Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pencils! Points: September 8, 2009

Hello, all! Before I get to the meeting notes, here’s some announcements:

The Pencils! 6th Annual Holiday Party will take place on Saturday, December 12, 2009, at 7 p.m. at Carol’s House. As usual, we’ll be putting together invitations and sending them out via snail-mail, and directions will be enclosed. Watch this newsletter and your mailboxes for details, but count on our usual $5-$10 grab-bag gift exchange!

And now, onto the meeting:

1. Iris and Eydie, our two newest members, are working on a memoir, and the meeting was spent on the first pages of their work as well as brain-storming. Their project has yet to have a title.

2. Tom arrived…and we all decided to do one of those famous (or infamous) 5-minute prompts! Carol suggested a “My life began on [social networking site of choice]. Joyce and Eydie wrote about e-mail, Tom wrote about Chatrooms, Carol about Twitter, and Iris and Kaye wrote about Facebook.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pencils! Meeting Aug 14 2009

We had our regular meeting on August 14, 2009. In attendance were Roger, Joyce, Claudia, and Jerry.
Joyce kicked us off with a new short story, Welcome to Kenya. “They passed a series of factories, and now she was looking at low cement block buildings with corrugated steel roofs, probably some sort of housing. They were all the same, going deep into the side streets, and running along one side of the main road for at least a mile. The gray structures stood about 10 feet apart on flat land, with no trees or flowers to break the monotony. Only scattered tufts of weeds provided a touch of green.”
Next up, Jerry and Claudia both presented several examples each of Hint Fiction. In 25 words or less, Hint fiction is intended to suggest a story rather than tell it. There is currently a contest, with a deadline of midnight EST on August 31. Only two entries are allowed per person. Winners (there will be 100-150) will be paid $25 each and published in an anthology by WW Norton. For a more detailed description and information about the contest, see http://www.robertswartwood.com/?page_id=8. That will get you to the site, where there are many pages (all well over 25 words!) that describe various aspects of hint fiction as well as the contest itself.
If you don’t have the time or interest in pursuing this concept, here are a few examples of past winners & honorable mentions. (Actually these were just honorable mentions, but Claudia, Kaye, and Jerry are all in agreement that these are better than the winners.)
PROGRESS: After seventeen days she finally broke down and called him “daddy.”
PEANUT BUTTER: He was allergic. She pretended not to know.
(I don’t remember what sequence we read ours in, so ladies first. Since entries were limited to two, we were looking for reactions to help decide which ones to include. Just one each is included here.)
Claudia’s example:
The Affair: No wedding ring, no ring tan line. She fell in love. He was married, she found out. She made sure he hurt before he died.
Jerry’s example:
Execution: He told them again that he didn’t kill her as the needle pierced his vein. One of them knew he was telling the truth.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Pencils! Points: July 28, 2009


Pencils! Annual Picnic

We’re having a POTLUCK PICNIC this year! Details are in your inbox!

And now, on with the show:

Joyce kicked off our meeting with Chapter 21 of Venus Ascending.

Carol is working on a new, untitled novel-length project. She shared the first couple of pages with us.

Jerry read us his short story, “Virgins.”

Well, that’s it for this week’s meeting! Our next meeting is Tuesday, August 11…see you all there!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pencils! Points: April 28, 2009

We had a great meeting last week! Here are some highlights for those of you who missed it.

First, welcome new potential member Susan, who found us through the newspaper. She’s interested in writing children’s fiction, and we hope she’ll join us again soon.

And also…welcome back Gary Kriss! Long time no see!

It's official: Kaye is graduating. She'll receive the MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College this coming June 28.

1. Kaye opened with the beginnings of a short story, working title “Paisley Surprise”: “There is a box wrapped in red paisley paper on my doorstep. It doesn’t have a tag; all it says in crude Sharpie lettering is Perishable.”

2. Joyce was next, with recent rewrites from Venus Ascending: “He put cotton in his ears and absorbed himself in his newspaper, pleased with President Eisenhower’s announcement that the way was clear for a January tax reduction for personal income and excess profits.”

3. Gary presented more of the novel he’s working on, which is part of a series...it involved a trapeze artist afraid of heights.

Quote of the Night
“Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.”
~ Jerry & Joyce

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pencils! Meeting, March 24, 2009

Pencils! met Tuesday March 24 at Shop-Rite. Claudia, Judith, Joyce, Lynn, Roger, Henderson, Kay, and Jerry attended.

Henderson recommended a book he is reading called Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. (If that’s not a pen name, I’m jealous.) And I mentioned a workshop that is coming up on April 7 at the Milford Library, 7 PM, on how to get started writing your mystery. But I couldn’t remember the author’s name, so I will send an e-mail about that in a few days.

First up was Roger, not with any new writing, but with a list of alternatives for a new title for his book, which he feels is too restrictive since it targets retirees only rather than leaving it open to anyone who has experience (past or future) with moving south. Some of the popular choices were “Southern Exposure”, “Woe is We”, “Fast on the Pedal, Slow on the Drawl”, “The Grass Wasn’t Greener on the Other Side”, and “What Were We Thinking When We Moved to the South?”

