Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 2010 Meeting Minutes

Tuesday, April 20th, WordWeavers held their monthly meeting. Marilyn Boone, Denise Jarmole, Rita Durrett and Jennifer McMurrain were all in attendance.

The conversation was based mostly around different approaches to finding editors and literary agents. Marilyn handed out a very effective tool on writing your 25 word blurb for editor and agent meetings:

A character (the who) wants a goal (the what) because he/she is motivated (the why), but he/she faces conflict (the why not).

(Name) wants (goal to be achieved) because (motivation for action), but he/she faces (conflict standing in the way).

Jennifer was unable to do the presentation on Facebook and Blogger due ironically to techinical difficulties.

OWFI was also discussed. Denise, Jennifer, Diana, and Rita will all be attending the OWFI conference next weekend. Jennifer will be representing WordWeavers at this years delegates meeting. We wish all the WordWeavers luck in the OWFI contest. Break a pencil! (Our way of saying "Break a leg".)

The next meeting will be May 18th at 7pm at the Bartlesville Public Library in Meeting room B.

Monday, April 12, 2010

C.D. Jarmola's Going Through the Change

Here is Denise Jarmola's short story that took 1st place in the Friends of the Library Creative Writing Contest fiction category.

I can hear people in the living room saying my name. But I won’t answer. Just don’t feel like it at the time. And now-a-days I only do what I feel like, no more, no less.
I wasn’t always this way. A year ago I had a job. I was a teacher. Never really wanted to be a teacher. Just kind of wandered into the job. That’s how I did most things. Wandered into them. I wandered into college, because that’s what was expected after high school. Then they made me choose a major. I had no ideas, no dreams, no goals. I’d be an elementary teacher. Seemed good enough. The pathway of least resistance. I also wandered into relationships. Scott was a decent guy. Not too cute, but not too ugly. He seemed dependable and we got along well enough. Wasn’t really in love. Didn’t really dislike him. Just seemed like the easiest way to go. So I just inadvertently wandered into marriage. It made my parents and my friends so happy. Marriage gave a purpose to my life. I had an obtainable goal. Might as well. Needless to say, we later wandered into divorce. Scott seemed to think there should be passion not passivity in our relationship. Just coexisting wasn’t enough for him. I didn’t really care. For a while I almost felt bad. But, not for long. No reason to stay together. We parted.
Only one thing have I ever felt passionate about, my cat, Mr. Tibbs. He’s a black, long haired beauty. One day while on playground duty he appeared on the school grounds. He looked lost, scared and in need of a home. He was quickly ambushed by the second graders that I taught. I quickly felt the need to save him from all the groping little hands. He was grateful. From that point on we were bonded.
Perhaps Mr. Tibbs was why my husband finally gave up and left. For the first time ever he saw me actually interested in another being and it wasn’t him. Seems rather childish to be jealous of a cat. But it was the end.
So, Mr. Tibbs and I have spent the last four years together. At the end of a hard day of teaching he was always at the door to greet me and demand his dinner. He only likes canned food, not that nasty hard stuff in a bag. Evenings we watched TV together. He prefers the nature shows.
I used to go out on the weekends with my fellow teachers. They liked to go to museums or plays. I never really cared. I’d just follow along with whatever someone suggested. Then one weekend I had a cold and stayed home with Mr. Tibbs. And it happened; I had an epiphany. I much more enjoyed just lying around the house with my big black cat to walking through overcrowded, old buildings trying to hold up my end of a stimulating conversation over art, which in reality I was totally apathetical about.
