Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Writing Nomads of Celebation

I know it probably sounds unbelievable, but I have a love of writing. One of my earliest memories is wandering through the basement of our cookie-cutter Chicago bungalow, telling myself detailed stories starring our cat, Fluffy. My imagination had transformed him into Super Fluffy, a fearless feline superhero. I was probably all of three at the time, since poor Fluffy disappeared by the time I turned four...most likely a road-pizza-ed victim of the crazed Chicago drivers.

I had a set of old-fashioned wooden blocks, and in my mind they transformed into a cast of colorful characters. The yellow triangles were birds, the rectangles with a half-moon cut out were horses. The rounded "sticks" were cats. The rest of the pieces were used to construct elaborate settings for long, rambling tales that I acted out on the living room carpet. Anyone viewing the jumble would have seen precarious and disorderly block stacks; in my mind, they were far-away kingdoms full of dazzling adventure. The plots are lost to antiquity, as I was much too young to be able to write them down.

As I grew older, I realized that people could actually get paid to write. While most little girls played with Barbies and Easy Bake Ovens, I pecked away on a second-hand typewriter, spinning long, fantastic yarns about cats and horses (the birds were dropped from the cast when I switched mediums from blocks to ink).

I sold my first newspaper article while still in high school, and soon I was selling a steady string of horse training pieces to "Horse Illustated" (a journalistic sibling of "Cat Fancy" and "Dog Fancy") and other equestrian publications. I did some news stringing for a Chicago daily, too, and became a reporter, columnist, and eventually editor of a bi-monthly community newspaper.

I put my freelancing on hold when I got a job in corporate communications. That morphed into a career in training and development, and my writing got shoved off to simmer on the back burner. Still, I knew that someday it would return to a place of prominence in my life. The well of words never went dry in my brain; it simply had no spigot for the past decade, but now I was ready to tap in again.

Coincidentally, a fellow Celebration resident decided to start a writers' group. I joined in, figuring that a structured focus on writing would help me gingerly dip my toes back into the stream of creativity. I had some ideas for the horse magazines, so I thought that the club would be a great way for me to make a commitment to complete and submit some articles.

The club has been going strong for two months now, albeit with an interesting challenge. Much like the wandering tribes of Israel, the Celebration Creative Writers' Club wanders the "desert" of our fair town in search of a permanent Promised Land.

We started off at one of the two coffee shops for our first meeting, then tried out the second one for a comparison. While they both offered comfortable quarters, it was hard to read out loud with the constant flow of traffic. Thankfully, we all write in relatively benign genres, but I can just imagine the reaction of the caffeine-seekers in anyone had specialized in something like erotic fiction: "He tore the bodice from her heaving, sweat beaded bosom, cupping the buttery buds in his hands and burying his face in their fullness...." (You get the idea.)

Next up, we met twice in the local bookstore. It worked out well, although we were still reading out loud in public (there was less foot traffic than the coffee shops). But during the second meeting, Mr. and Mrs. Beezlebub came in with their brood of satanic spawn, who proceeded to create aural mayhem for the next half hour. With our ears ringing, we agreed that we'd look for quieter, more private quarters next time.

This Wednesday, our meeting was slated for the Celebration Foundation office. They make it available for community groups, and since it was in the evening, we'd be the only ones there. I met up with a fellow member and we headed off to building by Seito (the Japanese restaurant on Front Street) where both of us believed the Foundation was located. The first scary sign was that the door was locked...hmmmmmmm. The second ominous indication was that the name "Celebration Foundation" had been scratched off the signplate. Apparently the Foundation is just as nomadic as the Celebration Creative Writers.

My friend dialed the Foundation phone number, hoping that they might have a recording with their address. No dice. We walked down to Town Hall, thinking perhaps someone might be around to direct us to the proper location. No dice there, either, but a quick phone call to my husband revealed that the new location was on Sycamore Street. My cell phone lost signal before he could give me the address, but Sycamore was right around the corner. Sure enough, as we rounded the bend, the other members of the group were waiting in the doorway.

We managed to have our meeting, but the leader of our group said that getting the key had been a marathon process. Thus it looks like our traveling gypsy band will be moving on to a new location two weeks hence.

Oh well, writers are adaptable people. It doesn't matter where we meet, as long as we get together somewhere. The group has been very rewarding for me; since we started, I've actually sent out my first query letter in a decade and a half and got an article assignment out of it. But the nice thing about our group is that it is made up of people with all sorts of ambitions, from writing for fun to commercial sales, in a wide variety of genres from mystery to horror to general fiction and, of course, non-fiction. At the meetings, we each share a tip and then read a sample of our writing (new or old) for the rest of the group to critique. It's a fun and supportive atmosphere,

If you live in Celebration (or the surrounding environs) and want to join, we'd be glad to have you as everyone is welcome! Just one little challenge...I can tell you when but not where. Oh well, by this time next week I'm confident that the Writing Nomads will know their next "campsite" and the creativity will continue, no matter where we rest our rumps.

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Arielle said...

Oh! I would love to join once we get there (hopefully in a few months if all goes well!) Is there the possibility of meeting at a different members home each week? A friend of mine has a book club with some friends and that's how they do it. Just a thought. :)

Two4Disney said...

Barb, I'm so not surprised that you're a writer - with those blog posts. :)

My first novel is being released next week and this sounds like a great group to join - living over here in Windermere - except that we're leaving the area in June.

Wish you guys great fun and much success in your writing.

robert said...

Where have you gone, Barb? You don't know me, but I love your blog -- come back soon please!