Next Lynn shared the first 4300 words of her short story Anger Management. “Brianna tackles the mail as soon as it arrives, as usual well after 5:00. She sorts the letters into two piles, hers and Peter’s, adding the junk mail to his. As she pitches the rubber-banded roll of catalogs without looking through it, something on the floor moves. At first, the dark line appears to be a skid mark, as from a sneaker, but closer inspection shows it’s composed of tiny dots parading across the tiles into the dog’s food dish. Brianna remains crouched and staring for a moment, not wanting to accept that vermin removal is now her responsibility.”

Henderson shared both a poem, Ripples, and a letter to the editor, the latter published in the Danbury News-Times on Monday March 23. “The principle of the separation of church and state does protect the civil law from meddling by any religion to impose its beliefs on everyone.”

“We toss a pebble, making ripples of our own,
or maybe our very motion arcs one in,
and our ripples spread, combining, interfering.”

Next up was Joyce with a rewrite of chapter 20 of her novel Venus Ascending. “Murray brooded as he saw the beaming nose of a long-bodied plane gently rise, angling up for take off. His fist formed compulsively at his side as the Convair 340 lifted and became airborne. His fingers clenched as the plane rose higher before leveling off, and it wasn’t until the gray silhouette faded into the dark sky that his hand opened.”

Finally, Judith read more from her novel in progress. “Before Ali or Destiny could answer, the front door was thrust open forcefully. If Ali had not said, ‘Hi, Dad,’ Sylvia would not have recognized her ex-husband, Hamid Husam, who was slowly making his way over to the area where she was sitting. His face was ashen gray and lined with vertical creases from his forehead to his chin, the only interruption in the linear demarcations being two horizontal slits that served as eyes.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pencils! Points: February 24, 2009


REJECTION SLIP PYRE & POTLUCK THIS SATURDAY, MARCH 14, AT 3 P.M. AT KAYE’S! If you haven’t let Kaye know you’re coming (or not), please do, and she also needs to know what you’re bringing to share. Please e-mail her and let her know what’s up, if you haven’t already. This should be a great way to celebrate this amazing spring weather we’re having!

Congratulations, Judith! …on your work being featured in the successful art show Stress, Struggle and Change at The Mooney Center at the College of New Rochelle. The show ran from the beginning of January through the end of February. Nice work!

With the rejection slip party literally days away, I wanted to remind everyone about Duotrope.com as a fabulous market research tool.

~ Kaye was the lucky winner of Stewart O’Nan’s Poe Screenplay in the Lottery to benefit the Shirley Jackson Awards.

1. Carol presented Chapter 9 of Buried for Life: “The team of officers spread through the house like locusts. Every room on all three floors was turned upside down. His mother sat huddled in the corner of the warm sofa. Her cotton handkerchief twisted in her hands and her eyes swam in unwashed tears.”

2. Henderson shared his newest essay, “The Day the Universe Split”: “I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen differently at certain times. I can recall a number of choice points in my life and I’m sure you can in yours, too.”

3. Joyce read from Chapters 19 and 20 of Venus Ascending: “Estelle’s gentle hands were continuously moving—holding, grasping, pulling, squeezing—lifting forearm, upper arm, hand and fingers, until knotted muscles started to slacken, allowing range of motion to increase.”

4. Judith brought the beginnings of her newest work, Four Days: “Reception areas of major international airports are all the same, she thought. The ethnicity and attire of the people might be different, but the message was the same. Taxi? Hotel? For any assistance you may require, I am the person you most need right now, for a price, of course.”

5. Jerry has been working on “Sin” and brought us the latest version: “Immediately, they began babbling, as sinners always do, pleading for mercy, protesting their innocence, denying that the word of God means they should be punished. They even muttered some nonsense about loving each other, as if that was even possible without first loving the Lord.”

6. Claudia closed the night with “Two Sisters, a Brother, and a Dog”: “Cindy was fascinated with watching the white shredded mozzarella cheese bubble and brown under the red coil of the roof of the toaster oven through the clear door, and didn’t question Patti about the call.”

Quotes of the Night

“How is a baby ever not innocent unless it’s Chucky?”

-- Kaye

“If it’s not moving the fory storward…I haven’t even had anything to drink tonight!”

-- Carol

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pencils! Points: February 10, 2009

We're back at Shop Rite for the long haul! Eleven members were on hand and Maria Barresi treated us all to a Welcome Back/Valentine's Day mini-buffet: cheese, crackers, grapes, and apples. Thanks, Maria! It made our first time back feel special!


~ We kicked off the meeting with our treasurer's report—Carol was pleased to report that many have paid dues. We have checks that say Pencils! on them (there's nothing to make you feel more special than that). Our first order of business was reimbursing Jerry for website domain costs.

Anyone wishing to pay dues can contact Carol McManus.

~ The 5th Annual Rejection Slip Pyre & Potluck…you'll be getting an e-mail under separate cover with details, but here are the basics:

Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 3 p.m.


Kaye's house

Bring a dish to share and BYOB.

Bring some rejection slips to burn and leave feeling renewed for 2009!

