No major projects on the agenda right not, at least no huge ones (like a book) that I’m tackling all by my lonesome. My writing group, however, has something fun and exciting going on. We’re putting together an anthology that we hope to have completed by mid-October. Let me rephrase that to “that we will have completed by mid-October.”
We’ve changed our direction a couple of times, but now that we’ve read and critiqued the majority of the submissions, we’re focused and on target. We have a compilation of poems, stories, recipes (with accompanying tales), photographs, and good old memoire-type pieces. We’ve laughed, reminisced, encouraged, and edited for the past three or four meetings, and at last we think we’re getting somewhere.
Originally, our intention was to stick to holiday memories germane (if that’s not the appropriate word, maybe a member of the group will point it out) to the midlands, but that didn’t last long. Fifteen minutes tops. One of our members is from Germany, and although she immigrated to America three decades ago, she hasn’t lived in South Carolina but a few years. Hmmm. What to do? She wrote a lovely piece about baking Christmas cookies with her grandmother, and although the kitchen scene takes place in Germany, the feeling it evokes is a universal one.
Eventually the group expanded the book’s collection to include all sorts of nostalgic stories, including love stories of the “boy meets girl” variety and family reunions in the sweltering hot summertime. I’m working on one of the love stories, and although I knew that it wasn’t where it needed to be, I didn’t know how to make the story sing. The group gave me some suggestions last night, including one to “brief it up” in the beginning.
One of my favorite contributions so far tells of a Thanksgiving celebration that took place 14 years ago. My sweet mama had passed away in October, and three of her children and a few grandchildren gathered at her home that evening with some “take-in” food. At some point, we ended up in my parents’ bedroom rummaging through their old hats. Like kids playing dress-up, we each tried on several before finally settling on one of special meaning, and after the meal, my son-in-law took the above picture. The piece also includes memories from Thanksgivings-past, all conjured up by my mother’s cornbread stuffing recipe that I wanted to include in the anthology.
It probably hit me for the first time that evening: My family holidays with kith and kin in the manner I had known all of my life were over. Sure, I’d share turkey and dressing, red velvet cake, and other seasonal fare with various relatives each year, but my mother’s passing on October 20, 2000 marked the end of gatherings in the family home.
I personally know several individuals with tremendous writing skills who could benefit from our group AND add much to its composition. Two of them live in my neighborhood, and I hope they read this. Because of Mindy, I double and triple check my to-be verbs to make sure I haven’t overused them, and because of Doug, I watch out for gerunds. And now we’re joining forces to put together this awesome anthology. How else could that have happened for me?