Best of Member Monday #1: A Little About Fall by Darbie Andrews

A Note from the Webmaster: It’s summertime, the glorious season of swimming, sunblock and sinking your teeth into a fat stack of books.  Alas, it’s also the sad season when Writers Forum goes dark for two months.  Never fear, dear reader, because for the next eight Mondays, Writers Forum will be featuring the Best of Member Monday.  The top eight Member Monday pieces were determined by the number of views each piece received on our website.  We’ll count them down beginning from #8 and ending with our #1 most viewed piece of the 2013-2014 Writers Forum year.  Congratulations to the top eight!  Capturing the #1 slot is a piece by…drumroll, please… Darbie Andrews!

A Little About Fall

by Darbie Andrews

Oh, the battle between Summer and Fall!
Lingering hot summer days fight Fall’s need to pounce away the heat.
Fall tries with occasional cool winds and puffy white clouds, but summer fights back.
The short cool moment stolen…a tease.
Shorts and sandals fill the streets again, but sweatshirts and socks are nearby.
It’s nature’s menopause, Fall versus Summer.
Hot, cold, hot cold.
It doesn’t end with a wallop.
It’s gradual and fun to watch.
Fall takes over every year and forces Summer to leave and cry for Spring.
We carve happy faces in pumpkins, celebrating freedom from the hot flashes!

Best of Member Monday #2: A Mile in Their Shoes by Alicia McCauley

A Note from the Webmaster: It’s summertime, the glorious season of swimming, sunblock and sinking your teeth into a fat stack of books.  Alas, it’s also the sad season when Writers Forum goes dark for two months.  Never fear, dear reader, because for the next eight Mondays, Writers Forum will be featuring the Best of Member Monday.  The top eight Member Monday pieces were determined by the number of views each piece received on our website.  We’ll count them down beginning from #8 and ending with our #1 most viewed piece of the 2013-2014 Writers Forum year.  Congratulations to the top eight!  Taking the #2 slot is a piece by Writers Forum member Alicia McCauley, who has just returned from another exciting summer of teaching writing and other adventures in Uganda.  You can read more about her most recent trip on Alicia’s blog.

A Mile in Their Shoes

by Alicia McCauley

After church on Sunday, I stayed at the school for the afternoon and hung out with the kids.  Sunday is their only full day off from school and it was great to spend a little time getting to know them.

These kids are so funny.  Laughter is like breathing here, bubbling out of the easy smiles of the students.  It’s the white noise of the campus.

It never ceases to amaze me what kids will share if you just spend time with them sans agenda.  After church I sat in the shade of one of the outdoor classrooms shooting the breeze with the kids, talking about things like rap music and soccer.

Then the conversation took a turn and the kids started talking about their experiences as night travelers during the terror-filled years when Kony rampaged through the north.

Each night they’d travel the dark road from their houses and huts and into Gulu.  You can’t imagine the pitch darkness of this road.  No glow of electricity.  No flashlights.  Only stars pin pricking the sky and the white face of the moon to watch over them.

The boys walked for miles with their cousins and siblings, an ant trail of children hurrying along the edges of the roads in search of shelter and the hope of safety in town.  One particular boy was ten years old at the time.

I think about my nieces and nephews who are around that age and I imagine them walking that dark road together and I use the corner of my skirt to wipe the agony from my eyes.

The boys talked about family members who were taken; uncles whisked away, fathers snatched out of the potato garden in the early morning hours.  They talked about family members who are still missing and about others who were mercifully released.

They also told stories of children forced into servitude for the LRA, walking for days with heavy loads balanced on their heads.  A single utterance hinting at hunger or fatigue meant a sure and swift death.

The boys told horrific stories that I can’t even bring myself to type because the malevolent inhumanity of it burns in my stomach and causes hot vomit to sizzle in my throat.

It’s fitting to me that the school is built in what was once one of the most violent and unstable areas in Northern Uganda.  The heart of the school is their dedication to love and justice and I can’t think of a more fitting place to make such a declaration.

On my way back to town that Sunday, I walked part of the road used by the night traveling children.  Two of the boys escorted me and I couldn’t help but sneak peeks at their faces, imagining younger versions of them making this walk in the dead of night.  We walked about a mile before flagging down bodas that took us the remaining miles back into Gulu.

Sunday night my heart was heavy, weighing me down in my sleep as the boys’ stories came to life in my nightmares.

Every good teacher learns from his or her students.  Here in Uganda, I’m eager to learn how these children walked the darkest road and arrived at this destination, to a time and place where laughing is like breathing, where love and justice prevail over land once red with the blood of their loved ones.