That was the weekend of my slow retreat from humanity. Slowly I morphed from a follower to a loner. Once school was over each day, I rushed for my home, my splendid sanctuary away from having to pretend that I cared about others.
My job became more and more difficult. Second graders are needy. They want to interact with you. They want a relationship. I couldn’t just teach them, I had to “bond” with them. They kept telling me the personal parts of their lives no matter how little I responded. Soon my principal was “visiting” my classroom more and more. She was “concerned” with my indifferent responses to the children. I didn’t really tune in to her. I just dreamed of being in my own home, curled up in my window seat with the sun streaming down on me and Mr. Tibbs.
Their voices jolt me back to the present. I hear Jaynie, a friend from back in the day when I cared to interact with others. I pay attention for a little while. “Her mother is frantic about her. No one has talked to her in over a week and a half,” she seems to be telling someone.
“I knew something was wrong,” responds the other voice I don’t quit recognize. “I tried so hard to talk with her at school, but she just withdrew further every time I did.” Oh, it’s my ever so “concerned” principal talking in her superior way.
I’ve heard them coming and going in my house for the past week. At first I thought I should make some effort to talk to them. Let them know that I’m OK. But, it just takes too much effort. I do appreciate that they are keeping Mr. Tibbs and me fed. Sometimes I do go by and look at them, usually not.
As I was saying, it all started the weekend of my epiphany. I knew then that I much preferred spending my time in my own little home with Mr Tibbs. Now Mr. Tibbs is a typical cat. He does only what he wants when he wants. If he wants to sleep, he sleeps. If he wants to eat, he eats. If he wants to flop down in the floor and lick his private parts, that is exactly what he does, and he doesn’t care who is watching. I started to envy him. Not that I ever planned to lick my private parts in front of people, but the other whole cat persona. Why was I staying up past midnight to grade inane papers and fill out ridiculous educational red-tape paper work when what I really wanted to do was curl up in my big four poster bed and go to sleep? Why was I eating salad when I really wanted chocolate? Why had I gotten a teaching degree when I didn’t really like children? Why had I gotten married just to make others happy?
I decided it was time to take some advice from Mr. Tibbs. I’d live my life by what I wanted, not what was expected. So all the SRA’s didn’t get recorded. Too bad. Those students would learn to read in spite of documentation. So maybe I took a few naps with my head on my desk, the children didn’t suffer. They would sit quietly, unsure what to do and I could rest.
My life was changing. I was being freed of all the silliness of other peoples expectations. My clothes didn’t have to match or be in style. They just had to be soft and comfy. No more hairspray or makeup. And definitely no more high heels.
I can hear them talking still. Their voices are annoying, but I won’t complain as they are being nice enough to clean out the litter box. “She didn’t use to be that way,” Jaynie was explaining. “We used to go to the theater together or art museums almost every weekend. Oh, she was never the life of the party, but she joined in. Then all of a sudden she quit going with us.”
“Did someone do something that hurt her feelings? Was it something to do with her divorce?” asks my “concerned” principal.
Jaynie seems to think before responding. “I don’t think the divorce affected her much at all. Strange, huh? She just acted as if it was a minor inconvenience.”
