Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Being in a Community of Writers

I love being around writers. It helps inspire me to continue putting my thoughts down on paper hoping I will say something worthwhile.

This past Sunday we had our monthly meeting of my writers club. That meant our meeting landed on Superbowl Sunday. And the meeting took place during the time the football game was on the air.

Now, that didn't bother me one bit because I'm not a big football fan. However, it is a huge national phenomenon and the national media makes it seem as if you are not doing your American duty unless you gorge yourself with chips, dip and beer while watching a football game and an over-rated half-time show. Oh and you are supposed to watch the commercials!


So I was a little worried we might not have a good turn out for our meeting.

We did.

Just like in January, we were packed to the gills.

We meet in an art gallery and it always makes for an interesting venue because we never know what the place will look like. Some months there are landscape portraits on the walls, sometimes there are nudes. Last month there were scaffolds and drop cloths in the main part of the gallery as artists were doing their installation.

So we were stuffed in the back around tables that normally only hold our refreshments. To put it in a kind way: we were cozy.

This month we were out in the main gallery, but there were standing art pieces which limited the available space to put chairs. We kept having to go get more chairs as late comers arrived.

People turned out to listen to two incredible Iranian born authors who spoke about writing cross culturally. Ari Siletz read a passage of a wedding ceremony that happened at the turn of the 20th century from Shahrnush Parsipur's Touba and the Meaning of Night. He also talked of other authors and how those writings influence how Westerners look at the Iranian culture. He discussed his thoughts about books such as The Kite Runner, Reading Lolita in Tehran, as well as Funny in Farsi. Then he read an excerpt from one of his short stories in The Mullah with No Legs and Other Stories.

I was glad he chose the story "The Dog" because it one of my favorites. It shows the dramatically different cultural attitudes that Americans have versus Iranians in regards to dogs. It is told with a gentle humorous touch that elicits laughter as well as understanding.

Then we had the Q&A session and we were stunned to hear Shahrnush tell us about her recollections of being held as a political prisoner in Iran. In the U.S. we are fortunate to only worry about whether or not we'll have our works published, but not whether or not our books will be banned and we will be thrown in jail.

Then to top the evening off, we had our longtime member Alla Crone read an excerpt from her finished memoir. She was born to a German father and a Russian mother and was raised in Manchuria. It was wonderful to hear different influences over time, geography and culture which remind us of our shared humanity.

One of the nicest things was Ari admitting that he had spoken in front of many groups before, but never writers. I've had several of the guest speakers I've invited mention that same thing. It amazes me that they haven't been asked before, but they found sharing their thoughts about the writing process with others who understand them to be a wonderful experience.

And that is why I enjoy being in a community of writers. It feeds my creative soul.

The only downside was that neither writers brought any books to sell. They would have sold quite a few copies. Ari told me that his publisher is now talking about reprinting his book. They should, because it's great.

Until next time, may your muse be treating you well.


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