was 70% cocoa mass.

We have decided to be an organization that will promote good fun in the writing and reading world, or something like that. We also decided that any time that three or more writers meet on my screen porch, it will be declared a meeting of the guild. We also would like to have some principles or regulations of some kind, if only to violate them. We decided nothing else, though our voices were raised, though tangents were gone off on, though great satisfaction and agreement was reached, more than once, about some significant aspects of the writing life.

Andy seemed to be looking for trouble, however, when he said, "Oh, the publishing business is more or less fair. You send out your story twenty places. It gets accepted or it gets rejected. That's how it is." He then sipped beer through the fig cookie he held between his teeth. Perhaps having one’s book recently published puts one in a positive frame of mind.

Susan is planning on taking her first fiction writing class, so she asked Andy and myself how one goes about writing a story. "Do you go back and edit at what you’ve written, or do you keep writing forward to the end?" Andy drew a complicated diagram detailing his method of zigzagging through the writing of a story, but then he had to use that napkin to sop up some wine I spilled on him, so Susan has no artifacts to help her.

We discussed some topics involving local writers, including Stu Dybek’s story in the new New Yorker, Di Seuss’s keen mind for on-the spot poetry editing and poet John Rybicki’s good fortune at getting the one-year sabbatical replacement job at Alma College. And of course, I engaged Andy to sign copies of his book The Women Were Leaving the Men for my writer pals Heidi Bell and Carla Vissers.

Mike Campbell dropped by briefly, David Magson pulled up a chair, and Christopher Magson came in from work at 11:35 and told us things about alligator mating that we are not sure we believe.

Susan reported that Michigan News in downtown Kalamazoo is going to be celebrating their 60 year anniversary On July 13. Click this link for more info.

Not discussed at the meeting : Kazoo Books is planning to have a meeting for folks interested in forming writers groups of all kinds. If you are writing, you need to be in a writers group, and you should contact Kazoo Books about the August 2 5:30 pm meeting. Kazoo Books will provide a free meeting spot for groups. Contact info at:

Perhaps we guild members will soon decide what our purpose is, write a mission statement. Perhaps someone will build us a website. Perhaps our ranks will swell. Perhaps one of us will write a book that will make sense of it all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Literary Ventures

Okay, we've got a blog. Now, for a mission statement.