Best of Member Monday #3: Becoming A “Real” Boy by Terry O’Connell

A Note from the Webmaster: It’s summertime, the glorious season of swimming, sunblock and sinking your teeth into a fat stack of books.  Alas, it’s also the sad season when Writers Forum goes dark for two months.  Never fear, dear reader, because for the next eight Mondays, Writers Forum will be featuring the Best of Member Monday.  The top eight Member Monday pieces were determined by the number of views each piece received on our website.  We’ll count them down beginning from #8 and ending with our #1 most viewed piece of the 2013-2014 Writers Forum year.  Congratulations to the top eight!  Taking the #3 slot is a piece by Writers Forum member Terry O’Connell.

Becoming A “Real” Boy

by Terry O’ Connell

I grew up an only child, raised mostly by a single, working mom. I was a quiet, gentle boy who preferred to read and stay home rather than go out and play with other kids on the streets and in the playgrounds. I didn’t like sports, wasn’t very coordinated, and I’d much rather avoid a flying ball than try to catch one. I have horrible memories of musical chairs – the pushing, the aggression, chairs toppling, people falling down. I would usually just remain standing and be eliminated. I was not a “typical” boy, and I fell far short of the playground standards of my working-class neighborhood.

In my fourth grade year, there was a big contest at my school – with prizes! I don’t remember the details, but somehow I managed to win first place. As the grand winner, I could choose one of two prizes. One was a bright red Radio Flyer wagon, and the other was a well-made Raggedy Andy rag doll. The wagon was the clear choice, and I started to imagine having it at home to play with and haul my toys around. Then I looked at the doll and thought to myself, “Everyone wants the wagon. Nobody is going to choose the doll.” And I started to picture the doll being ignored and left behind, and something in me shifted.

When the time came for me to make my selection, I chose the doll.

For the rest of the day, the kids chided me mercilessly. They called me names. They made up little rhymes about me and my doll. Boys and girls, friends and strangers, it made no difference. I had crossed a line and they weren’t going to let it go.

Finally, school let out and I was able to go home and get away from the taunting and disapproval. On the walk home, I kept replaying the day’s events over and over again, trying to bring the whole thing into focus and make sense of how I felt and what had happened.

A block before I reached home, I threw the doll away.

24 Hour Playwriting Competition

Now Accepting Applications through August 31!

Harris Studios’ 24 Hour Scriptwriting Competition 2014 is underway! This event is not for the faint of heart!  Six writers have 12 hours to create a 10 minute, 1 act play.  Their assigned casts have 12 hours to memorize and rehearse before performing before a live audience at the Redding Riverfront Playhouse.  This is an exciting adventure for writers, directors, actors, and audiences alike.  The fun happens October 17th and 18th, with the performance beginning at 7pm on the 18th.

How to Register and Participate:

Writers – Submit the following to 24hourscriptcompetition@gmail.com by August 31st:

  1. An excerpt from your original play no longer than 2 pages in standardized playwright format .
  2. Signed Writers Agreement
  3. $20 non-refundable submission fee payable to Harris Studios.
  4. Agreement, & Payment can also be mailed to:  Harris Studios, 1852 Buenaventura Blvd #3, Redding, CA  96001

Download Writer’s Agreement Here

Download Format for Script Submissions Here

Download Sample Submission Here

Crew Members – If interested email info@harris-studios.com. Crew opportunities include:

Backstage crew
One Production assistant for each competing team
Ballot counter
Time-keeper

Talent – (Actors & Directors) Contact Russell Piette @ rgpyard@gmail.com

A Message from the President: Summer, 2014

I have been stumbling on my writing path. Actually, there are many paths that trip me up; better health, solid relationships, clean fun. But since this is the Writers Forum, to stay on topic, I will tread the path to better writing.

And there is no better place to start than with my Spiritual Fitness. It is said that Spiritual Fitness is not what you do, but who you are. Wise words, me thinks.

“Spirituality is not about being perfect but about aspiring to a life of heart-filled integrity. It is a journey and not a destination. When we are spiritually fit and balanced we are a powerfully exquisite blend of human fallibility and divine perfection. It is this dynamic tension that gives us our uniqueness, our power to create and our compassion.” — Caroline Reynolds

“Learn how to meditate on paper. Drawing and writing are forms of meditation.” — Thomas Merton

“I am writing this not to many, but to you: certainly we are a great enough audience for each other. (Haec ego non multis (scribo), sed tibi: satis enim magnum alter alteri theatrum sumus).” — Epicurus

“Spiritual” potential resonates in anyone who is willing to be moved. We can actually be moved fairly easily: compelling plots, lovable characters or eloquent literary craftsmanship are sometimes enough to hit the spot. But when was the last time you found yourself nodding your head feverishly every time you turned a page of a novel, or clapped your hands and cried, “Yes! Yes!” at a book’s perfectly crafted argument? That is the power of good writing: to compel human beings to fall in love with black blots of ink shaped in a peculiarly ordered way. Is it any wonder why Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s adage “The pen is mightier than the sword” is a line more famous than the actual play he wrote it for? And is it any wonder that Napoleon once remarked, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets”? — attributed to http://newlotus.buddhistdoor.com/en/news/d/17448

“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.”
― Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing

Ok, enuf quotes! Hopefully you get my drift. I need to get unstuck, since it is all “in my head.” Have a great remainder of Summer Writing.