“Did she have anyone she was close to? I never heard her talk of anyone.”
“Not really,” Jaynie answers. It takes all my effort to pay attention to their conversation. The sun is shinning down on me. The warmth and the laziness of the afternoon makes me want to sleep. In spite of it all, I still have a little curiosity left, so I continue to eavesdrop on this analysis of my psyche. “She never talked badly of her parents, but then again she never spoke with any great fondness. The same about her ex.” Then Jaynie began to give a confused laugh. “In fact the only being I ever heard her speak of with any emotion is that spoiled cat, Mr. Tibbs. She absolutely dotes on that boy. Oh speak of the devil and here he comes.”
So Mr. Tibbs has decided to go check out our house guests. He should be happy that they cleaned the litter box. He so hates a dirty litter box.
I guess that’s the only thing I feel bad about, I can’t take care of Mr. Tibbs like before. He needs fed twice a day, but our help only seems to make it by once a day and they don’t always clean the litter box like he likes it. Sadly there is nothing I can do now about that. We must all adapt, I suppose. I’m thinking so seriously about taking a nap, as the conversation in the other room is just not that riveting, but I hear the front door open. It’s Scott. That’s weird, but even after all these years I can tell it’s him from how he walks. Oh, and that’s strange, but now by his smell. Well, I’ve always heard that when one sense is gone the others become more powerful. It appears to be true in this case. Yes, now that I think about it I can smell him and Jaynie too. And Ms. Principal. She doesn’t smell too good.
“Has there been any progress?” he asks as he enters.
“Nothing new,” respond both the ladies.
It’s not that bad, I start to go tell them. Then I rethink it. I never could get Ms. Principal to see things my way, no reason to start now. That’s one of my favorite things about my new life. I just don’t worry about others’ opinions. I used to make myself sick worrying what others would think, or trying to persuade them to see things my way. Now when someone says something asinine I just roll over and go to sleep. Yes, this new life is better.
“I talked with the police this morning. They still have absolutely no leads where she has gone,” Scott told the ladies. He didn’t make much sense to me. I’m right here. Nothing has made sense for more than a week. Not since I had that Chinese food. Actually the food was fine. It was the cookie.
“The detectives keep asking me if anything is missing and I tell them not that I know of. Her closet looks full. Her car is in the garage. Her cell phone is on the charger. It’s like she just instantly vanished. Even her take out Chinese food was still here on the table, half eaten and her fortune cookie broken in two,” Jaynie explained again. A conversation I had overheard over and over this past week. Ever since I opened that cookie and it said make a wish. So I did.
“We’re just trying to take care of the cats,” Jaynie adds.
Ms. Principal chimes in, “And Jaynie is a saint as she doesn’t mind cleaning the cat box. With two it gets extremely disgusting so quickly.”
“Cats?” Scott asks. “She only has one cat. The almighty Mr. Tibbs. When did she get another cat? She worships Mr. Tibbs. I can’t believe either of them would make room for another being in their lives. They sure didn’t when I lived here.”
I think it’s time for a snack. Another thing I love about this new life. Eat when hungry. Sleep when sleepy. Be sociable if I want, but don’t ever feel obligated. Yes, it’s the life I always dreamed of.
As I round the corner Jaynie points at me, “See Scott. She’s a beautiful white Persian. I can’t believe you ex never told any of us about her.”
Yes, it was a great fortune cookie. All it said was make a wish and be what you always wanted to be. Oh, it’s a wonderful life being a cat.

