It’s a few hours before writing group and THE REASON FOR OUR GROUP (or one of them, anyhow) has just played out…again! I’m trying to whittle down a Walmart of an idea, trying to find the one small part I need to write a set piece about my sister Linda. ((This Walmart image is directly from Marion’s book on page 41–a book that is turning out to be one of our best writing-teacher-in-absentia books–Writing What You Know: Realia. (

So I have huge snippets of info on winter wrens. Piles of stuff–realia?

I have the lyrics from a Gillian Welch song that I think ties in.

There’s gotta be a song left to sing
Cause everybody can’t of thought of everything
One little song that ain’t been sung
One little rag that ain’t been wrung out completely yet
Gotta be a little left

I’m trying to show that my sister who is retiring from a career in one type of music-making is like the winter wren. She’s got an exuberant array of more songs to sing–that’s a metaphor since she’s actually a percussionist.I don’t know if she’s worried that everyone’s taken all the songs already, but I want to reassure her. (I know I worry that all the stories are taken when I’m stymied in my writing.)

But for a few days (another good reason for the group: I know we’re meeting and I want to Have Something.) I’ve been stuck gathering and wallowing. I LOVE science stuff and esoteric details about birds especially. Did you know that the winter wren has at least 30 songs and endless variations on all of them?

This morning–still with no beginning and no winnowing in place–I’m hanging clothes outside. I mull. And suddenly my synapses come through. This morning’s paper talked about how Roger Tory Peterson and his wife had pet bird names. He was King Penguin–go figure, this man lived in CT! His wife was the Wood Thrush because she was a lovely singer and artist.  Maybe, I’m thinking, this is a shoehorn in. Maybe this is the one tool I need from the gazillions in Walmart. My beautiful sister Linda is a Winter Wren and I can tell her about Roger.

So, have I done this yet? No. But I’ve narrowed my thinking and it is helping me jettison some of that intriguing-to-me-only stuff.


(I am going to try to put this on my Page. I’m not sure if it is possible, so it may show up Elsewhere.)


4 thoughts on “Writing Group as Cattle Prod

  1. So, I read the RTP article too. What avian nicknames do you have in mind for us? I am partial to Queen Bee…is that avian enough? I loved his sense of humor, counting and recording everything, even moths on the screen door. I like the science stuff, too. E.O.Wilson won the Pulitzer for his book, Anthill. He was like Roger, in a way, except that that he lived in Southern Alabama and spent most of his time in swamps instead of walking down the allee of cedars to the butterfly garden. This is his debut novel, ants are his specialty and he leaves little to the imagination. But not our teacher-in-absentia Marion, she leaves it all to the imagination with the title of her next chapter, Having Sex with Roger. Yep, page 57.



  2. Oh, yes, and THE REASON FOR OUR GROUP…
    I thought it was just an excuse to have bearclaws and candy for lunch.


  3. The next part of this process went as follows: I decided that what I was writing was a letter to Linda. In fact that might be the title too. Deciding on a letter seemed to help me jettison some of the stuff on the shelves. I’ll put a draft up soon. And as for excuses to meet, I thought that the Real Reason was so I could have my weekly cup of java.
    Patty 6/8/10


    1. I am sitting in a draft, oppose a military draft and yearn for a dark foamy draft. But I do have a saved draft and will post by Thursday – saving yet another tree.
      Toni 6/8/10


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