 

Best of Member Monday #4: Mr. W. by Tim Hemeon

A Note from the Webmaster: It’s summertime, the glorious season of swimming, sunblock and sinking your teeth into a fat stack of books.  Alas, it’s also the sad season when Writers Forum goes dark for two months.  Never fear, dear reader, because for the next eight Mondays, Writers Forum will be featuring the Best of Member Monday.  The top eight Member Monday pieces were determined by the number of views each piece received on our website.  We’ll count them down beginning from #8 and ending with our #1 most viewed piece of the 2013-2014 Writers Forum year.  Congratulations to the top eight!  Taking the #4 slot is a piece by Writers Forum member Tim Hemeon.  Tim is a writer, musician and teacher.  His first novel, Soul Storm can be purchased online and at several local bookstores including All About Books.

Mr. W.

by Tim Hemeon

Here came the question.

“And who are you today?”  Such a strange question, really.  And one he used to ask innocently enough back when he’d been part of the regular staff at his school on the other side of the county.  Three and a half decades of those same words had crossed his own lips, so now he tried to be patient.  Tried.

“Blythe – I’m Mr. Blythe today.”  He stopped any other words from entering reality.  Had to work to stop them.  He had anecdotes and jokes, one-liners and rhyming songs.  Even odd trivia.  But secretaries hoard their time like Dwarves hoard jewels, and she would not take kindly to a non-staffer exceeding his social requirements.

“Let’s see.  Joseph Blythe.  9th grade science.  Room 227.  Adjacent to the library.  Do you need a map?”

Really, he thought.  A map?  He’d been subbing here on and off again for three years and she offered him a map as if it was his first time on campus.  Yes, you over efficient automaton, – give me a damn GPS why don’t you?  But no – that would not do.  Not at all.

“No thank-you.”  More smiles from him.  Academy Award stuff, really.  “I know my way around.”

“Fine, then.  Here’s your key.  Have a nice day.”  And like that she was back at her computer again, his response neither required nor desired.

He headed across the campus toward the 200 Building.  Glancing down, he examined his briefcase.  Old, cracked leather.  Functional.  Comfortable, but long out of style.  Ancient model – like him, he supposed.  Rita’d given it to him his first week of teaching, forty-five years ago.  A boy, really – in his mid-twenties – full of testosterone and pluck, possessing myriad dreams of changing the world.  And he supposed he had changed the world a bit.  One student at a time, inspiring and leading, parenting and correcting, but mostly, when it came down to it,   loving.  Sometimes when he’d almost forgotten all of it, he’d go through the old box once more.  Pictures and letter from students.  People he’d inspired to believe in themselves; who, with his mentorship, learned to unlock the wondrous beauty and talent they didn’t yet realize existed in their own hearts and minds.

Inside now, where today he would call them to muster and direct them to work.  Maybe even learn something.  That in spite of sarcasm, rolling eyes, and raging hormones set off by short skirts and blouses worn slut-style.

He read THE LESSON PLAN.  After giving it a quick once-over, he glanced up at the clock, greeted by a pair of malevolent, blinking red eyes, a colon separating digital hours from digital minutes.  The tempo was fixed and all he could think of was the rhythm of IT from Madeline de Ingle’s book, “A Wrinkle in Time.”

He missed a simpler time.  That of the sweep hand – which was also red – but moved gracefully around the clock face once per minute.  A time when he’d come home with chalk-stained fingers and more often or not one or two sticks of the stuff in his trousers pocket.

A video.  He had a masters in physics and he was getting paid $100 today to press a play button six times.  He looked up again at the evil, pulsating LED eyes.  Two minutes left.

Motion drew his gaze to the window in the exterior door.  He saw them and heard them simultaneously – delirious and ravenous adolescents.  Their chanting drifted through the metal door: “A sub!  We got a sub!  WE got a SUB!  WE GOT A SUB!!”  They were piranhas ready to devour a helpless cow that had entered their Amazonian ecosystem.

He unlocked the door and the freshmen sauntered in, taking their seats with giddy anticipation.  He nodded at them, knowing that he’d have a good fifteen minutes of class time left after the movie.  He’d use that small window of time to captivate and inspire them.  And perhaps they’d learn more in that short quarter hour than they would for the rest of their day.

As he took roll, one by one the students noticed the board.  In big letters, it said:

I AM NOT A SUB.

A SUB IS A NAVAL VESSEL.

I AM A TEACHER.

MY NAME IS MR. WOJCIECHOWSKI.

YOU MAY CALL ME “MR. W.”