>Bananas Foster, Stories, Poems and Essays: YWG Kicks off 2008!

>On Saturday I didn’t drive to Oxford for my monthly critique session with the Yoktapatawpha Writers Group. I drove to East Memphis. Patti hosted our group in her home… complete with lunch she prepared herself, and marinated flank steak and chicken for dinner. We brought side dishes for dinner. (More about them later.) This is Patti, with her new puppy, Buttercup.

And here’s the “morning group” (minus Sue and Doug) …. and the afternoon group (at left) ended up being the YWG Original Five: Patti, Doug, Herman, Tom and me.

First the critique sessions (before and after lunch). Terry and Sue could only stay for the morning, and Doug could only make it for the afternoon and evening, but we figured out a way to get everyone’s input on each writing sample that was submitted. On the two wonderful poems turned in by Sue and Doug. And the delightful essay by Terry. Patti shared some bits and pieces of the family stories she’s working on. Another chapter of Tom’s book. A couple of stories from Herman. And I got help with a creative nonfiction piece I’m working on.

Here’s Terry, aka “the slasher”…

Here’s how it works:

We submit our work (via email or the YWG web site) before the meeting, and everyone takes red pen in hand and makes suggestions as they read. At the meeting, one person is the moderator. Usually me. Because Doug says I like to be in charge. (You think?) The moderator just gets the critique session started with a few comments about the piece being critiqued. Everyone offers their feedback, on everything from content to punctuation, point of view to grammar. The author is supposed to remain quiet during this part and only respond at the end. We’re not very good at that, so we often respond to the criticism throughout the session.

Sometimes we rabbit trail. Like Saturday, when one of the essays stirred up a conversation about racism. Issues matter. How we treat them in our writing matters.

After each critique, we turn in our pages to the author and start over on another one. The author has to have thick skin and know that what we want is to help each other become better writers. But he/she also has to remember that it’s her/his work. Kind of like they say at a Twelve Steps meeting: “Take what works and leave the rest.”

I learn something every time. Not just from the critique of my own work, but from reading and listening to the comments on everyone’s writing. Thanks so much, Doug and Tom, for driving up from Tupelo and New Albany for the meeting. We’re looking forward to coming down to Tupelo in February, Doug!
Now. About the food. Two of my favorite side dishes for the dinner were:

Tom’s wife’s veggie casserole (I went back for seconds):

1 can French style beans, drained

1 can shoe peg corn
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can cream of celery soup
1 carton sour cream
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 roll Ritz crackers, crushed
1 stick melted butter, mix with crackers

Layer beans, corn, chestnuts
Sprinkle onion on top
Mix soup and sour cream – spread over onion layer
Sprinkle cheese over this and then crackers
Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees until brown.
And Herman’s Bananas Foster. Yes. I helped! (Well, I sliced the bananas and scooped the ice cream into the bowls.) It was amazing. Had three kinds of liqueurs plus rum. Yum. I loved smelling the butter and brown sugar caramelizing in the skillet. And watching the rum burst into flames. Putting the meal together in the kitchen at the end of a day of critiquing each other’s writing was so relaxing.
The spouses were invited to join us. To meet these people with whom we share so much of our creative endeavors. One spouse was able to come…. MINE! He wins the Best YWG Spouse Award, don’t you think? He and Tom discovered a bond… check out the “secret handshake” in the photo. Not saying what fraternity they were in. Not.

Lots of good wine and life-stories were shared. Here are some scenes in, or near, the kitchen…

Okay, guys… I’m heading to Campbell Clinic at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday (they moved the surgery up to 7:00 a.m.) so I don’t know when I’ll get back to my computer. I do know this: I’ll be having one sip of Holy Water (all I’m allowed after midnight tonight) before I leave in the morning.

Beth will be driving back to Knoxville Tuesday afternoon for another semester of grad school in architecture. Oh, and Jon just called to say he’s off to Iraq on Wednesday night. (leaving from Savannah, Georgia) I’ll write more about that later. Just saying… for your prayers. Traveling mercies for Beth and Jon!

One comment

Leave a comment


Email(will not be published)*


Your comment*

Submit Comment

© Copyright SusanCushman.com