Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Rejected By the Only Group In Town

Rejected By the Only Group In Town
            I’ve moved often enough to know there are certain mathematical realities. Generally it takes two years until I have an acquaintance or two, someone with whom I can attend the opera or go to a play reading, both of which I can find here in Mazatlan.  In five years I shall have acquired a friend or two, not necessarily the same first two people. That is just the way it is. Sure, I can go places by myself, and do. But it is more fun to share the experience.
            I can goose the program forward a bit in two ways, by joining a group of like-minded people and/or by volunteer work. The other day I set off to find information about a group of writers. Where better to discover writers than at a bookstore. Writers are readers. Half a block over and a dozen or more blocks up the street the Mazatlan Book and Coffee Company sits snug back in a small plaza behind a bank and a laundry.
            This bookstore, which I found the first year I vacationed in Mazatlan, is filled with used books, books in English, overwhelmingly of the beach-read variety. But by diligent probing, plucking and piddling through the stacks I can always find a few gems of literary fiction and the occasional non-fiction book that grabs my attention. Not that I’m a snob. I read trash too.
            When I left Harlem, I walked away from a 4,500 volume personal library. I brought with me a mere five boxes of books. One box contained my two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, my indispensible Strunk and White on style, which I read annually for fun, and a couple other books on style and grammar which I should consult more frequently. The rest are old favorites. I’m reduced to maybe a hundred books. I have no intention of re-creating a vast library. But I am a reader. Eventually I’ll own an e-book. But I’ll never lose my love of the heft of a book and the tactile experience of turning paper.
            Within ten minutes at the Mazatlan Book and Coffee Company, I had chosen a book on basketball (think Chicago Bulls in the ‘90’s) by Phil Jackson, a book by Coetzee and one by Achebe, not exactly beach reads, and a bag of coffee beans. Coffee and books go together like, well, like books and coffee.
            Given another ten minutes, I had swapped yarns with Jerry, a snowbird whose uncle is a beekeeper in Power, Montana and whose wife is a writer.  Then Twila came around a corner of the stacks to tell me her husband was a McPherson from Chinook, class of ’59. She lives in Glendive and knows people I know.  
            In half an hour I had gathered three books, coffee beans, stories, smiles and the name with email address of the contact person for the writers group.
            I have been known to embarrass my friends by how easily I insert myself into conversations with complete strangers. But it took two days to gather my courage and email Mike to ask about the writers group. I threw out a feeler. I’m a writer. It is a solitary life. I would like to join a group of writers. That is the gist of what I said.
            Mike replied that the group met once a week and in order to join, a writer must be committed to the group and serious about writing “fiction stories” and seeking publication of the same.
            My heart broke and sank to the soles of my sandals. I am a poet and essayist. I don’t have a single plot, story line, or fiction character cluttering up the back passages of my brain. I have been outright scorned and rejected. This group does not want me.
            I wrote back and said that if a fiction came to visit me, I’d contact him again, blah, blah, blah, making nice. Mike wrote back with more blah, blah, blah, making nice.
            So for the present I’ll hang out more often at the Mazatlan Book store. I’ll volunteer to dust the stacks at the English Book Library.  I’ll keep writing poetry and essays. Sooner or later I’ll rub up against another poet, another essayist or two.
            In a few days maybe I’ll quit plotting the murder(s) of the despicable antagonist Mike and his twisted band of followers by the rejected and lovable protagonist (heroine) who commits the perfect crime(s) and lives to tell the story.
Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
February 20, 2014

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