~ Joyce is back from her 10-day excursion to the Bahamas with "Singles Under Sail." Tropical drinks, anyone?

~ Photos from John Palisano's reading and signing on January 27 are up on the web! You can check them out here.

And now…on with the show…

1. Joyce opened us with a portion of Chapters 17 and 18 of Venus Ascending: "Estelle saw the new Suburban and her eyes filled. Only three days old, and the front grid was cracked, the hood dented, and its little goat ornament was angled to one side."

2. Henderson was next with his first attempt at short-short fiction: "Child's Play": "I got under the kitchen table to look up at a pirate's map I had discovered there. Mom or Dad never looked under the table, not even Sis, so this map was my secret."

3. Carol was up with Chapter 8 of Buried for Life, which she's been working and re-working: "A blaring horn was the only warning that kept her from driving directly into the path of a car coming up from behind in the adjoining outside lane."

4. Yvonne followed with a piece called "Racial Memories," which is part of a larger project: "She was good as her word, and each night, a new pie emerged from the oven, peach, blueberry, apricot, and rhubarb. She was a tough taskmaster, and [Yvonne's] reward for [her] hard work was a tray full of little tarts which matched the pie in flavor."

5. Kaye closed with a short piece called "What the Dormouse Knows": "This is their final ride on the last day of their decades-overdue honeymoon. Jim turns the center wheel, wishing the cup would spin faster, and Della, whipped by her long hair, notices for the first time she's going salt and pepper."

This week's handouts

We passed out some information on Tips for writers on naming fictional characters from BabyNames.com…and "The Practice of Remaining in the Dark: How to Create Complex Characters", by Robert Boswell, from The Practical Writer column in Poets and Writers' July/August 2008 issue.

This week's Inspirational Kick-Out!

I read a piece called "Take that, Stephen King; Buzz Off, Sue Grafton", by David Howard, which is featured in the 2008 Rhode Island Writer's Circle anthology. Hilarious!

Quotes of the Night


"You're going to give us a report, too, for twenty-four dollars?"

-- Maria


"The sound of word is important, too."

-- Tom


"There's no such thing as a really hot sex scene with a guy named Murray."

-- Jerry


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pencils! Points: Important Announcements, January 13 Meeting Notes

Hello, all! Happy 2009!

Important Announcements!

~ Special Pencils! Meeting: Join us this Tuesday, January 27, at 6:30 p.m. at the Norwalk Library in SoNo to hear John Palisano read from his latest work! See you there!

~ Dues: we've set dues at $24/year. If you attend three meetings per year, please send your dues to Carol by Jan. 31!

~ Snow Policy: It's that time of year again, but hey, we're almost to February…only four more meetings at risk! In the event of inclement weather and we need to cancel our Pencils! meeting for the evening, THE DECISION WILL BE MADE AT THE LATEST BY 4 P.M. ON THAT DAY, in which case, we will send out an e-mail to our distribution list. It will also be posted ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE WEBSITE NO LATER THAN 6 P.M.

~ We're BACK at Shop Rite as of February 10th, 2009!

~ Miss the 6th Annual Christmas Fest at Carol's? Check out the pix here!

~ Have good news to share? Please send your announcements to the membership directly using the members address.

~ The Rejection Slip Burning is tentatively slated for Saturday, March 7, 2009! We'll confirm this date and the location in the coming weeks.

And now…on with the show! Pencils! Points for our first meeting of 2009.

  1. Roger opened the night with another chapter—"Blonde Ambition"—from How My Retirement Went South.
  2. Jerry was next with the beginnings of a great new short story, "Sin."
  3. Kaye was up with part of a short story she's reworking from her Admit One project.

Well, that's all, folks! See you all in just a couple of days in SoNo!

-- Kaye

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pencils! Welcomes 2009 with Important Announcements!


For the January 27 meeting, we'll be attending a SPECIAL EVENT at the NORWALK PUBLIC LIBRARY
in South Norwalk to support member John Palisano as he reads from his latest work as part of the 2009 Author Series. Copies of the anthologies in which his most recent work appeared will be available for sale, and proceeds will benefit the Friends of the Norwalk Library.

THE EVENT RUNS FROM 6:30 to 8:30. Please join us! For more information, visit John's website here and click on the link at the right of the page.


As you know, over the years, Pencils! has grown -- we've gained and lost members, and many times the subject of charging nominal dues has come up. Dues will not only help us lessen the financial impact of events and other incidentals (printing, mailing, the domain name for the web, etc.), but will help our members strengthen their commitment and put us more in line with other professionally-oriented writing groups and associations.

For 2009 and beyond, we're introducing membership dues for those who attend meetings.

We've set the cost of dues at $24/year due on January 31 of each year (that's not much more than $1/meeting). This amount will also make it easy for us to pro-rate members who join later in the year. New members may attend a maximum of three meetings before deciding whether or not they wish to join.

Carol McManus is the Treasurer and will open our first official Pencils! account. Please send your $24 membership dues as close to January 31 as possible to Carol.

Have a wonderful few days and I'll see you all on January 27!