I step off the bus and start down the street. It’s dark and the stars stand out. I come around a corner and there is the moon, white and giant. “People walked there,” I think, trying to imagine the distances. It was a very extended SCUBA dive.

Folded in my pocket are Kip’s two poems and Carrie-Ann’s pitch letter: I am walking to Carrie-Ann’s for our weekly meeting. Aside from a 6-month absence, I’ve done this for five years; Wednesday night is writing group.

I linger a bit, outside; I’m looking at the moon, trying to absorb something from its light.

OK, enough; time to go in.

Inside Carrie-Ann’s six people examine Kip’s poems in excruciating detail. “I dunno, this line seems condescending….” We work as a group. Some people have come and gone but the constitution of the group has remained essentially the same. We have poets, realists, memoirists, fiction writers.

“I dunno, I think this is a cliche…” We jab and jibe, we have fun, we talk about how the work influences us, or not, we laugh and people talk over one another sometimes. A lot of what we say says as much about each of us as what we mean to say about Kip’s poems. “This is a fantastic line. Unbelievable.”

We consider every word, punctuation mark and word-structure like surgeons. We might as well be wearing sterile suits. This attention is exactly what I love.

A slice of exotic cheese, some crackers, some comments on the ridiculous rewording of <i>Huckleberry Finn</i>, and down we dive into Carrie-Ann’s book pitch letter. “This might not play too well…” someone says, and this is nicely refuted with logic–actually it should play very well in the hand of an Acquisitions Editor.

I sort of slide away, sometimes, watching Bruce’s animated physical style, and Tracy’s folded position. Tola sits like a professional; Kip sits carefully; Carrie-Ann is in the lotus position with her laptop; David leans back but is exploding with interest; and I wonder what I communicate physically with whatever paperclip-pose I take in my seat, chewing on a pen, and I think on the fragility of groups, and the integrity of ours. Half of this is showing up, I think, the other is being present, really taking time to examine the work. We all do both parts, and that is a wonderful thing to see. For years we’ve been at this, learning each other.

On the way to Carrie’s the moon was so beautiful that I’d thought, “This is the best moment of my life…”

How could that be, walking alone on a dark road with a 7-11 coffee in one hand, and a stale burrito in the other?


  1. Cameron, a lovely snapshot of our meeting and the dynamic in the group. Also, good to know that I sit like a professional. I’m curious what exactly contributes to my professional sitting. 🙂

  2. This piece had me breathing deep the moonlit air, holding my breath wondering what you will say about me, and sighing happily in the knowledge that we really have it good at the Guttery.

  3. Cameron, this is a wonderful vignette. I read this with a contented grin. There is something magical about our work. Coranna wants to know where she is in this. 🙂

  4. My friend Don has been thinking somewhat along the same lines… http://howapoemhappens.blogspot.com/

  5. A lovely snapshot. It really is what we do. This little piece was so needed on this web site. You’ve done us proud just by telling the truth.

  6. Stumbled upon this article about another writing group. Sound familiar? http://www.oregonlive.com/books/index.ssf/2010/06/chuck_palahniuk_chelsea_cain_a.html

  7. jennifer lesh fleck

    March 16, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Gorgeous piece…makes me feel like I didn’t entirely miss last meeting (or any number of past Wednesdays since December clipped my wings).

    Sure, I’m mildly biased, but the Guttery has at least as much energy, enthusiasm, and wholehearted dedication to the art and craft of writing as any big name group in Portland. 🙂

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