Jennifer McMurrain's The Long Walk

Here is Jennifer McMurrain's personal essay that took 1st place in the Friends of the Library Creative Writing Contest nonfiction category.

I pull into the parking spot, turn the engine off and take a deep breath. I don't want to go inside. She’ll see me worried. I need to be strong.
Just take some more deep breaths. Breathe in… breathe out.
“This Old Man” plays in the distance.
Stop the meditation, Mom's calling.
"Where are you?" she asks.
"I'm in the parking lot."
"Are you coming up? It’s room 826."
"Has the doctor been there?"
"Tell me now,” I say, voice trembling.
"It’s Leukemia."
It can't be. My twenty-four-year old sister can't have leukemia. That’s something little kids and old people get.
My heart starts pounding in my head, and I feel tears spilling over my cheeks.
"Are you ok?" Mom asks.
"I will be. I need to get myself together before I come up."
"They caught it early. She's going to be ok."
"I know." I hang up the phone and brush the tears off my cheeks.
She's going to be fine. They caught it early.
I pull over the rear view mirror to check out the damage my crying had done to my makeup.
My eyes are puffy, cheek’s red, and mascara is running down my face.
How am I going to pull this off? She knows me too well. Doesn't mattet. I have to go up there. I have to be with her. I have to show her that I'm going to be there for her. This isn't about me. I can do this.
I wipe my eyes with a McDonald's napkin and take in some more deep breaths.
I can't cry in front of her. This isn't about me. I have to be strong.
I get out of the car and start walking to the front doors.
The hospital looms above me. I feel so small.
What can I do against cancer? What advice can I offer? I have no experience with this. I rarely catch a cold; never anything as serious as leukemia.
I try to lose myself in thoughts of optimism.
She's going to be fine. They caught it early.
I try to turn my brain around before I reach her room. Thankfully the front doors open for me, avoiding a face plant. The smell of disinfectant and popcorn assault my nose, bringing me out of my internal pep talk.
"Can I help you?" A lady wearing a pink sweater, stands behind the information desk bagging popcorn.
"Just behind the atrium, you'll see some double doors. Go through them, and then turn left," she says with a smile.
"Thanks," I make no attempt to smile back.
I have to be strong, she is my little sister, and I have to be strong for her. I can do this. She’s going to be fine. She's a fighter. Just the other day she threw a can of soup at me because I made a nasty comment about her new boyfriend. Leukemia doesn’t stand a chance.
I see the double doors.
Why do they make these doors silver? You can see every hand print and smudge. How many of these people walked in here with a loved one, only to leave alone and broken hearted? How many fingerprints on this door are souls that no longer live? No, don't go there! She's going to beat it. I'm not leaving here without her. She can't die; she knows that I need her, that we all need her. She's going to make it. They caught it early.
I push the doors open, leaving my own set of fingerprints and turn left. I arrive in front of the elevator and push the up button. I stand there and watch the numbers above the elevator doors descend to my floor; counting down to a situation that I don't want to face.
How do I go into that room? How do I go on without her? Does she even know how much she means to me? The strength she gives me every day?
The ding of the elevator snaps me back to reality.
No, she's going to fine.
I step into the elevator and push the eighth floor button. Just as the doors are about to shut a young man steps in with a bouquet of flowers and a pink teddy bear. He's smiling from ear to ear as he pushes the button for the fourth floor.
"I just had a girl!" He beams.
"Congratulations." I try to smile, but know it can’t be seen in my eyes.
We stand there in awkward silence, two opposites sharing the same elevator, representing two women; one coming into life, the other fighting to keep it. The door opens to the fourth floor and the man leaps out, off to find his new daughter. He looks forward to many years ahead. As I listen to his hurried steps down the hall, I think of my own future family.
I hope my sister's alive to meet her nieces and nephews. I hope she's here to see me get married. Does she know she'll be my maid of honor? She will be there! She'll be there, and she'll look amazing, more amazing than I will. She has such beauty it overwhelms any room she walks in to, the kind of beauty that deserves a long life of happiness.
The elevator opens to the eighth floor. I freeze. Stepping onto the Oncology floor makes it real.
I don't want it to be real. I want to go back to the fourth floor where there is life abundant. I can't do this. I can't fake this optimism. I have to. I have to show her I'm going to be there, through it all. I have to!
Another deep breath and I step out. The elevator doors close behind me as if to say, "There’s no going back."
I walk to the Nurse's station, "Room 826?"
A young nurse looks up from her paper work.
"You must be the sister. They wondered how long you’d sit in your car. I think they have a bet going. I'll take you down."
"Thanks," I say with a smile that almost makes it to my eyes.
To think my mom and sister are betting on how long it will take me to pull myself together. It’s as if they don't have anything else to talk about… to worry about.
I followed the nurse down the gray hallway.
"You'll have to wash your hands when you enter the room, every time you enter the room. She can't have any flowers or plants, so spread the word.”
A hospital room without flowers; talk about gloomy. Here she is fighting for her life and all she has to look at is eggshell-colored walls and gray carpet. Oh let's not forget the numerous machines she'll be attached to, those are festive. What anti-flower Gestapo put that rule into affect?
"Here we are, if you need anything, just buzz. Don't forget to wash your hands."
So this is it. Room 826, where my baby sister lies in a hospital bed awaiting her first chemo treatment. She waits for her hair to fall out, waits for the sores to develop in her mouth, waits for the day the doctors say it's gone. Here is where she waits. I will wait with her. I'm not going anywhere. We will wait together. All I have to do is push this door open and wait. That's not hard. I push doors open all the time. Here we go, push and go in, she is waiting.
I open the door and there she is, my mother sitting by her side. My sister's face lights up watching me walk to the sink to wash my hands. Her beauty radiates the room; no hospital room could take that away from her. She owns her situation. She is not afraid.
She sits in the bed with 100 thread-count sheets and smiles. I can't help but smile back; this time it does reach my eyes.
"Took you long enough," she teased.
"Yeah, I know. I was talking to some hot guy in the elevator. No flowers or plants, huh?"
"No, they carry bacteria. I can sit in the atrium as long as I wear a mask."
"At least you have the penthouse view." I look out the window avoiding eye contact, "There's nothing like watching hospital traffic."
It's time I faced it. I can't joke this away. Knowledge is power and I can't help her fight something I know nothing about. It's time to know, it's time to look her in the eyes.
"So what are we looking at?" I turn towards her.
"Well, the doctor said that I have a good chance of going into remission after the first round of chemo. Apparently if you're going to get leukemia, this is the kind to have."
"The first round, huh? What does that involve?"
"Seven days."
"Seven days. How many rounds?"
"Three, it's not so bad. Many people don't even lose their hair, but I'm not getting my hopes up." "We'll just buy you a hat."
So it begins; she has to spend the next seven days in this flowerless room and every day she gets chemicals injected into her body. She may or may not lose her hair and she may or may not go into remission after the first round. The last two rounds are to keep it that way. Ok, so it all sounds good. We are looking at around 21 days in the hospital, I can do that; I can be here for that. I'll bring cards and puzzles, her laptop so we can watch our chick flicks on DVD, we can do this.
We spend the next two hours talking and watching hospital cable. Dad and my older sister arrive and we all hug. My aunt, uncle and Grandpa show up and we all hug. More relatives and more hugs, we are surrounding my sister in our unconditional love. We want our love to radiate through the room like her beauty does. We want our love to beat her leukemia.
"It's late, I need to go. I am exhausted." I rub my eyes and then kiss my sister on the forehead. "I'll see you tomorrow. Love you."
"Ok, goodnight. I love you, too."
I lean against the wall just outside the door and before it shuts I hear my sister say, "I'm worried about her."
She's worried about me? That is the definition of my sister, here she is fighting leukemia and she's worried about me. Such strength, such grace... talk about unconditional love.
I walk to the elevators and push the down button. As I wait, I know she's going to be okay. She's going to beat it and we will both be better people in the end. I step into the elevator and push the ground floor button. As the elevator slides down, so does my anxiety. It comes to a stop and I walk to the sliver doors; they have been cleaned. No more fingerprints.
It's a good sign. She's going to make it.
The pink sweater-lady and her popcorn are gone, replaced by a janitor sweeping up the day’s dust. I walk to my car alone. My sister will not make her walk alone. Mom, Dad, our older sister and I will be there, not to mention numerous relatives. I walk across the parking lot, the big building still looms over me, but now I don't feel as small. I have a say.
I can help, and I will help her through this.
I make it to my car and sit down. This is where it began. This is where my world changed. I am not helpless and neither is my sister. We will make it through this, she will survive and the world will never be the same.

Bartlesville Creative Writing Contest

Great news everyone, two of our WordWeavers placed in this year's Friends of the Library Bartlesville Creative Writing Contest. Denise (C.D.) Jarmola placed 1st in the fiction category with her short story "Going Through the Change." Jennifer McMurrain placed 1st in the nonfiction category with her nonfiction personal essay "The Long Walk."

Congratulations Denise and Jennifer!

All the winners of this year's FOL Bartlesville Creative Writing Contest and guest speaker, Dr. Reed.

Jennifer McMurrain (left) and Denise Jarmola (right).